Re­vised NASA plans backed by panel

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

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.

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