Senate and House pass bills for future of NASA

July 22, 2010

The Senate and the House of Representatives have both passed their own versions of Obama’s proposed budget for NASA. As I’ve mentioned here before, Obama’s plan to abandon the Constellation program and leave American access to low earth orbit in the hands of the private sector was met with a good bit of criticism, both from Republicans and Democrats alike. Though I supported (and still support) his initial plan, I figured we would end up with some sort of compromise in the end. Not surprisingly, that’s where we’re headed now that the Senate and House versions have come out. I don’t have the time nor the willpower to type out the gritty details of the differences, but in a nutshell, the Senate wants to extend the space shuttle by another mission or two, slash funding for commercial space companies in half, accelerate the development of a heavy-lift rocket based on current shuttle booster technology, and slash funding of research into advanced technologies. For a more detailed comparison between Obama’s plan and the Senate plan, check out this article on Universe Today.

The House plan, which was issue by the House Science and Technology Committee (chaired by TN’s own Bart Gordon) is even worse. They want to slash funding for development of commercial access to low earth orbit by MUCH more than the Senate version, and like the Senate they want to speed up development of a heavy-lift rocket. The biggest problem is that the House version essentially brings back Constellation. For more detailed info on the House version, check out this article on Space.com.

I’m by no means a politician or an economics expert, but I’m firm in my belief that if NASA keeps focusing money and effort on access to LEO/the ISS, then we are spinning our wheels and making no progress. NASA cannot keep funding and worrying about getting our astronauts to and from the ISS AND worry about/fund our exploration into the rest of the solar system at the same time.

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