House Passes Senate Version of NASA Budget Bill

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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The US House of Representatives voted late Wednesday to accept the Senate’s version of NASA’s $19 billion fiscal 2011 budget proposal. The bill will now go to President Obama for his approval and signature, and if approved would provide $60 billion for NASA over the next three years, with money for development of commercial spacecraft, a heavy lift vehicle for NASA, technology development – including in-space tech such as fuel depots – and one additional shuttle flight in 2011. The Constellation program would be officially dead, although the Orion capsule would still be developed, and the next human destination in space will likely be an asteroid.

The House voted 304 to 118, with no amendments allowed, in favor to approve the budget in a final series of votes before Congress recesses for the November 2 mid-term elections. The bill would keep most of the major changes in NASA’s future that Obama proposed in February of this year, while giving better direction as to where, when and how.

You can see a list of how the representatives voted at this link.

$3.99 billion of the new budget would go towards exploration in fiscal 2011, $1.3 billion for a new deep space capsule and $1.9 billion for initial development of a new heavy lift rocket.

Additionally,the bill would provide $144 million to support on-going development of unmanned spacecraft to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and $312 million for commercial crew spacecraft. Space operations would receive $5 billion, including $2.8 billion for the International Space Station.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden was understandably relieved and ecstatic about the passage.

“This important vote today in the House of Representatives on a comprehensive NASA authorization charts a vital new future for the course of human space exploration,” Bolden said in a statement. “The President has laid out an ambitious new plan for NASA that pioneers new frontiers of innovation and discovery. The plan invests more in NASA; extends the life of the International Space Station; launches a commercial space transportation industry; fosters the development of path-breaking technologies; and helps create thousands of new jobs. Passage of this bill represents an important step forward towards helping us achieve the key goals set by the President. “

“This is a great night for our nation’s space program,” Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said in a statement. “This bill is a blueprint for how we will proceed for the next three years and will allow NASA to begin planning for an extra shuttle flight. Now we have to make sure the agency gets the funding necessary to get the job done.”

There were some critics of the bill however. Former NASA administrator Mike Griffin said in an article in the Huntsville Times this week, “While it is true that the Senate bill offers some improvement over the Obama administration’s ill-advised plan for NASA, in my considered opinion it is not enough better to warrant its support in law. As happened after the loss of space shuttle Columbia, it is time once again to ask ourselves whether we want to have a real space program, or not. If we do, then the Senate bill won’t get us there. If we cannot do better than that, then I believe we have reached the point where it is better to allow the damage which has been brought about by the administration’s actions to play out to its conclusion than to accept half-measures in an attempt at remediation.”

And Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona (who is married to shuttle commander Mark Kelly) said she doesn’t like the idea of Congress deciding what heavy lift vehicle should be built. “In short, the Senate bill forces NASA to build a rocket that doesn’t meet its needs, with a budget that’s not adequate to do the job and on a schedule that NASA’s own analysis says is unrealistic,” she said after the vote Wednesday night. “That is not my idea of an executable and sustainable human spaceflight program.”

She also said the legislation “lacks serious budgetary discipline” and includes an “unfunded mandate to keep the shuttle program going through all of fiscal year 2011 even after the shuttle is retired, which NASA estimates will cost the agency more than half a billion dollars.”

You can read more reactions over at Jeff Foust’s Space Politics website, and see this link from Hobby Space for a plethora of news reports about the bill’s passage.

Sources: NASA, AFP Spaceflightnow.com

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5 Responses

  1. Torbjorn Larsson OM says:

    a heavy lift vehicle for NASA, technology development – including in-space tech such as fuel depots – and one additional shuttle flight in 2011. The Constellation program would be officially dead, although the Orion capsule would still be developed,

    Pork in space, since the heavy lift vehicle technology is decided by politicians (!) on the current problematic structure, the shuttle flight is not needed for ISS, and the Orion capsule cuts into the market of cheaper commercials.

    As someone noted, politicians shortsighted interest in keeping jobs in space industry will mean less job in space industry.

    Luckily we have viable commercial as well as chinese space programs to look forward to, and they are set to eventually go further than LEO both.

  2. bunker9603 says:

    I find it interesting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona (who is married to shuttle commander Mark Kelly) voted against the Bill. To me that says a lot.

  3. Jason Rhian says:

    Torbjorn – given that no one has EVER flown a commercial rocket into orbit – where do you get you numbers that they are cheaper? Four out of five Falcon 1 flights failed. (Musk tried to spin that the 4th flight was a success but ask yourself – if you’re 22 miles short of your goal – is that success?). Before you brag about private space – please review, Roton, Kistler Aerospace, BlastOff and the Da Vinci Project.

    Also China? You do know that they are a closed, communist country right? I’m guessing you’re Chinese, cause otherwise you are not flying on anything they fly.

  4. Random63 says:

    Not everyone is happy about this turn of events. http://www.rv-103.com/?p=948 Constellation and America’s Human Space flight program is dead with only a politician’s PowerPoint to replace it. When the last shuttle launches, that will be the last time you see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for at least 10 years. What a mess!

    Also, today was the last day of work for a few thousand Shuttle and Constellation workers at the various NASA centers. A word of “thanks” for their service sent their way would be nice. Those people made such things as Hubble’s delivery via the Shuttle happen.

  5. TerryG says:

    “America’s Human Space flight program is dead”. So the contribution to the ISS doesn’t count as part of the US Human Space Flight program? Try telling that to the crew.

    “…last time you see an American astronaut fly on an American ship for at least 10 years.” Blatantly untrue and scarcely relevant. Try 2015 according to the schedule published by NASA. Getting swept along by symbols such as flags and American blah blah blah are minor distractions to the scientific knowledge, spin-offs and other returns on investment which are the point of the missions.

    You’ve got the Hubble situation backwards. Chandra and Hubble helped give the Shuttles a reason to exist.
    http://www.universetoday.com/74542/jwst-built-with-unobtainium/comment-page-1/#comment-85210

    Everybody realises this is a sensitive and emotional time for those who idolize the Shuttles, so we tend to avoid raining on the parade of those talking up the value of the Shuttle program, but anyway you slice it, the Shuttles failed to live up to the hype following Young and Crippen’s test flight most notably the appalling flight rate, an average of 4.5 flights per year.

    At least there will be agreement that the bill isn’t perfect, but it looks like the Administration might not put a fight so we have to live with it now.

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