Revised NASA plans backed by panel
A Senate committee Thursday unanimously agreed to a blueprint for NASA that cancels the agency’s return-to-the-moon program, starts investments in commercial companies that could build rockets to take astronauts to low Earth orbit and speeds development of a heavylift rocket for more distant missions.
The compromise authorization bill approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation bridges disparate proposals and outlines the tasks and budgets for NASA over the next three years. The bill has gained support of the White House, which was pushing for more aggressive changes under plans proposed by President Barack Obama, and senators on the committee who had resisted those plans.
The bill would also extend the life of the International Space Station to 2020, extend the life of the space shuttle program for a year and increase financing for Earth science and aeronautics as requested by Obama.
“The consensus we achieved today was a miracle, but I believe in miracles,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the chairman of the committee’s space subcommittee, said after the vote.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the top Republican on the committee, said the NASA legislation “represents a strong balance between the need for investment in new technology and the continued evolution of the commercial market.”
The bill now moves to the full Senate.