Budget of NASA

Last updated
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
NASA logo.svg
Agency overview
FormedJuly 29, 1958;60 years ago (1958-07-29)
Employees17,336 (2018)
Annual budget US$ 20.7 billion (Fiscal Year 2018,about 0.489% of total 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]

NASA space-related agency of the United States government

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research.

United States federal budget Budget of the U.S. federal government

The United States federal budget comprises the spending and revenues of the U.S. federal government. The budget is the financial representation of the priorities of the government, reflecting historical debates and competing economic philosophies. The government primarily spends on healthcare, retirement, and defense programs. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office provides extensive analysis of the budget and its economic effects. It has reported that the U.S. is facing a series of long-term financial challenges, as the population of the country ages and healthcare costs continue growing faster than the economy, leading to the debt held by the public exceeding GDP by 2030. The United States has the largest external debt in the world and the 14th largest government debt as % of GDP in the world.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.


Annual budget

NASA's budget as percentage of federal total, from 1958 to 2017 NASA-Budget-Federal.svg
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)
NASA budget
Nominal Dollars
% of Fed Budget [5] [6] 2014 Constant Dollars
NASA budget
Nominal Dollars
% of Fed Budget [5] [6] 2014 Constant Dollars
200917,782 [7] 0.57%19,714
201018,724 [8] 0.52%20,423
FY201118,448 [9] 0.51%17,833
FY201217,770 [10] 0.50%17,471
FY201316,865 [11] 0.49%17,219
FY201417,647 [12] 0.50%17,647
FY201518,010 [13] 0.49%17,989
FY201619,300 [14] 0.50%19,037
FY201719,508 [15] 0.47%18,866
FY2018 (proposed)20,736 [16] [17] ~20,050
FY2019 [12]
FY202021,000 [12]

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: [ full citation needed ]

Air Force Association

The Air Force Association (AFA) is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit, professional military and aerospace education association that promotes American aerospace power. It is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia.

Cost of Apollo program

NASA's budget peaked in 1966, during the Apollo program NASA budget linegraph BH.PNG
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. [18]

Apollo program Manned U.S. lunar missions from 1966–1972

The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which succeeded in landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in an address to Congress on May 25, 1961. It was the third US human spaceflight program to fly, preceded by the two-man Project Gemini conceived in 1961 to extend spaceflight capability in support of Apollo.

Aerospace manufacturer company involved in manufacturing aircraft, aircraft parts, missiles, rockets, and/or spacecraft

An aerospace manufacturer is a company or individual involved in the various aspects of designing, building, testing, selling, and maintaining aircraft, aircraft parts, missiles, rockets, or spacecraft. Aerospace is a high technology industry.

University academic institution for further education

A university is an institution of higher education and research which awards academic degrees in various academic disciplines. Universities typically provide undergraduate education and postgraduate education.

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). [19]

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). [20]

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." [21]

A map from NASA's web site illustrating its economic impact on the U.S. states (as of FY2003) NASA dollars.jpg
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 [22] 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:

According to a 1992 Nature commentary, these 259 applications represent ". . .only 1% of an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Space program spin-offs." [23]

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 [24]

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. [25]

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. [26]

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. [27]

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. [28] It is estimated that most Americans spent less than $9 on NASA through personal income tax in 2009. [29]

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." [30] [31] 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." [32]

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. [33] 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 [33] . 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. [34] Manned missions to Mars have also been denounced for their inefficiency and large cost compared to unmanned missions. [35] 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. [36]

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. [37] Absent from the law is any mention of NASA’s earth science programs, which some critics believe is a politically motivated move. [38]

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. [39] 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. [40]

See also


    Related Research Articles

    United States Department of Energy Cabinet-level department of the United States government

    The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is a cabinet-level department of the United States Government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material. Its responsibilities include the nation's nuclear weapons program, nuclear reactor production for the United States Navy, energy conservation, energy-related research, radioactive waste disposal, and domestic energy production. It also directs research in genomics; the Human Genome Project originated in a DOE initiative. DOE sponsors more research in the physical sciences than any other U.S. federal agency, the majority of which is conducted through its system of National Laboratories. The agency is administered by the United States Secretary of Energy, and its headquarters are located in Southwest Washington, D.C., on Independence Avenue in the James V. Forrestal Building, named for James Forrestal, as well as in Germantown, Maryland.

    Space Station <i>Freedom</i>

    Space Station Freedom was a NASA project to construct a permanently manned Earth-orbiting space station in the 1980s. Although approved by then-president Ronald Reagan and announced in the 1984 State of the Union address, Freedom was never constructed or completed as originally designed, and after several cutbacks, the project evolved into the International Space Station program.

