The Commerce, Justice, and Science subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up an FY208 appropriations bill this afternoon that includes $17.45 billion for NASA, according to Space News (subscription required), about $150 million more than what the administration requested but about $150 million less than what their House counterparts approved earlier this month. Full details about the budget aren’t available yet, but it appears that most of the increase will go to Earth sciences programs, with $130 million increase. Exploration systems, aeronautics, and shuttle and ISS operations are all fully funded, according to both Space News and a press release from subcommittee chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to take up the funding bill this Thursday. It’s not clear yet whether Mikulski will use that hearing as the opportunity to introduce an amendment to add $1 billion to the NASA budget, similar to the “Mikulski miracle” maneuver last year. She told Space News that she is looking at “what are our best options” fur such an effort, which could come later in the appropriations process.
One little item in the budget with some significance for exploration plans: Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the ranking member of the subcommittee, said in a press release that he has added money for a robotic lunar lander mission to the budget. The funding bill includes $48.7 million for a “Lunar Lander” mission plus $20 million for the lunar robotics program office at NASA Marshall, which Shelby fought to keep open earlier this year. The Shelby press release also points out funding he won for a number of other, smaller programs, like an “Advanced Space Propulsion Material Research and Technology Center”, “Composite Material Research for Space Exploration” (for the “Marshal [sic] Space Flight Center”), and “Radially Segmented Launch Vehicle (RSLV) LOX/Methane Technology Maturation”, among others.