Full Committee Markup - NASA Authorization Act of 2010
COMMITTEE APPROVES BIPARTISAN NASA AUTHORIZATION BILL, PUTTING SPACE AGENCY BACK ON TRACK
Washington D.C. – July 22, 2010 - The House Science and Technology Committee today approved H.R. 5781, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010, a bill cosponsored by Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Olson (R-TX) that sets our nation’s space agency back on a path to develop a spacecraft to fly American astronauts into space, once the Space Shuttle is retired in 2011.
The Obama Administration’s budget proposes terminating the Constellation program, which was scheduled to replace the Space Shuttle fleet. The Administration’s plan relies on undeveloped and untested commercial vehicles, to ferry crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Today’s vote represents a bipartisan repudiation of Obama’s plan for human spaceflight. Today’s legislation directs NASA to build on the extensive progress that has been made to date with the Constellation program including data from the successful Ares 1-X test flight and the Orion Pad Abort test, to ensure government access to the International Space Station and development of a heavy lift space transportation system. NASA is given the goal to reestablish assured crew access to the International Space Station by December 31, 2015.
“In spite of repeated requests by this Committee, NASA failed to provide credible schedules, cost estimates, and a coherent rationale as to why it was necessary to wipe away $10 billion in taxpayer investment in Constellation and to start anew with an ill-defined plan that risks taxpayer money on a commercial-only solution,” said Ranking Member Hall, a longtime supporter of human spaceflight. “NASA also failed to offer convincing evidence that its proposed $6 billion investment in a commercial crew initiative would have any reasonable chance of succeeding, or even that careful thought had been given to basic assumptions about safety, marketability, liability, indemnification and intellectual property considerations.”
“With the passage of the NASA Authorization Bill of 2010, we see the strongest indication yet that a bipartisan sentiment exists in support of human space flight,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Olson. “Today we put NASA on a path to take advantage of the investments we’ve made to date in Constellation, which will allow us to more quickly advance the follow-on system needed to get our astronauts back into space.”
The bill also includes important policy provisions that are very supportive of the emerging commercial space industry by directing NASA to make maximum use of low-Earth orbit crew ferry flights, once the capability is demonstrated to NASA’s satisfaction. “Until that day however,” Hall noted, “the least risky path to minimize our reliance on the Russians is to continue developing a low-Earth orbit launch system such as was envisioned by the Constellation program. I am pleased that the bill strikes this balance.”
Beyond a strong human spaceflight program, this bill sustains a strong and vibrant space science program, provides funding for important aeronautics research designed to increase the capacity of our national airspace system, and fully funds the Administration’s request for NASA’s Space Technology Program. This initiative is designed to revitalize NASA’s long-term, high-risk research and development activities with the goal of enabling a broad set of new capabilities ranging from propulsion systems, materials, sensors, and other technologies we’ll need to extend our reach into deep space.
Republicans today offered a total of 14 amendments to improve the bill. One Republican amendment offered by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) that was approved by voice vote reduces the authorization period from five years to three years, cutting over $40 billion from the cost of the bill and increasing Congressional oversight over the programs moving forward. This reduction also mirrors the Senate’s three-year authorization, which was passed on July 15. Other Republican amendments were offered by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Olson (R-TX).
“I am pleased that the Majority accepted many of our amendments that make the bill better,” Hall said. “I look forward to working with the Majority as the bill moves through the process to continue to add improvements.”