NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center leaders react to president’s budget proposal

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - NASA and Marshall Space Flight Center leaders are optimistic after President Donald Trump released his FY18 budget proposal.

The president allocated $19.1 billion to NASA.

"At $19.1 billion, we have a very positive budget that retains the same parameters we saw in March, and which reflects the president’s confidence in our direction and the importance of everything we’ve been achieving," Robert Lightfoot, NASA Acting Administrator, said in a statement.

He added that the money will allow the agency to maintain its place as the global leader in space, and continue its goal of reaching Mars.

"We're there today with our scientific platforms, bringing back the kind of data we need. But the budget sustains us and the work toward that horizon goal. It gives us the resources we need to keep exploring our solar system, beyond our solar system, and exploring here on our own planet," he explained.

Lightfoot acknowledged they had to make some hard choices, but expressed his gratitude to the NASA team and its hard work.

Marshall impact

Todd May, Marshall Space Flight Center director, said the proposed Marshall budget is $2.7 billion-- which is higher than last year's enacted budget.

"I think Marshall is in great shape with this budget," he said. "We can't spell Marshall without Mars." He added, "We believe that the SLS and Orion that we are working on today is what's going to really expand humankind's frontier."

May said the budget is "stable," adding that he does not expect any reduction in workforce should Congress approve a similar plan.

"I would tell you that, as a discretionary agency that is not defense and not entitlement, our agency fared very well in this budget. Even in these austere times, it speaks to the value proposition of the work we do," he told WHNT News 19 during a press conference.

May believes the biggest problem with deadlines on big projects isn't the budget, but the amount of work it takes.

"What's pushing the schedule right now is not the budget, its execution and the critical path," he explained.

May is encouraged by the President's enthusiasm for NASA and the work they do, which he believes is reflected in the numbers.

"This gives us the resources we need to deliver on our commitments, most notably 1.9 billions for the Space Launch System," he said. "With respect to the International Space Station, we see a continued support there for our objectives. Our challenge there is this year, we will add another astronaut doing research on the space station. That will pretty much double the amount of hours we spend doing research on-station, which means our folks are going to be hopping," he said.

A worry for some is in the classroom. The President's budget plan would close NASA's Office of Education. May said at Marshall, education will always be special.

"I don't think you are going to see the people here stop paying attention to education and educating kids about what we do," he explained. "It may not look as formal as it did in the past, but I guarantee you that the folks out here take that very seriously."

What's Next

Congress still needs to approve the budget, and will likely make many changes.

May said he is aware of lots of support for NASA in Washington, and he is not worried.

He stated, "I feel pretty good about the support we get from Congress. I feel better than pretty good- I feel solid about it. I think they have made their intentions well-known."

To read the full statement from NASA's Acting Administrator, Robert Lightfoot, click here.

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