Space Bills Occupy D.C.
During July, Congress was focused heavily on the future of the nation's space policy as space authorization and space appropriation bills came to vote. Authorization bills detail how the various committees believe funds should be spent and generally play a major role in shaping the final allotment of funds.
With the controversy in Washington over how the nation should move forward with our space program, there are some significant differences in two authorization bills that came to vote last month. While both have a $19 billion overall budget, add one more mission to the Space Shuttle manifest, and support the International Space Station (ISS) through at least 2010, they differ in other ways.
The version approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee:
- Provides $612 million in funds for commercial crew and cargo services, about two-thirds of what the President asked for in fiscal year 2011
- Provides $2.7 billion for a multi-purpose crew vehicle and space launch system that utilizes the existing contracts, investments, workforce, industrial base, and capabilities from the Space Shuttle, Orion, and Ares I projects
Said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Committee, "In short, this bill provides a blueprint to get our nation's space program moving forward in a smart, fiscally responsible way, and in a way that will maintain America's edge in space flight, exploration, science and aeronautics."
The version approved by the House Science and Technology Committee:
- Provides $164 million in funds for commercial crew and cargo services, less than a quarter of what the President asked for in fiscal year 2011
- Provides $3.6 billion for a restructured exploration program that utilizes the design, development, and test work completed to date on the Orion, Ares I, and heavy lift launch system to the maximum practicable extent
"I think the legislation before us sets a clear, sustainable, and executable path for NASA, especially in the area of human space flight," said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN), chairman of the Committee.
If both proposed authorization bills pass their respective legislative chambers, then the Conference Committee, which comprises members from both chambers, will face the challenge of negotiating an agreeable bill that assuages the significant differences over funding priorities for commercial crew and cargo and the NASA crew vehicle and space launch system.
Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriation Committee approved the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies bill, which:
- Provides the $19 billion overall budget, adds the additional Space Shuttle mission, and supports the International Space Station (ISS) through at least 2010
- Provides $562 million in funds for commercial crew and cargo services
- Provides $3 billion for the development of the next generation Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle
Speaking about the bill, which largely supports the framework outlined in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee authorization bill, Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriation Subcommittee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD said, "We really did try to find a path forward that kept a balanced space program in human spaceflight, space technology, science and also reliable transportation systems."
All three bills are now awaiting a vote from the full body in their respective legislative chambers.
For more information, explore these links:
Proposed House FY11 NASA Authorization Bill
Proposed Senate FY11 NASA Authorization Bill
Proposed Senate FY11 NASA Appropriations Committee report
Space Foundation NASA Budget Comparison (see article in the issue of Space Watch)