House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Leaders Announce Bipartisan NASA Bill

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Friday, February 6, 2015


Washington, D.C. Members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee today announced details of the NASA Authorization Act of 2015, legislation intended to reaffirm Congress's commitment to NASA as a multi mission agency with programs in science, aeronautics, exploration, and human spaceflight, and make clear that Mars should be NASA's primary goal. The bill will be introduced in the House the week of February 9th. Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) was joined by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and Space Subcommittee Vice-Chair Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) in praising the bipartisan bill.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "For more than 50 years, NASA has made the impossible possible and taken humankind to places we never before dreamed we would go. NASA is the only agency that exists to support our nation's space exploration and advancement. In Congress, we have the responsibility of ensuring that NASA has the resources and direction it needs to continue its mission for the next 50 years. 

"The NASA Authorization Act of 2015 maintains sustainability of purpose and budget for NASA's programs. It balances our long-term goal of sending humans to Mars and the furthest reaches of our solar system, with the immediate needs of providing access for our astronauts to the International Space Station. It ensures NASA remains the world's premiere space agency.

"In the last Congress, this bill was approved unanimously by the House Science Committee and passed in the House by a vote of 401-2. The strong support this bill has enjoyed reflects the American public's strong interest in our nation's space endeavors. Next week, the House will have an opportunity to once more reaffirm its commitment to our nation's space programs."

The NASA Authorization Act of 2015 authorizes funding consistent with the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015. The bill continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration. The bill focuses NASA's efforts to develop a capability to access the International Space Station so that America can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. It also increases support for the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle  systems being developed to take astronauts to deep-space destinations like Mars  in an attempt to keep the programs on schedule for a 2017 launch date.  

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas): "Building on previous NASA Authorization Acts, this bipartisan legislation affirms NASA's responsibility to be a multi-mission agency, one that includes productive programs in science, aeronautics, human spaceflight and human exploration. NASA is a crown jewel of our nation's R&D enterprise. NASA's space and aeronautics programs advance our technological competence and scientific understanding, challenge our industries and workforces in ways that promote their global competitiveness, and inspire the next generation to dream big and gain the skills to turn those dreams into action.  That last point cannot be overstated,  our children are our future science and technology workforce. They need to be prepared. This NASA bill is the product of intense bipartisan collaboration over the past year, and I am proud to be a cosponsor."

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): "I am pleased that the House will take up and consider a widely-supported, bipartisan NASA Reauthorization bill so early in this year's session. It shows that once again the House is willing to lead on sustaining our nation's space program. Congress has once again demonstrated support for SLS and Orion. While last year's bill, like so many other pieces of legislation, died in the Senate, I look forward to working with Chairman Ted Cruz and Senate leadership to get this year's version over the finish line. It's time we finally returned to being able to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil."

Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-Md.): "NASA continues to inspire and is a testament to the innovative American spirit. This bipartisan legislation, crafted during the last Congress and passed overwhelmingly by the House, has been updated and provides NASA with important, timely policy direction to carry out its missions in aeronautics, science, and human exploration. This legislation sets the long-term goal for NASA's human exploration program of sending humans to the surface of Mars and directs NASA to provide a Human Exploration Roadmap outlining the capabilities and milestones required to achieve the goal. NASA needs this direction now to provide the stability that will enable maximum progress on its programs. I want to thank Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo, Chairman Smith, and Ranking Member Johnson for building on this bipartisan effort as we develop a comprehensive, multi-year authorization for NASA to sustain its important missions over the coming years."

Space Subcommittee Vice-Chair Mo Brooks (R-Ala.): "I'm proud to join my colleagues in a bipartisan manner to introduce the NASA Authorization Act of 2015, which is critical for the continued development and operations of America's space program. This bill is another step forward for NASA, strongly supporting human space exploration and groundbreaking scientific missions and research, while promoting our nation's leadership in space. I look forward to working with Chairman Smith and Space Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo as this bill proceeds to the House floor and enactment."

The bill also supports a healthy science directorate that reflects the input from the scientific community and an aeronautics research directorate that contributes to our nation's aerospace economy.

More details on the bill can be found here.

Highlights of H.R. ____, the NASA Authorization Act of 2015

This bill authorizes programs and projects at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15). Authorized NASA funding is consistent with the funding appropriated for NASA in the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act, 2015 (P.L. 113-235)-- $18,010,200,000. NASA continues to be the world's premier space organization. This bill seeks to maintain sustainability of purpose and budget for NASA programs, continuing the congressional direction provided in previous Authorizations from 2005, 2008, and 2010.

Human Spaceflight: Building on the themes of previous authorizations, this bill reaffirms Congress's commitment to space exploration, both human and robotic. This legislation makes clear that a human mission to Mars is the goal for NASA's human spaceflight program and requires the development of a roadmap to achieve that goal, as well as biennial updates. In the near-term, the primary tasks for NASA human spaceflight include:

-Realizing the research potential of the International Space Station (ISS) with an Office of Science & Technology Policy-led strategic plan for all science agencies to conduct research on the Station. NASA will study the cost and feasibility of continuing its operational lifespan beyond 2020.

- Continued commitment to develop the Space Launch System and Orion Crew Vehicle and reiteration of Congressional direction that Orion serve as a backup system to support the ISS if necessary.

- Assist in building at least one Commercial Crew system (with NASA funds) to carry American astronauts on American rockets safely, reliably, and affordably to and from the ISS so that we are no longer reliant on Russia for crew access.

Science Programs: Relying on guidance of the National Academy of Science (NAS) Decadal Surveys, this bill emphasizes the importance of maintaining a steady cadence of science missions, including a Europa mission with a goal of launching by 2021.It directs NASA and the NAS to provide Congress with a report assessing the long-term goals of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, which includes the Mars 2020 rover. To reflect the increase in the number of newly discovered planets outside our solar system, the legislation also directs NASA and the NAS to provide an exoplanet exploration strategy. This bill stresses the importance of completing and expanding the Congressionally mandated near-Earth object survey to detect, track, catalogue, and characterize near-Earth objects 140 meters in diameter or larger. When additional Earth science responsibilities are transferred from other agencies to NASA, the legislation seeks to ensure that NASA will be reimbursed for the cost of new responsibilities. The bill also:

- Maintains funding to support a launch date goal of the James Webb Space Telescope by 2018.

- Continues survey for potentially-hazardous Earth-crossing objects.

- Continues exciting search for planets around other stars and life on other worlds.

Aeronautics: Authorizes a robust aeronautics research program, including efforts to safely integrate unmanned aerial systems into the national airspace, development of NextGen technology for future air traffic management, and research on aviation safety.

Infrastructure: Directs NASA to develop a plan to better position the agency to have the facilities and infrastructure necessary to meet future requirements including those set forth in the human exploration roadmap. Provides transparency provisions to ensure NASA's property and facilities are managed appropriately.

Education: Requires that NASA educational and outreach activities continue to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics curriculum and inspire the next generation of explorers.

Oversight: The bill provides greater public accountability and transparency, requires NASA to enforce more cost estimating discipline for its programs, strengthens the NASA Advisory Council, and provides for additional tools to protect against waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

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