Senate Approves $16.4 Billion Budget for NASA

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate approved a $200 million budget increasefor NASA Thursday, giving the U.S. space agency most of the funding it needs toget started on a new lunar exploration plan to beunveiled Monday.

The NASA funding was approved as part of a $48.9 billionspending bill that also funds the Justice and Commerce Departments. Of thatamount, NASA would receive $16.4 billion for 2006, about $60 million less than theagency requested but $200 million more than it had to spend this year.

The House of Representatives approved NASA's budget in July,providing $15 million more for NASA than it requested but the House bill also wouldrequire NASA to spend $110 million more on aeronautics research than it wouldlike, or $952 million.

Similarly, the Senate bill would require NASA to spend $250million in the year ahead preparing for a space shuttle mission to refurbish theHubble Space Telescope. NASA requested only a fraction of that amount for theproposed mission.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the SenateAppropriations Committee, issued a press release Thursday afternoonhighlighting, among other things, the extra money added funds for the Hubble Space Telescope. Her pressrelease also states that the $16.4 billion approved by the Senate "fully fundsall major space science and earth science programs, the space shuttle, spacestation, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and the Moon-Mars initiative."

The Senate passed the spending bill by a vote of 91-4.

The House and Senate now must work out the differencesbetween the two bills before sending the spending legislation to the WhiteHouse for the president to sign into law.

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