In November, TheCollegeConservative published a report on the current state of the United States government’s outer-space policy. We revealed a commonly underreported aspect of American policy making, and the astronomical divisiveness that is driven by a fear of wasted tax dollars.

In addition to NASA’s Journey to Mars, the mission and operations of the agency received a much need spending boost. The highly controversial Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, popularly known for being the “omnibus spending bill,” provided the National Aeronautics and Space Administration more funding then in the previous fiscal year.

Under the third title for Science, in the sub-bill, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,  attached to the omnibus legislation, NASA is given $19.3 billion, versus the $18 billion they received in previous appropriations.

In a December 16th press release, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called it a “boost” to funding, vital to NASA’s mission. The Committee is one of the direct oversights over NASA, in the U.S. Congress.

“The nation’s space agency is set to get a significant boost in funding next year thanks to the massive spending bill congressional leaders unveiled last night,” the press release states.

The additional funds are set to be used in implementing and continuing several space exploration programs and planetary research initiatives. Notably, additional funding will be given towards the Orion crew capsule and the continued development of the next-generation Space Launch System (SLS). The SLS and Orion projects are apart of the long-term exploration goals of NASA, which includes missions to Earth’s moon, Mars, and the Jupiter moon named Europa.

The mission to Europa, specifically, is allotted over $150 million for development and launch in the 2020’s. Currently, the craft to Europa will be an unmanned observation probe that will be tasked with understanding the planetary features of the moon, including observations to decide if Europa is habitable by humans. The Europa moon is covered in a massive ocean of H2O and a ice covered crust.

“If a mission to Europa confirms extraterrestrial life living in the ocean, it would lead to new discoveries about how the solar system, and life within it, formed,” according to a report from The Christian Science Monitor.

The new spending package will also give $1.24 billion to the commercial crew program that allows for American astronauts to be transported to space in American space craft. This effort is an attempt to stop relying on the Russian Federation to get American space personnel to their proving grounds.

Passed with bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, the omnibus spending bill also provides funding to other functions of the Federal government, including the Department of Commerce, Justice, other independent agencies, and some more funding to Defense. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 was hailed by Republicans as Speaker Paul Ryan’s first major “victory” in the House of Representatives.