Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Hearing: “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and for the National Science Foundation” 

U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee    

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Hearing    

“A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and for the National Science Foundation”     

Thursday, May 23, 2024     

Watch the Hearing 


The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (SAC-CJS) held a hearing entitled “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and for the National Science Foundation” on Thursday, May 23, 2024. The purpose of the hearing was to review the President’s FY25 budget request (PBR) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), with NASA requesting $25.4 billion and NSF requesting $10.183 billion for FY25. During the hearing, the witnesses addressed critical funding, programmatic, and geopolitical aspects of NASA and NSF, highlighting ongoing challenges, priorities, and future directions in space exploration and scientific research. More information.    

Key Highlights

  • Administrator Nelson underscored NASA’s significant budget constraints for FY24 and FY25, which have required difficult decisions to be made, including scaling back key programs like the MSR program and OSAM-1 mission.
  • Administrator Nelson reiterated NASA’s commitment to ensuring readiness before launching Artemis II, emphasizing that the mission “will not launch until it’s ready.” He also outlined the schedule for the Artemis program, indicating that Artemis II is slated for September 2025, followed by Artemis III in September 2026, with the readiness of SpaceX’s Starship HLS playing a key role in this timeline.
  • Administrator Nelson discussed the critical need for funding to address $5 billion in unfunded infrastructure needs at NASA facilities nationwide. 


  • The Honorable Bill Nelson, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • The Honorable Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director, National Science Foundation 

Opening Statements

Chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)  

In her opening statement, Chairwoman Shaheen expressed concerns about budget cuts to NASA’s heliophysics program, which has faced reductions for the third consecutive year. She also highlighted the broader impact of the Fiscal Responsibility Act’s caps, which forced the Committee to significantly reduce funding for both NASA and the NSF, thereby affecting their capacity to meet critical missions and expectations. She emphasized the importance of continued investment in innovation and space exploration through NSF and NASA to drive economic competitiveness and inspire future STEM leaders. Chairwoman Shaheen warned that underinvesting in scientific innovation could hinder the U.S. in the face of growing global competition, particularly from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and stressed the need to lead in technological advancements rather than merely keeping pace. She reaffirmed her strong support for both NASA and NSF. 

Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS)  

In his opening statement, Ranking Member Moran acknowledged the challenges faced in allocating funds for NASA and the NSF in FY24, emphasizing that despite tough decisions, pivotal programs such as the Artemis program were protected. He highlighted the threat posed by the PRC’s advancements in space, noting their territorial ambitions on the lunar surface. Ranking Member Moran underscored the importance of maintaining U.S. leadership in scientific innovation and noted the NSF AI Education Act of 2024 that he introduced with Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, that supports educational and professional development opportunities related to artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum.  

Witness Testimony

The Honorable Bill Nelson, Administrator, NASA 

In his testimony, Administrator Bill Nelson addressed the budget constraints NASA faces for FY24 and FY25, resulting in almost $5 billion less funding over these two years. He explained that under these constraints, NASA “can’t get everything done” and is thus forced to make “uncomfortable choices,” including scaling back the Mars Sample Return (MSR) program and the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) mission. Despite these challenges, Nelson highlighted that the budget still makes significant investments in the long-term architecture for the Artemis program, such as human landing systems (HLS), extra-vehicular suits, lunar infrastructure, and international partnerships for the Gateway lunar outpost. He also noted that the PBR continues to fund NASA science, supporting ongoing missions like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), Hubble Space Telescope, and the Perseverance Rover while funding new initiatives such as the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope and the Habitable Worlds Observatory (HWO) Technology Maturation. Administrator Nelson emphasized that investing in NASA advances national capabilities, strengthens leadership in space exploration, and generates job creation across all 50 states. Read the Full Statement. 

The Honorable Sethuraman Panchanathan, Director, NSF 

In his testimony, Director Panchanathan highlighted the significant impact of NSF, noting that it supports hundreds of thousands of researchers, entrepreneurs, and STEM educators annually, and has led to countless startups. He emphasized that NSF remains a highly beneficial investment for the U.S., driving innovation that benefits every American daily. However, Director Panchanathan warned that while the U.S. was the first to heavily invest in fundamental research and innovation, competitors, particularly the PRC, are rapidly catching up by “copying our playbook and investing heavily…in the hopes of controlling the innovations of the future.” He cited the offshoring of semiconductor production as a national security concern and stressed the importance of not repeating this with AI, quantum information science, advanced manufacturing, or other critical technologies. He stated that the FY25 PBR for NSF includes $10.2 billion to maintain U.S. leadership in science, engineering, and technology and to effectively implement the CHIPS and Science Act. Read the Full Statement.    

