Budget of NASA

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA logo.svg
Agency overview
Formed July 29, 1958; 60 years ago (1958-07-29)
Employees 17,336 (2018)
Annual budget US$20.7 billion (about 0.489% of total FY2018 budget at about US$4 trillion)[1]

As a federal agency, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) receives its funding from the annual federal budget passed by the United States Congress. The following charts detail the amount of federal funding allotted to NASA each year over its history to pursue programs in aeronautics research, robotic spaceflight, technology development, and human space exploration programs. As of 2018, NASA employs 17,336 people.[2]

Annual budget

NASA's budget as percentage of federal total, from 1958 to 2017

NASA's budget for fiscal year (FY) 2019 is $21.5 billion.[3] It represents 0.49% of the $4.4 trillion the United States plans to spend that year.[4]

Since its inception, the United States has spent $601.31 billion (in nominal dollars) on NASA. When adjusted for inflation the cumulative figure is $1.32 trillion, an average of $22.03 billion per year over its entire history.

History of NASA's annual budget (millions of US dollars)
Calendar
Year
NASA budget
Nominal Dollars
(Millions)
% of Fed Budget[5][6] 2014 Constant Dollars
(Millions)
1958 89 0.1% 732
1959 145 0.2% 1,185
1960 401 0.5% 3,222
1961 744 0.9% 5,918
1962 1,257 1.18% 9,900
1963 2,552 2.29% 19,836
1964 4,171 3.52% 32,002
1965 5,092 4.31% 38,448
1966 5,933 4.41% 43,554
1967 5,425 3.45% 38,633
1968 4,722 2.65% 32,274
1969 4,251 2.31% 27,550
1970 3,752 1.92% 23,000
1971 3,382 1.61% 19,862
1972 3,423 1.48% 19,477
1973 3,312 1.35% 17,742
1974 3,255 1.21% 15,704
1975 3,269 0.98% 14,452
1976 3,671 0.99% 15,345
1977 4,002 0.98% 15,707
1978 4,164 0.91% 15,190
1979 4,380 0.87% 14,349
1980 4,959 0.84% 14,314
1981 5,537 0.82% 14,488
1982 6,155 0.83% 15,170
1983 6,853 0.85% 16,365
1984 7,055 0.83% 16,150
1985 7,251 0.77% 16,028
1986 7,403 0.75% 16,065
1987 7,591 0.76% 15,893
Calendar
Year
NASA budget
Nominal Dollars
(Millions)
% of Fed Budget[5][6] 2014 Constant Dollars
(Millions)
1988 9,092 0.85% 18,280
1989 11,036 0.96% 21,168
1990 12,429 0.99% 22,618
1991 13,878 1.05% 24,235
1992 13,961 1.01% 23,668
1993 14,305 1.01% 23,546
1994 13,695 0.94% 21,979
1995 13,378 0.88% 20,879
1996 13,881 0.89% 21,042
1997 14,360 0.90% 21,280
1998 14,194 0.86% 20,712
1999 13,636 0.80% 19,467
2000 13,428 0.75% 18,547
2001 14,095 0.76% 18,940
2002 14,405 0.72% 19,045
2003 14,610 0.68% 18,885
2004 15,152 0.66% 19,078
2005 15,602 0.63% 19,001
2006 15,125 0.57% 17,844
2007 15,861 0.58% 18,194
2008 17,833 0.60% 19,700
2009 17,782[7] 0.57% 19,714
2010 18,724[8] 0.52% 20,423
FY2011 18,448[9] 0.51% 17,833
FY2012 17,770[10] 0.50% 17,471
FY2013 16,865[11] 0.49% 17,219
FY2014 17,647[12] 0.50% 17,647
FY2015 18,010[13] 0.49% 17,989
FY2016 19,300[14] 0.50% 19,037
FY2017 19,508[15] 0.47% 18,866
FY2018 20,736[16][17] ≈20,050
FY2019 21,500[12]
FY2020 23,000 [18]

Notes for table: Sources for a part of these data: U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (needs proper citation-link, numbers here differ from NASA Pocket Statistics),
Air Force Association's Air Force Magazine 2007 Space Almanac
Secondary references: [2] [3] [4][full citation needed]

Cost of Apollo program

NASA's budget peaked in 1966, during the Apollo program

NASA's budget peaked in 1964–66, when it consumed roughly 4% of federal spending. The agency was building up to the first Moon landing; the Apollo program involved more than 34,000 NASA employees and 375,000 employees of industrial and university contractors.[19]

In March 1966, NASA officials told Congress that the 1959–72 "run-out cost" of the Apollo program would be an estimated $22.718 billion. The total cost turned out to be between $20 and $25.4 billion in 1969 dollars (about $136 billion in 2007 dollars).[20]

The costs of the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn rockets came to about $83 billion in 2005 dollars. Apollo spacecraft cost $28 billion, including the command and service module, $17 billion; lunar module, $11 billion; and launch vehicles (Saturn I, Saturn IB, Saturn V cost about $46 billion in 2005 dollars).[21]

