Both Florida Today‘s Blog “Flame Trench” and Space News are carrying an article about compromise language in the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Bill Summary concerning NASA funding, particularly with regard to Project Constellation. Most interesting is the following language on page 5, final paragraph, of the report,
“Human Spaceflight: In October 2009, the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee (The Augustine Commission) reported its findings on NASA’s human space flight program. The Augustine Commission raised several issues regarding the current program and budget profile that will require thoughtful consideration by the Administration. In the absence of a bona fide proposal from the Administration on the future of U.S. human spaceflight activities and investments, the bill provides the budget request of $3.1 billion for activities to support human spaceflight in fiscal year 2010; however, the bill requires that any program termination or elimination or the creation of any new program, project or activity not contemplated in the budget request must be approved in subsequent appropriations Acts.”
That means to terminate the Ares I program and or create a new manned launcher program, or to do the same to Orion, the Obama Administration must first seek approval from Congress through an appropriations Act.
This act by the Appropriations committees of both Houses raises the bar on any effort to cancel Orion or Ares I, at least for the 2010 fiscal year. Such a statement represents a strong sense of the Congress concerning the support for Project Constellation and should give Ares I opponents within the Administration and NASA something about which to think. This language stands out all the more given that some with extensive experience in Congressional Space matters had opined that the Appropriations chairmen were uninterested in Space.
It’s certainly a good day for Project Constellation and the Orion and Ares I programs.