Tuesday, January 19, 2010

House panel will chart NASA policy this year

This just in from Bart Jansen of Gannett's Washington Bureau:

House panel will chart NASA policy this year

WASHINGTON -- NASA will chart a new path this year, but the precise trajectory remains uncertain, a key House chairman said Tuesday.

"I think this authorization is really going to wind up setting the path for NASA for at least the next 10 if not the next 20 years," said Rep. Bart Gordon, a Tennessee Democrat who is chairman of the Science and Technology Committee.

But when pressed for details as he explained his priorities for the year, Gordon said simply that he would review the President Barack Obama's proposal "thoroughly."

The debate will be far-reaching because NASA is considered at a crossroads with too little funding now to pursue manned spaceflight safely. Obama is expected to announce his space policy coordinated with his budget in early February.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, told a roundtable of regional reporters Tuesday that the administration is committed to a program for manned spaceflight, but that he would leave the detailed announcement to the budget.

"The president is going to speak to that through his budget. I don't want to preempt what's being done," Axelrod said. "But we recognize the importance of it, not just symbolically but in terms of the economic importance to some communities and the importance in terms of research and development."

After the shuttle's scheduled retirement in 2010 or 2011, the agency faces a gap in its ability to send astronauts to the International Space Station until the development of its next manned rocket is completed in perhaps 2017. The gap threatens Florida's space coast with the loss of thousands of jobs.

The committee expects to complete policy legislation governing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by the end of May. The multi-year reauthorization will include provisions relating to human space flight and exploration, climate science and education and outreach.

Gordon said he would hold hearings to explore the president's proposal.

"I'd like to learn from the president's budget recommendation that he's going to make a significant or adequate increase in NASA's budget to move forward with human space exploration," Gordon said. "I think that we all recognize that it's unacceptable to be cannibalizing other parts of NASA for this. We need new money here. Again, the budgets in the past haven't been adequate."

He declined to state a preference for pursuing a goal of returning to the moon or sending people to an asteroid or Mars.

"I think that we have to go through a hearing process and see what our alternatives might be," Gordon said. "I think whatever we might do, you're going to see much of it done on an international basis, both in terms of funding and in terms of the intellectual capacity."

For commercial-space development, the panel expects to draft legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation and the Department of Commerce's Office of Space Commercialization.

NASA is just a part of the committee's agenda, which also focuses on encouraging energy independence, improving national security and transportation, and boosting environmental research on the oceans and atmosphere.

Gordon's top legislative priority will be renewing the America Competes Act that encourages investment in research and development, and the commercialization of new products and technologies.

The comprehensive bill will set priorities for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Standards and Technology and the Energy Department's Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects Agency. He hopes to continue a path to doubling funding for those agencies over seven years.

Maureen Groppe of Gannett Washington Bureau contributed to this story.
Contact Bart Jansen at bjansen@gannett.com.


Anonymous said...

If JFK had given his speach today:

“The committee believes that this nation might consider thinking about the goal, of eventually, if there is money in the budget, of launching ah something somewhere out there in space and returning he, she or it, in total and complete safety, to the Earth. Maybe.”

Anonymous said...

Good article, at least some forward thinking and insight to where we are headed.. I certainly hope they high consider the NASA ASAP panels recommendations to NOT depend on commercial access to the ISS as they have not proven the capacity to even get to LEO.. we should highly consider extending shuttle with a minimal flight rate to support ISS until a commercial service has proven itself.. in the mean time, the shuttle derived heavy left should be highly weighted as the new program of choice.. I agree that Aries is done, it has no mission, other than maybe the ISS..

Gaetano Marano said...

this is the title of my latest ghostNASA article: The design change that could save the Ares-1
the hidden article's link will be sent ONLY to few selected blogs that write an ARTICLE about it