Economic impact of NASA funding

A November 1971 study of NASA released by MRIGlobal (formerly Midwest Research Institute) of Kansas City, Missouri concluded that "the $25 billion in 1958 dollars spent on civilian space R & D during the 1958–1969 period has returned $52.5 billion through 1971 – and will continue to produce payoffs through 1987, at which time the total payoff will have been $181 billion. The discounted rate of return for this investment will have been 33 percent."[22]

A map from NASA's web site illustrating its economic impact on the U.S. states (as of FY2003)

Other statistics on NASA's economic impact may be found in the 1976 Chase Econometrics Associates, Inc. reports[23] and backed by the 1989 Chapman Research report, which examined 259 non-space applications of NASA technology during an eight-year period (1976–1984) and found more than:

  • $21.6 billion in sales and benefits
  • 352,000 (mostly skilled) jobs created or saved
  • $355 million in federal corporate income taxes

According to a 1992 Nature commentary, these 259 applications represent ". . .only 1% of an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Space program spin-offs."[24]

A 2013 report prepared by the Tauri Group for NASA showed that NASA invested nearly $5 billion in U.S. manufacturing in FY 2012, with nearly $2 billion of that going to the technology sector. NASA also develops and commercializes technology, some of which can generate over $1 billion in revenue per year over multiple years[25]

In 2014, the American Helicopter Society criticized NASA and the government for reducing the annual rotorcraft budget from $50 million in 2000 to $23 million in 2013, impacting commercial opportunities.[26]

The 2017 Economic Impact Report prepared by NASA for their Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) awards found that for FY 2016, these programs created 2,412 jobs, $474 million in economic output, and $57.3 million in fiscal impact with an initial investment of $172.9 million.[27]

Public perception

The perceived national security threat posed by early Soviet leads in spaceflight drove NASA's budget to its peak, both in real inflation-adjusted dollars and in a percentage of the total federal budget (4.41% in 1966). But the U.S. victory in the Space Race — landing men on the Moon — erased the perceived threat, and NASA was unable to sustain political support for its vision of an even more ambitious Space Transportation System entailing reusable Earth-to-orbit shuttles, a permanent space station, lunar bases, and a manned mission to Mars. Only a scaled-back Space Shuttle was approved, and NASA's funding leveled off at just under 1% in 1976, then declined to 0.75% in 1986. After a brief increase to 1.01% in 1992, it declined to about 0.49% in 2013.

To help with public perception and to raise awareness regarding the widespread benefits of NASA-funded programs and technologies, NASA instituted the Spinoffs publication. This was a direct offshoot of the Technology Utilization Program Report, a "publication dedicated to informing the scientific community about available NASA technologies, and ongoing requests received for supporting information." according to the NASA Spinoff about page the technologies in these reports created interest in the technology transfer concept, its successes, and its use as a public awareness tool. The reports generated such keen interest by the public that NASA decided to make them into an attractive publication. Thus, the first four-color edition of Spinoff was published in 1976.[28]

The American public, on average, believes NASA's budget has a much larger share of the federal budget than it actually does. A 1997 poll reported that Americans had an average estimate of 20% for NASA's share of the federal budget, far higher than the actual 0.5% to under 1% that has been maintained throughout the late '90s and first decade of the 2000s.[29] It is estimated that most Americans spent less than $9 on NASA through personal income tax in 2009.[30]

However, there has been a recent movement to communicate discrepancy between perception and reality of NASA's budget as well as lobbying to return the funding back to the 1970–1990 level. The United States Senate Science Committee met in March 2012 where astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson testified that "Right now, NASA's annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country from a sullen, dispirited nation, weary of economic struggle, to one where it has reclaimed its 20th-century birthright to dream of tomorrow."[31][32] Inspired by Tyson's advocacy and remarks, the Penny4NASA campaign was initiated in 2012 by John Zeller and advocates the doubling of NASA's budget to one percent of the Federal Budget, or one "penny on the dollar."[33]

Political opposition to NASA funding

Public opposition to NASA and its budget dates back to the Apollo era. Critics have cited more immediate concerns, like social welfare programs, as reasons to cut funding to the agency.[34] Furthermore, they have questioned the return on investment (ROI) feasibility of NASA’s research and development. In 1968, physicist Ralph Lapp argued that if NASA really did have a positive ROI, it should be able to sustain itself as a private company, and not require federal funding.[34] More recently, critics have faulted NASA for sinking money into the Space Shuttle program, reducing funding available for its long-term missions to Mars and deep space.[35] Manned missions to Mars have also been denounced for their inefficiency and large cost compared to unmanned missions.[36] In the late 1990s climate change skeptic political groups opposed the Earth science aspects of NASA spending, arguing that spending on Earth science programs such as climate research was in pursuit of political agendas.[37]

Recent developments

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 was signed into law on March 21, 2017, and marked some changes to NASA’s mission. It reaffirms interest in:

The law also expanded the TREAT Astronauts Act, which provides medical diagnostic and treatment services to former astronauts.[38] Absent from the law is any mention of NASA’s earth science programs, which some critics believe is a politically motivated move.[39]

The proposed NASA Authorization Act of 2018 would increase NASA’s budget from $19.5 billion in FY 2017 to $20.74 billion in FY 2018, and again to $21.21 billion in FY 2019.[40] This act supports the initiatives outlined in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, and adds a detailed outline of goals regarding NASA’s earth science division.[41]

Related legislation

See also

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