Trump signs bill au­tho­riz­ing NASA fund­ing, Mars ex­plo­ration

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Dar­lene Su­perville

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed a bill into law Tues­day that up­dates NASA’s mission to add ex­plo­ration of Mars and au­tho­rizes $19.5 bil­lion in spend­ing for the U.S. space agency for the cur­rent bud­get year.

It’s the first time in seven years that there has been an au­tho­riza­tion bill for the Na­tional Aero­nau­tics and Space Ad­min­is­tra­tion, also known as NASA, said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a chief spon- sor of the bill. Cruz joined sev­eral as­tro­nauts and other law­mak­ers in the Oval Of­fice to watch Trump sign the bill.

Last week, Trump sent Congress a bud­get pro­posal that would au­tho­rize $19.1 bil­lion in agency spend­ing next year. Congress ap­pro­pri­ates fund­ing for all gov­ern­ment de­part- ments and agen­cies.

“For al­most six decades, NASA’s work has in­spired mil­lions and mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to imag­ine dis­tant worlds and a bet­ter fu­ture right here on earth,” Trump said. “I’m de­lighted to sign this bill. It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaf- firm­ing our com­mit­ment to the core mission of NASA: hu­man space ex­plo­ration, space science and tech­nol­ogy.”

The mea­sure amends cur- rent law to add hu­man ex­plo­ration of the red planet as a goal for the agency. It sup­ports use of the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion through at least 2024, along with pri­vate sec­tor com- pa­nies part­ner­ing with NASA to de­liver cargo and ex­per- iments, among other steps.

Trump in­vited sev­eral law­mak­ers to com­ment af­ter the sign­ing, start­ing with Cruz be­fore mov­ing on to Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla. When Trump in­vited Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence to speak, Pence sug­gested that for­mer as­tro­naut and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., be al­lowed to say a few words.

“He’s a Demo­crat. I wasn’t go­ing to let him speak,” Trump quipped, to laugh­ter. Nelson did say a few words, prais­ing the bill.

ALEX WONG / GETTY IM­AGES

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks Tues­day dur­ing a NASA bill sign­ing in the Oval Of­fice. The law up­dates NASA’s mission to add ex­plo­ration of Mars and au­tho­rizes $19.5 bil­lion in spend­ing for the agency.

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