Congress rewards NASA’s accomplishments with $1.3 billion in extra funding for 2016

After years of penny-pinching from a lack of federal funding, the folks over at NASA woke up to a bit of pleasant news this morning when Congress announced a $1.3 billion increase for its 2016 budget. Found within Congress’ anticipated 2016 federal budget plan, the agreed upon funding is actually a bit more than what was requested, signaling a radical shift in the government’s (ahem, Republican’s) appreciation of the agency’s research. Assuming the budget passes without any major changes, NASA should expect roughly $19.3 billion doled out to its various branches and research sectors.

What’s most impressive about Congress’ statement is the fact NASA’s final 2016 budget amount is more than President Barack Obama originally asked for. Cited in the fiscal year 2016 request, Obama asked for a mere $18.5 billion but, somehow, Congress one-upped him. With sectors like the NASA Planetary Science Division facing a possible permanent cut, the influx in cash flow allows the agency to continue to operate across the board. Moreover, a higher budget also opens up the possibility for NASA to stop leaning on Russia for trips to the International Space Station.

Photo taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly of the ISS flying over an aurora
Photo taken by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly of the ISS flying over an aurora NASA

One area of the budget NASA is surely happy to see funded is with its Commercial Crew program. With roughly $1.2 billion on tap, the agency has the ability to move forward with allowing companies like SpaceX to manufacture and operate spacecraft bound for the ISS. Previous versions of the bill showed hundreds of millions of dollars of less funding, however, Congress eventually decided to match what was asked; the first time this has ever happened with the Commercial Crew program.  Congress even went so far as to strongly urge NASA to use this funding in a way that promises commercial launches by 2017.

Other notable areas receiving funding include NASA’s Earth Science research program (of which NASA administrator Charles Bolden stumped for this summer in person at Congress), Human Exploration Capabilities, and the Space Launch System, among others. So instead of programs deciding what to cut and what to keep, they’ll instead get to decide on which piece of advanced research to dive into next while keeping everything on the table.

Perhaps the best way to interpret this news is this: it’s a good day to be NASA. While the budget has yet to officially pass the House and Senate — voting is scheduled for Friday — it’s clear that NASA’s recent momentum is becoming impossible for the government to ignore. It’s one thing to shoot for the stars in terms of research and development, but when a generally NASA-opposed Congress begins to finally listen, that’s when you know the hard work has (literally) paid off.

Cars

Automakers are spending billions on self-driving technology people are afraid of

Automakers are spending billions of dollars on developing the technology that will power self-driving cars, but research shows consumers have no interest in giving up control. Will they ever recoup their investment?
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gaming

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.
Emerging Tech

Opportunity’s final image is a haunting panorama of the Martian surface

The Opportunity mission to Mars may be no more, but the rover's legacy lives on. Now NASA has released the final image captured by Opportunity, and it's a stunning panorama of the Martian surface.
Computing

At $99, Nvidia’s Jetson Nano minicomputer seeks to bring robotics to the masses

Nvidia announced a new A.I. computer, the Jetson Nano. This computer comes with an 128-core GPU that Nvidia claims can handle pretty much any A.I. framework you could imagine. At $99, it's an affordable way for A.I. newbies to get involved.
Computing

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 
Emerging Tech

The U.S. Army is building a giant VR battlefield to train soldiers virtually

Imagine if the U.S. Army was able to rehearse battlezone scenarios dozens, or even hundreds, or times before settling foot on actual terrain. Thanks to virtual reality, that's now a possibility.
Business

British Airways’ new Club Suite for business class comes with a door

British Airways is going after a bigger slice of the business class market with the imminent launch of the Club Suite. The plush seating option offers a more private space as well as an easier route to the bathroom.
Smart Home

Sony’s Aibo robot dog can now patrol your home for persons of interest

Sony released the all-new Aibo in the U.S. around nine months ago, and since then the robot dog has (hopefully) been melting owners' hearts with its cute looks and clever tricks. Now it has a new one up its sleeve.
Emerging Tech

Inflating smart pills could be a painless alternative to injections

Could an inflating pill containing hidden microneedles replace painful injections? The creators of the RaniPill robotic capsule think so — and they have the human trials to prove it.
Emerging Tech

A silver bullet is being aimed at the drug-resistant superbugs on the ISS

A bacteria which is benign here on Earth can mutate into a drug-resistant superbug once it enters space. Now this problem is being tackled by a team of microbiologists who have found a way to inhibit the spread of bacteria in the ISS.
Emerging Tech

Tombot is the hyper-realistic dog robot that puts Spot to shame

Forget Boston Dynamics’ Spot! When it comes to robot dogs, the folks behind a new Kickstarter campaign have plans to stake their claim as makers of man’s (and woman’s) newest best friend.
Emerging Tech

Researchers gave alligators headphones and ketamine, and all for a good cause

Researchers in Germany and the United States recently gave ketamine and earphones to alligators to monitor how they process sounds. Here's what it reveals about alligator evolution.
Emerging Tech

Cheese tastes different when it listens to Led Zeppelin, Swiss study finds

A funky new study says that exposing cheese to music changes its aroma and flavor. What’s more, the genre of music matters. Researchers from the Bern University of Arts played music to nine, 22-pound wheels of Emmental cheese.