Fight In The House Over Senate NASA Bill

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After initially opposing the Senate’s 2010 NASA Authorization Act, Amy Klamper at Space News is reporting in Garver, Bolden Urge Passage of NASA Authorization. Of the Senate’s Bill (S. 3729), Deputy Administrator Garver said,


    “We truly, truly believe that the time has come for us to have some clarifying direction.” “[S. 3729, incorporates] the very best parts of the administration’s proposals.” “We encourage all of you to support a bold and vibrant future for NASA by supporting the authorization bill.”

Of course, NASA’s executive leadership’s newfound enthusiasm for S. 3729 comes barely a month after Deputy Administrator Garver stated before the Huntsville Times editorial board that,

    “It won’t be up to the administration to marry those bills,” Garver said. “It is either going to come together or it is not, probably in the fall.”


It is somewhat doubtful that the Administration’s desire for passage by the House of S. 3729 is based on how close it comes to meeting the White House’s goals of outsourcing the nation’s human space flight program. More likely is that the Administration is concerned that should the House change hands, the chances of a bill that even remotely resembling the Senate’s passing the House are asymptotically zero; possible but very, very unlikely. That means that the White House would be looking at a much larger change than that envisioned by Senator Nelson.

While the ensuing struggle between the House and Senate to reach a compromise would be harmful to our nation’s space program and its workforce, some are arguing that a bit of pain is worth the price for a much better space program. A letter from a bipartisan group of House members, including Science & Technology Space Subcommittee Chairwoman Giffords, makes that point in stating,


    “The Senate has sent over a flawed NASA Authorization that will have serious consequences for the space agency and the future of American leadership in space. S. 3729 is a bad bill and should be rejected.”

Once again, the nation’s human space flight program is adrift and half-measures being passed-off as good policy. It is as if the nation has forgotten the lessons of the Constellation disaster. In reviewing the reasons for the Columbia disaster, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board found it its Final Report that a launch system would be successful only if:

    If by the time a decision to develop a new vehicle is made there is a clearer idea of how the new space transportation system fits into the nation’s overall plans for space; and if the U.S. government is willing at the time a development decision is made to commit the substantial resources required to implement it.

The Senate Bill is felt by many to fail in that quality. As former Administrator Mike Griffin has pointed out,


    “As happened after the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia, it is time once again to ask ourselves whether we want to have a real space program, or not. If we do, then the Senate Bill won’t get us there. If we cannot do better than that, then I believe we have reached the point where it is better to allow the damage which has been brought about by the administration’s actions to play out to its conclusion than to accept half-measures in an attempt at remediation.”

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