Space-Related Activity on the Rise
On Oct. 22, after months of deliberations, the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee released its final report. Among lawmakers there has been strong bi-partisan consensus that the current U.S. human space flight program is on an unsustainable trajectory that needs increased funding. However, lawmakers continue to debate the report’s prospective paths going forward, and, until the White House makes a decision, the debate will likely continue.
Both the House of Representatives and Senate held hearings that reminded Americans of the importance of our nation’s space program. On Oct. 21, the Senate Science and Space Subcommittee illuminated many of the values the U.S. risks losing if it chooses to cede its leadership in space exploration. On Oct. 22, the House of Representatives Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee discussed ways to strengthen NASA’s technology and development programs, which can lower program life-cycle costs and spur new innovations.
In mid-October, lawmakers introduced several pieces of space-related legislation. The House of Representatives passed HR 3819, extending the government indemnification for third party liability claims against commercial space launch companies for three more years. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) introduced HR 3840, to authorize the President to remove satellites and related components from the United States Munitions List. Also, Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL) and Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) teamed up and introduced HR 3853, to establish a competitive Commercial Space Transportation R&D Centers of Excellence (COE) program within NASA. Both HR 3840 and HR 3853 have been reported to their respective Committees.
This year’s appropriation cycle has been marked by circumstances that have made it tough to get funding bills passed through Congress. The Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill (HR 2847), which funds NASA, NSF, and NOAA, has been slowed by a contentious amendment unrelated to space issues. The FY 2010 Department of Defense appropriations bill (HR 3326) and the Intelligence authorization bill (HR 2701) are both currently working out their differences in conference, but have faced veto threats from the President. However, the Congress was able to pass the conference report on the FY2010 Department of Defense authorization bill (HR 2647), and it has been signed into law by President Obama.
Other noteworthy events include the White House astronomy night and NASA’s LCROSS impact party. On Oct. 7, the first family hosted 150 local middle-school students for an evening of star gazing and interactive presentations. And on Oct. 9, the Newseum was at the epicenter of NASA’s nationwide LCROSS impact party. Both events coincided with the global celebration of World Space Week.