    Military budget of the United States Portion of the United States federal bugdet allocated to the Department of Defense

    The military budget is the portion of the discretionary United States federal budget allocated to the Department of Defense, or more broadly, the portion of the budget that goes to any military-related expenditures. The military budget pays the salaries, training, and health care of uniformed and civilian personnel, maintains arms, equipment and facilities, funds operations, and develops and buys new items. The budget funds four branches of the U.S. military: the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. For FY2019, the Department of Defense budget is $686,074,048,000

    The Small Business Innovation Research program is a United States Government program, coordinated by the Small Business Administration, intended to help certain small businesses conduct research and development (R&D). Funding takes the form of contracts or grants. The recipient projects must have the potential for commercialization and must meet specific U.S. government R&D needs.

    NASA Authorization Act of 2005

    The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 is an act of the United States Congress. It was signed by the then President George W. Bush and became Public Law 109-155 on December 30, 2005.

    Space policy is the political decision-making process for, and application of, public policy of a state regarding spaceflight and uses of outer space, both for civilian and military purposes. International treaties, such as the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, attempt to maximize the peaceful uses of space and restrict the militarization of space.

    The United States federal budget for fiscal year 2009 began as a spending request submitted by President George W. Bush to the 110th Congress. The final resolution written and submitted by the 110th Congress to be forwarded to the President was approved by the House on June 5, 2008.

    2010 United States federal budget United States budget request

    The United States Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2010, titled A New Era of Responsibility: Renewing America's Promise, is a spending request by President Barack Obama to fund government operations for October 2009–September 2010. Figures shown in the spending request do not reflect the actual appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010, which must be authorized by Congress.

    The 2011 United States federal budget was the United States federal budget to fund government operations for the fiscal year 2011. The budget was the subject of a spending request by President Barack Obama. The actual appropriations for Fiscal Year 2011 had to be authorized by the full Congress before it could take effect, according to the U.S. budget process.

    Space policy of the Barack Obama administration

    The space policy of the Barack Obama administration was announced by U.S. President Barack Obama on April 15, 2010, at a major space policy speech at Kennedy Space Center. He committed to increasing NASA funding by $6 billion over five years and completing the design of a new heavy-lift launch vehicle by 2015 and to begin construction thereafter. He also predicted a U.S.-crewed orbital Mars mission by the mid-2030s, preceded by an asteroid mission by 2025. In response to concerns over job losses, Obama promised a $40 million effort to help Space Coast workers affected by the cancellation of the Space Shuttle program and Constellation program.

    Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope infrared space observatory

    The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a NASA infrared space observatory currently under development. WFIRST was recommended in 2010 by United States National Research Council Decadal Survey committee as the top priority for the next decade of astronomy. On February 17, 2016, WFIRST was approved for development and launch.

    The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 is a U.S. law authorizing NASA appropriations for fiscal years 2011, 2012, 2013 with the same top-line budget values as requested by US President Barack Obama. It resulted from the Augustine Commission's review of then-current manned space flight plans.

    The space policy of the United States includes both the making of space policy through the legislative process, and the implementation of that policy in the civilian and military US space programs through regulatory agencies. The early history of United States space policy is linked to the US–Soviet Space Race of the 1960s, which gave way to the Space Shuttle program. There is a current debate on the post-Space Shuttle future of the civilian space program.

    Space Launch System American Space Shuttle-derived heavy expendable launch vehicle

    The Space Launch System (SLS) is an American Space Shuttle-derived super heavy-lift expendable launch vehicle. It is part of NASA's deep space exploration plans including a crewed mission to Mars. SLS follows the cancellation of the Constellation program, and is to replace the retired Space Shuttle. The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 envisions the transformation of the Constellation program's Ares I and Ares V vehicle designs into a single launch vehicle usable for both crew and cargo, similar to the Ares IV concept. The SLS is to be the most powerful rocket in existence with a total thrust greater than that of the Saturn V, although Saturn V could carry a greater payload mass.

    Orion (spacecraft) beyond-low-Earth-orbit manned spacecraft

    The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle is an American-European interplanetary spacecraft intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit (LEO). Currently under development by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) for launch on the Space Launch System, Orion is intended to facilitate human exploration of the Moon, asteroids and of Mars and to retrieve crew or supplies from the International Space Station if needed.

    Networking and Information Technology Research and Development US federal research and development program

    The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) program consists of a group of U.S. federal agencies to research and develop information technology (IT) capabilities to empower Federal missions; support U.S. science, engineering, and technology leadership; and bolster U.S. economic competitiveness.

    National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2014

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2014 is a bill that would authorize the appropriation of $17.6 billion in fiscal year 2014 to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA would use the funding for human exploration of space, the Space Launch System, the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle, the commercial crew program, the International Space Station (ISS), and various technological and educational projects.


    1. https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/fy_2017_nasa_agency_fact_sheet.pdf
    2. "Workforce Profile". NASA. Retrieved 17 September 2018.
    3. "It's Over. Trump Signs FY2019 Appropriations Bill" . Retrieved 2019-02-25.
    4. White House Office of Management and Budget "Table 1.1—Summary of Receipts, Outlays, and Surpluses or Deficits (-): 1789–2023"
    5. 1 2 % of total federal expenditures from: https://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2010/feb/01/nasa-budgets-us-spending-space-travel
    6. 1 2 1999–2010 based on federal outlays from: Federal budget (United States)#Total outlays in recent budget submissions
    7. "2011 Budget Overview" (PDF). nasa.gov.
    8. Berger, Brian (2011-04-13). "U.S. Budget Compromise Includes $18.5 Billion for NASA". Space.com. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
    9. http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/632697main_NASA_FY13_Budget_Summary-508.pdf
    10. http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/750614main_NASA_FY_2014_Budget_Estimates-508.pdf
    11. 2015 NASA Budget Estimates
    12. 1 2 3 "2016 NASA Budget Estimates" (PDF).
    13. Clark, Stephen (2014-12-14). "NASA gets budget hike in spending bill passed by Congress". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2014-12-15.
    14. "Agency fact sheet: NASA's FY 2017 budget request" (PDF). 2016. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
    15. "S.442 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017" . Retrieved March 21, 2017.
    16. Staff, Science News. "Updated: Congress approves largest U.S. research spending increase in a decade". Science. American Association for the Advancement of Science. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
    17. Foust, Jeff. "NASA receives $20.7 billion in omnibus appropriations bill". Science News. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
    18. Levine, Arnold S. (1983). "Chapter 4: The NASA Acquisition Process: Contracting For Research and Development". Managing NASA in the Apollo era : an administrative history of the U.S. civilian space program, 1958-1969. Scientific and Technical Information Branch, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. OCLC   317074611.
    19. 93rd Congress 1973, p. 1271.
    20. Wilford 1969, p. 67
    21. "Economic Impact of Stimulated Economic Activity.". nasa.gov. Retrieved 14 Nov. 2018.
    22. "The Economic Impact of NASA R&D Spending: Preliminary Executive Summary.", April 1975. Also: " Relative Impact of NASA Expenditure on the Economy. ", March 18, 1975
    23. Bezdek, Roger H.; Wendling, Robert M. (January 9, 1992). "Sharing out NASA's spoils" (PDF). Nature . Nature Publishing Group. 355 (6356): 105–106. Bibcode:1992Natur.355..105B. doi:10.1038/355105a0 . Retrieved 2008-03-30.
    24. "NASA Socio-Economic Impacts". National Institute of Standards and Technology. Retrieved 14 Nov. 2018.
    25. Hirschberg, Mike. "Investing in Tomorrow’s Civil Rotorcraft" American Helicopter Society , July–August 2014. Accessed: 7 October 2014. Archived on 7 October 2014
    26. "2017 Economic Impact Report". nasa.gov. Retrieved 14 Nov. 2018.
    27. "About Spinoff". NASA. n.d. Archived from the original on 2014-12-08. Retrieved 26 Nov 2014.
    28. Launius, Roger D. "Public opinion polls and perceptions of US human spaceflight". Division of Space History, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
    29. "Personal Income Tax Paid To NASA In 2009 By Income Level". NASACost.com.
    30. "Past, Present, and Future of NASA – U.S. Senate Testimony". Hayden Planetarium. 7 Mar 2012. Retrieved 4 Dec 2012.
    31. "Past, Present, and Future of NASA – U.S. Senate Testimony (Video)". Hayden Planetarium. 7 Mar 2012. Retrieved 4 Dec 2012.
    32. "Why We Fight – Penny4NASA". Penny4NASA. Retrieved 30 Nov 2012.
    33. 1 2 "A Case for Cutting NASA's Budget". The New Republic. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
    34. "NASA's Shuttle Program Cost $209 Billion — Was it Worth It?". Space.com. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
    35. "Should NASA Ditch Manned Missions to Mars?". Space.com. Retrieved 2018-12-04.
    36. Eric Berger (October 29, 2015) Republicans outraged over NASA earth science programs… that Reagan began. Ars Technica
    37. Cruz, Ted (2017-03-21). "S.442 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
    38. Mosher, Dave (March 21, 2017). "Trump just signed a law that maps out NASA's long-term future — but a critical element is missing". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
    39. "SST Committee Approves Bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2018". Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. 2018-04-17. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
    40. 1 2 Babin, Brian (2018-04-17). "Text - H.R.5503 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2018". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 2018-12-05.
    41. National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, PL 109-155, US Government, December 30, 2005.
    42. "H.R. 4412 – Summary". United States Congress. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
    43. Ted, Cruz (21 March 2017). "Text - S.442 - 115th Congress (2017-2018): National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2017". www.congress.gov.