Thursday, April 14, 2011

Congress approves cut to NASA budget

The U.S. House and Senate today both approved a spending plan for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year that cuts NASA's total budget by $241 million from 2010 levels, to $18.48 billion.

The reduction is not believed to be deep enough to prevent NASA from flying a final planned shuttle mission in late June. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

A statement from NASA chief Charlie Bolden doesn't specifically mention the shuttle flight, but says the agency can now implement legislation passed last year that says NASA "shall" fly the mission. The budget also removes language that prevented NASA from cancelling the Constellation program.

"We appreciate the work of Congress to pass a 2011 spending bill," Bolden said. "NASA now has appropriated funds to implement the 2010 Authorization Act, which gives us a clear path forward to continue America's leadership in human spaceflight, exploration and scientific discovery. Among other things, this bill lifts funding restrictions that limited our flexibility to carry out our shared vision for the future. With this funding, we will continue to aggressively develop a new heavy lift rocket, multipurpose crew vehicle and commercial capability to transport our astronauts and their supplies on American-made and launched spacecraft. We are committed to living within our means in these tough fiscal times - and we are committed to carrying out our ambitious new plans for exploration and discovery."

The House backed the budget bill 260 to 167, while the Senate voted 81 to 19. President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon.

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