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US House of Representatives Overwhelmingly Passes NASA Authorization Bill

Congress has endorsed President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration with a bill that does not provide a specific amount of funding but an updated framework for the space agency to operate within.
Washington DC (SPX) Jul 22, 2005
By an overwhelming margin, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Friday legislation to reauthorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that was sponsored by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) and Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).

The bill, H.R. 3070, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, was adopted by of vote of 383 to 15. Three amendments were agreed to, one was offered and withdrawn, and one was defeated.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) praised the bill's passage saying, "The Science Committee has brought forth a comprehensive bill that continues NASA's vital work by implementing and filling in the details of the president's bold vision for space exploration. I thank Chairman Boehlert, Representative Calvert, as well as their committee for their hard work on helping NASA make that next 'giant leap for mankind.'"

H.R. 3070 endorses the President's Vision for Space Exploration; endorses the return of humans to the Moon by 2020; ensures NASA's missions in space science, Earth science and aeronautics remain healthy and robust; endorses a Shuttle servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope; establishes an awards program to encourage the private sector to develop creative solutions to NASA's technical challenges; allows NASA to proceed with its plan to retire the Space Shuttle fleet by the end of 2010; and encourages NASA to launch the Crew Exploration Vehicle (the Shuttle's replacement) as close to 2010 as possible.

Chairman Boehlert said, "H.R. 3070 is built on four central principles that will give clear direction to NASA.

  • First, it endorses the President's Vision for Space Exploration, specifically calling for the development of a new Crew Exploration Vehicle and the return of humans to the Moon by 2020.
  • Second, it ensures that NASA's missions in space science, Earth science and aeronautics are well funded and have robust programs.
  • Third, it requires additional information from NASA to ensure that Congress has the information it needs to make policy decisions in the years ahead.
  • And the fourth principle is that NASA has to try new ways of doing business if it is to remain innovative, so the bill establishes a prize program to help encourage the private sector and space entrepreneurs to help solve NASA's challenges."

    "As we enter the Second Space Age, we must give NASA the rules and tools it needs to succeed," said Chairman Calvert. "NASA is an agency is transition. This bill gives the agency direction as it plans the next steps in space exploration, aeronautics, and other science programs. For the first time, today's vote gave Congressional approval to the President's Vision, which was announced in January 2004.

    "Other nations are actively pursuing human spaceflight and exploration. China alone graduates almost as many engineers in a month as we do in a year. India too graduates five times as many engineers per year as we do. NASA, with its excellent reputation in exploration, science and aeronautics is the one national agency which can focus and inspire America's youth to take up the challenging work of math and science careers."

    Chairman Calvert added, "I want to thank Chairman Boehlert and Ranking Members Gordon and Udall for their work on this bill. Space exploration, aeronautics, and the sciences have always been bipartisan and I am pleased that tradition continued today."

    A manager's amendment offered by Chairman Boehlert was agreed to by voice vote. In addition to making technical and clarifying changes, the amendment:

    • Increases the amount of funding authorized to be appropriated for NASA to support the President's budget request for exploration for fiscal years 2006 and 2007;

    • Expresses the Sense of the Congress that NASA should return the Space Shuttle to flight as soon as the Administrator determines that it can be accomplished with an acceptable level of safety;

    • Allows the Administrator to complete the International Space Station in such a configuration as to support fewer than six persons, but only after transmitting a report to Congress explaining why a six-person requirement should not be met;

    • Requires NASA to report information to Congress regarding minority participation in NASA's education programs; and

    • Raises the threshold for major programs that require additional reporting to Congress to $150 million from $100 million.

    By voice vote, the House approved an amendment by Representative Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) that requires the NASA Administrator to submit a quarterly report to Congress detailing the agency's outreach activities in the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

    The House also approved by voice vote an amendment by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) that requires the NASA Administrator to transmit to Congress a plan describing steps NASA will take to protect employees who raise concerns about a potentially catastrophic risk to health or safety.

    Representative Jackson Lee offered and withdrew an amendment that would have specified funding for Historically Black Colleges and universities under NASA education programs to the FY04 funding level of $69.2 million for FY06 and $71.2 million for FY07.

    By a vote of 192 to 206, the House defeated an amendment by Representative Velazquez that would have established a four-year pilot grant program to "develop buildings" on minority campuses that would be turned over to industry.

    H.R. 3070 was approved by the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on June 29 and unanimously passed the full Science Committee by a vote of 36 to 0 on July 14.

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