For too many years, NASA has languished with too small a budget and little or no discernible mission. The end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, followed by more budget cuts during the Obama administration, coupled with the emergence of private space travel corporations – and who can forget Obama’s Muslim outreach mission – have led some people to question the necessity of a national space program.
Now, fans of NASA, like yours truly, have reason to rejoice, as a bipartisan bill to reinvigorate NASA has passed both houses of Congress and is on its way to President Trump’s desk. A press release from the office of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) goes into more detail about the passage of S. 442, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017.
The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017. With the House’s passage of the bill today, the legislation now heads to the White House to await President Donald Trump’s signature.
“The importance of NASA and space exploration to Houston and the state of Texas cannot be underestimated,” said Sen. Cruz. “With the passage of this bipartisan legislation, the future of the U.S. space program is now more secure and stable, and we have provided much-needed certainty to the missions of the International Space Station and Johnson Space Center. We are also making a serious commitment to the manned exploration of space, laying the groundwork for the mission to Mars, and enabling commercial space ventures to flourish, all of which will foster extraordinary economic growth and job creation throughout Texas.”
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) March 7, 2017
The bill includes a nice budget authorization for NASA and calls for the development of the “Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and the Orion crew vehicle for deep space exploration.” The legislation also reaffirms the commitment to the International Space Station but also makes allowances to encourage commercial space programs.
Also included in the bill are commitments to spaceflight to Mars, as well as exploration of deep space and calls for further medical monitoring for astronauts, particularly those on long-duration flights like Scott Kelly, who recently completed a 340-day mission at the ISS.
This is an exciting development for fans of manned spaceflight, and here’s hoping the president will sign it into law.