Question & Answer 

Artemis Program 

  • In response to a question by Ranking Member Moran, Administrator Nelson reaffirmed NASA’s commitment to prioritizing astronaut safety, stating “we will not launch until it’s ready.” He stated that September 2025 is a realistic target for Artemis II, with Artemis III scheduled for September 2026. He highlighted that Artemis III is a combination of Apollo 9, 10, and 11, involving both lunar orbiting and landing, underscoring the complexity of the mission. He noted that the success of Artemis III hinges on SpaceX’s readiness with HLS, acknowledging their progress in meeting all of their milestones.
  • In response to a question by Chairwoman Shaheen about if NASA has considered commercially competing launch services for Artemis V and beyond, Administrator Nelson responded that the services are already being competed, citing Artemis III’s use of the SpaceX lander and Artemis V’s use of Blue Origin. He noted that the second competition, which he initiated, resulted in significant cost savings of approximately half the cost of the lander in both competitions.
  • In response to a question by Chairwoman Shaheen about the possibility of an independent review board for the Artemis program, Administrator Nelson referenced reports already conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Inspector General. He mentioned efforts to consolidate the 16 contracts in the Artemis program into fewer contracts to enhance responsibility and cost control.
  • In response to a question by Ranking Member Moran, Administrator Nelson emphasized the significance of the Artemis Program as a top priority due to the geopolitical landscape with the PRC. He drew parallel between the PRC’s terrestrial territorial claims, namely the Spratly Islands, as a potentiality for Chinese lunar policy.  

Contractor Accountability 

  • In response to a question by Chairwoman Shaheen about holding contractors accountable, Administrator Nelson explained that contractors are evaluated based on their performance. If they meet their goals, they receive a payment; if they do not, payments are docked. He reported that, out of the 16 major projects in the 2023-2024 development period (excluding the Mars Sample Return), only four are behind schedule. 

Groundwater Contamination at White Sands Test Facility 

  • In response to a question by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) about groundwater contamination at the White Sands Test Facility, Administrator Nelson noted that NASA has spent $200 million to date to investigate the issue and continues to work closely with federal and state agencies to address the matter and engage in final settlement discussions.  

 Future NASA Missions  

  • In response to a question by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) about the OSAM-1 mission, Administrator Nelson stated that he has already initiated a visit with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on what specific technologies developed as part of OSAM-1 can be utilized in the evolving space environment. He also affirmed that if Congress concurs, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will lead the Technology Maturation Office for the HWO, which has been requested by the agency.  

 Infrastructure Needs  

  • In response to a question by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), Administrator Nelson emphasized the critical need for funding to address $5 billion in unfunded infrastructure needs at NASA facilities nationwide. He cited an example of a bridge between Virginia and Maryland that required urgent repairs to ensure rocket launches from Wallops Island, Virginia, could proceed safely, emphasizing the challenges of negotiating deals to secure funding for such critical infrastructure projects. 

 NASA Vision 2040  

  • In response to a question by Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL) about the NASA Vision 2040 recommendation regarding program managers reporting directly to NASA headquarters, Administrator Nelson highlighted that the Moon to Mars program office is located at NASA headquarters. This organizational setup mirrors the structure during the Apollo era, where the program office served as the central hub for coordinating various aspects of the mission. 

 Support for Small Businesses  

  • In response to questions by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Britt about NASA’s support to small businesses amid project delays, Administrator Nelson emphasized the agency’s commitment to allocating a percentage of major space contracts to small businesses. He noted that NASA consistently performs well on Small Business Administration (SBA) scorecards due to these efforts. Administrator Nelson also mentioned he plans to visit Michigan in July this year.  

 Research and Development Grants 

  • In response to a question by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Administrator Nelson highlighted efforts by NASA to extend research and development (R&D) grants beyond the Estab­lished Program to Stim­u­late Com­pet­i­tive Research (EPSCoR) to regions of the country typically overlooked in space-related research, including rural areas, as part of a broader initiative to enhance inclusivity in R&D funding. 

 An archive of previous hearing coverage is available here.