Congress just passed a bill that tells NASA to send people to Mars by 2033


astronaut thumbs up waving nasa hubble space telescope stsci 103e5248


An astronaut in space flashes a thumbs-up sign.


For the first time in more than 6 years, both chambers of Congress passed a bill that approves funding for NASA and lays out new mandates for the space agency.

The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, which appropriates $19.508 billion to the agency, is a version of a nearly identical bill that the Senate and House had previously collaborated on for months.

The space agency received $19.3 billion in 2016 - less than half a percent of the total federal budget.

When the Senate brought its 146-page bill before the House of Representatives for a vote on March 7, "no members spoke against the bill" and it passed, according to Space News.


The document asks NASA to create a roadmap for getting humans "near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s." It also calls on the space agency to continue developing the Space Launch System (SLS) - its behemoth rocket - and the Orion space capsule in order to eventually go to the moon, Mars, and beyond.

space launch system

NASA's Marshall Spaceflight Center

An illustration of the Space Launch System taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Now that Congress has passed the Senate's version of the legislation, there's really only one step left: for President Donald J. Trump to sign or veto it.

President Trump has expressed support for a crewed exploration of Mars. In his inauguration speech, he said he's "ready to unlock the mysteries of space." Administration officials, meanwhile, have expressed a desire to return to the moon in the 2020s but also proposed to end NASA's 58-year mandate to study the Earth and its climate, ostensibly to focus on "deep space research."

Trump maintains a relatively tight collaboration with the Republican-controlled legislative branch, so the bill - which leaves out specifics about the funding of Earth science, climate, and sun research - could promptly receive his signature and become law.

Business Insider did not immediately receive a response from Trump administration officials about the president's reaction to the new bill.


What's in NASA's proposed budget?

orion crew capsule diagram nasa


A cutaway illustration of NASA's planned Orion space capsule.

The American Astronomical Society has a convenient breakdown of the $19.508 billion in the bill, including funding for human space exploration, space station operations, science, and more.

Here are some notable titles, articles, and sections of the bill: