On March 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully launched the second in a new series of four highly advanced geostationary weather satellites. GOES-S was renamed GOES-17 on March 12 upon reaching its geostationary orbit 22,300 miles above the Earth, and will drift to its operational position at NOAA’s western geostationary location in late 2018. Working in tandem with the GOES-16 satellite currently operating at the eastern geostationary position since December 2017, the GOES-17 satellite will provide faster, more accurate, and more detailed data for detecting and tracking of tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions, fire hot spots, and other natural hazards.
On March 7, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Space held a hearing on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) budget for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The President’s FY 2019 request includes a total of $19.9 billion in funding for NASA, a 1.2 percent increase from the FY 2017 enacted funding level. The President’s request proposes shifting the agency’s existing resources to focus on deep space exploration activities, starting with another human mission to the Moon in 2023, with the intent of setting the stage for future human missions to Mars. It also proposes to eliminate the Office of Education in order to redirect its funding for deep space exploration.
Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill on March 23 that will fund the federal government through September 2018. The 2,232-page bill, entitled the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, rejects the Administration’s proposed deep cuts to federal science agencies. Instead, many science agencies received increased funding, in part due to the increased budget authority for FY 2018 non-defense discretionary spending agreed to last month in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report titled Thriving on Our Changing Planet: A Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space. Commissioned by the civilian agencies involved with space-based Earth observations – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey – the study identifies key science and application priorities for 2017-2027. The report calls for the overall U.S. government’s program of Earth observations from space to be robust, resilient, and appropriately balanced, and for federal agencies to ensure efficient and effective use of U.S. resources.