Following months of massive cuts to the life science programs by NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, the U.S. Senate has stepped in to set minimum requirements for spending on the ISS, and has directed NASA to reestablish programs that were cut under Administrator Griffin’s heavy handed attempt to find enough money to realize the President’s “Vision For Space Exploration”.
To be fair, Griffin was handed a mandate to return to the moon, but was supposed to make it happen without additional funding. The obvious answer was to cut existing programs, and downsize the agency in order to fit this new goal into NASA’s current budget.
Apparently, there are members of the Senate who recognize the impossibility of this, and they are stepping forward with both the cash, and a list of requirements that NASA must follow. One of these requirements is the completion of the ISS, along with a specific level of life science research.
WASHINGTON – The Senate tonight passed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act of 2005, legislation authored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space. The legislation authorizes NASA for Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008, establishes a policy objective of uninterrupted U.S. spaceflight capability and requires completion of the International Space Station (ISS). It has been reconciled with the House version and will now be sent to President Bush to be signed into law.
“Our national policy will determine the nation’s role in future space exploration and its contribution to broad research and our national security,” Sen. Hutchison said. “Minimizing the gap in space flight must be a goal if the U.S. wants to be a leader in space exploration. The NASA Administrator recently announced a new NASA plan which reduces the gap to as little as one year. I applaud his recognition of the concerns outlined in my bill and encourage action to narrow the gap even further.”
Sen. Hutchison’s NASA legislation designates the U.S. segment of the ISS as a national laboratory facility. The administrator would be required to outline operations and functions of the ISS national laboratory activities. Sen. Hutchison has acted with a focus on the broad research benefits and capabilities of the ISS.
“Designation of the ISS as a national laboratory will expand the variety of areas to which space research can be applied. Our future in space has unlimited potential that can be harnessed through appropriate guidance, oversight and accountability,” Sen. Hutchison said.
In addition, it authorizes $17.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 and $18.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 in NASA appropriations funding. It includes language to ensure NASA completes a balanced science plan and requires a report to Congress every two years. The legislation also provides for the development of a National Aeronautics Research Plan to guide the course of future investments and priorities in this important area of NASA’s scientific activities.
Sen. Hutchison visited the Johnson Space Center on December 7 where she met with the new director of the center, Michael L. Coats, and discussed her vision for NASA’s future.
For more information on this dramatic turn of events, partial transcripts of the funding bill, and some keen commentary by NASA Watch Editor Keith Cowing, be sure to read Congress Gives NASA It’s Marching Orders on Space Station Science
( It’s not over till the fat lady walks in space… )