By Alexandra Hedrick, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
The House Space Subcommittee recently approved a draft of a bill that would authorize the $16.8 billion to continue U.S. space exploration.
Mississippi U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, chair of the Space Subcommittee and a lead sponsor of the bill, said, “My goal is to ensure that Congress — and this subcommittee — does everything in its power to support the next generation of explorers and maintain America’s leadership in space. In order to protect the American space legacy, we must make hard choices, prioritize budgets and give NASA direction for future endeavors.”
Palazzo said one of his top priorities in space project funding is Orion, a multi-purpose crew exploration vehicle used for traveling beyond low Earth orbit, and continuing rocket testing at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County.
The bill addresses two proposals that Palazzo finds problematic. The first is the bill halts a proposal to consolidate NASA education programs into other agencies. It also prohibits NASA from beginning work on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission until the current administration can provide more detailed information on the program, Palazzo said.
He said there is no scientific benefit to “lassoing asteroids” and that there are very few details on the funding for the project.
“While we appreciate the support of the Committee, we are deeply concerned that the bill under consideration would set our funding level significantly below the President’s request. This proposal would challenge America’s preeminence in space exploration, technology, innovation, and scientific discovery,” said David Weaver with NASA headquarters’ Office of Communications
The U.S. Senate also is working on a similar bill that spends more money than the Budget Control Act allows and doesn’t focus on continued space exploration, Palazzo said. He plans to play a key role in working out the differences between the two bills drafted by the Senate and the House.
Palazzo said the budget being suggested by the Senate’s bill is “not living up to the budget reality of our country right now.
“I don’t think most Americans are aware that we can’t get Americans out in space without hitching rides with the Russians,” Palazzo said.
Weaver said that the bill would continue to ensure that jobs would be outsourced to Russia and jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program.
“We are especially concerned the bill cuts funding for space technology — the “seed corn” that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions — and the innovative and cost-effective commercial crew program, which will break our sole dependence on foreign partners to get to the Space Station,” Weaver said.
The draft bill was approved by the House subcommittee by a vote of 11 to 9.