WASHINGTON, March 16 (Xinhua) — A fiscal year 2018 budget request released Thursday by President Donald Trump proposed cancelling NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), an initiative to robotically identify, capture and redirect a piece of an asteroid to a stable orbit of Earth’s moon for future exploration by astronauts.
“To accommodate increasing development costs, the Budget cancels the multi-billion-dollar Asteroid Redirect Mission,” the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in its budget request summary, which offers the U.S. space agency 19.1 billion U.S. dollars for fiscal year 2018, less than a one percent cut from the 2016 level.
In a statement, NASA acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who said he has had personal involvement with this mission for the past few years, said that the proposed cancellation doesn’t mean “the hard work of the teams already working on ARM will be lost.”
“We will continue the solar electric propulsion efforts benefitting from those developments for future in space transportation initiatives.”
Under Trump’s budget blueprint, a multi-billion-dollar mission to land on Jupiter’s moon Europa, which is still in concept development, would also receive no funding, though a mission to repeatedly fly by the icy world, officially named Europa Clipper by NASA last week, made the cut.
These changes aimed to “preserve the balance of NASA’s science portfolio and maintain flexibility to conduct missions that were determined to be more important by the science community,” the OMB said.
The budget request would also terminate four Earth science missions and reduce funding for Earth science research grants.
In addition, it would eliminate NASA’s 115-million-dollar Office of Education, which the OMB said would result in “a more focused education effort through NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.”
Other NASA missions were largely unaffected. For example, Trump’s budget would allocate 3.7 billion dollars for continued development of NASA’s Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System megarocket and associated ground system to send American astronauts on deep-space missions.
Although the U.S. president proposes a budget, it’s Congress that will have the final say in this respect.