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House Committee Approves NASA Funding Bill

by Staff Writers
Washington, DC (SPX) Jun 09, 2008
The House Science and Technology Committee has unanimously passed legislation to reauthorize NASA, H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008. This legislation encompasses the recommendations and findings from 16 hearings the Committee held throughout the 110th Congress to review nearly every major aspect of NASA's programs.

"NASA has a key role to play in the nation's innovation agenda, ensuring the future health of our nation's aviation system, and advancing our efforts to better understand our climate and the changes facing the Earth system," said Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN).

"In addition, a properly structured human space flight and exploration program can provide dividends technologically, scientifically, and geopolitically-and is worthy of the nation's investment in it."

H.R. 6063, introduced by Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO), authorizes appropriations for NASA's activities - science, aeronautics, exploration, education, space operations, inspector general, cross-agency support programs - for Fiscal Year 2009.

FY 2009 funding for NASA is $20.21 billion. This bipartisan legislation was originally cosponsored by the Science and Technology Committee's Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX), and Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL).

"H.R. 6063 will help point NASA towards a more productive and sustainable future," stated Udall. "NASA should be-and I believe is-an agency that can be a strong catalyst for dealing with important national concerns and this bill helps emphasize that. Moreover, this legislation includes substantive measures to help realize the synergies achievable between government and the private sector."

In addition to reiterating the basic principles adopted in previous NASA Authorization bill in 2005, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 emphasizes the importance of aeronautics R and D, strengthening the exploration program, and NASA leadership in Earth science research and applications.

"This is a common sense bill that's good for NASA and for the nation as a whole," added Subcommittee Vice Chairman and cosponsor Charlie Melancon (D-LA).

H.R. 6063 passed the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee on May 20. Today, H.R. 6063 passed the full Committee and was reported favorably with one amendment by Chairman Gordon. This legislation will be sent to the House floor for further consideration.

earlier related report
Committee Passes Bill To Reauthorize NASA Programs
Washington DC (GOP) Today, the Science and Technology Committee unanimously passed H.R. 6063, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008, authorizing programs at NASA for fiscal year 2009.

"H.R. 6063 is a one year bill that demonstrates Congress' commitment to maintain a strong and vital space program and will serve as a signal to a new Administration that NASA has deep support within Congress," said Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX).

"Once the Shuttle is retired at the end of this decade, our country will have to buy seats from the Russians - for as long as five years - to assure a U.S. presence on the International Space Station.

Our payments for rides on their Soyuz spacecraft have not yet been negotiated, but it will be expensive, and sadly, we'll be making these purchases at a time when NASA will be laying off thousands of engineers and technicians from the Shuttle program."

Hall continued, "In an effort to minimize our reliance on the Russians, this bill authorizes an additional $1 billion to speed up development of the new Constellation system. This additional investment is more than justified."

While Members on both sides of the aisle strongly supported the underlying bipartisan bill, Republicans at the markup stressed that contrary to section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, NASA should be allowed to purchase alternative fuels to power its fleet. Dr. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation, offered two amendments that the Chairman ruled as non-germane.

One amendment aimed to give the NASA Administrator the flexibility and discretion to purchase alternative fuels, derived from unconventional sources, such as coal-to-liquids, oil shale, and biofuels. It also sought to exempt NASA from a controversial section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that prohibits federal agencies from purchasing unconventional fuel sources, if those sources produce more emissions than their conventional counterparts.

"NASA has historically been on the cutting edge of innovation with numerous contributions to the technologies that we use on a daily basis in the United States," Gingrey said.

"Currently, NASA is partnering with the Air Force and is already aggressively conducting research to convert domestic energy sources - coal, natural gas, biomass, and oil shale - into cleaner and more economical alternatives to traditional jet fuel."

He continued, "However, as gas prices continue to rise, and at a time when we could best utilize the research of emerging technologies for alternative fuels, with Section 526 the Democratic Majority has effectively stymied innovation at NASA that could potentially help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

Republicans at the markup spoke in favor of the amendments, stressing how this provision strictly limits an agency, such as NASA, that purchases millions of dollars worth of jet fuel every year. Further, NASA is currently engaged in groundbreaking research on many of the fuels that this section prohibits any federal agency from purchasing.

Dr. Gingrey Offers Amendments to Allow NASA to Utilize Alternative Fuels
Dr. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Ranking Member of the Research and Science Education Subcommittee, highlighted the fact that the type of fuel NASA chooses to use is a technical decision that shouldn't be limited by an ill-conceived law that restricts the discretion of the agency. Ehlers noted that decisions on the type of fuel used in rockets is based on the energy density of the fuel and shouldn't be restricted by emissions calculations.

H. R. 6063 authorizes $20.21 billion in funding for NASA in FY09, which includes $1 billion in additional funding to accelerate development of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV).

The Constellation system, which includes development of both the CEV and CLV, will provide our country with a modern, more robust, and safer manned spaceflight capability that will enable U.S. astronauts to fly beyond Low Earth orbit, an ability NASA has not had since the retirement of Apollo over 30 years ago. The bill also provides for a balanced set of programs in human spaceflight and exploration, aeronautics research and development, and space science research.

H. R. 6063 also directs NASA to include two so-called contingency missions to the International Space Station to be part of the baseline shuttle flight manifest, and adds an additional flight to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. The bill also includes provisions related to detecting asteroids and comets that threaten to collide with Earth, education, and commercial space initiatives.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of NASA and the dawn of the United States space program. The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 provided policy and programmatic guidance for NASA, and the bill passed today reaffirms congressional priorities and policies.

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Subcommittee Passes NASA Authorization Act
Washington, DC (SPX) May 26, 2008
Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics unanimously passed HR 6063, the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 without amendment.

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