Senate Panel Boosts NASA Funding

WASHINGTON? A U.S. Senate panel has recommended providing $17.45 billion for NASA nextyear, or about $150 million more than the White House requested.

The moneywas included in a $54.6 billion spending bill that cleared the Senate Appropriationscommerce, justice, science subcommittee on June 26. The bill exceeds the WhiteHouse request for the affected agencies by nearly $3.2 billion, with most ofthe additional money going to the Justice Department to fund local lawenforcement programs.

The billalso includes $4.2 billion for the U.S. National Oceanic and AtmosphericAdministration (NOAA) ? about $400 million above the White House request. Allof the additional money would go to an oceans stewardship initiative.

Sen.Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the subcommittee?s chairman, said the NASA portion ofthe bill seeks to strike a balance between the agency?s human spaceflight programs ? whichare fully funded ? and its science and aeronautics programs.

NASA?sScience Mission Directorate would get $5.66 billion, about $140 million abovethe request. Within that total, $1.64 billion would go to Earth science, about$130 million more than NASA is seeking.

NASA?sExploration Systems and Aeronautics Research mission directorates would befunded at their requested levels of $3.9 billion and $554 million,respectively.

Sen.Richard Shelby (Ala.), the subcommittee?s top Republican, said the billincludes funding for a robotic Moon lander NASA had canceled.A Senate aide said lawmakers added $50 million to NASA?s Lunar Robotics andPrecursor program budget so the agency can continue work on the lander, whichis managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Mikulskitold reporters after the markup session that she still intends to introduce anamendment that would give NASA an additional $1 billion to help make up budgetground lost after the 2003 spaceshuttle Columbia accident, but has not decided when.

?The NASAamendment will come later on,? she said. ?We?re looking at what are our bestoptions. You have to pick your launch date.?

The fullSenate Appropriations Committee is due to take up the bill June 28.

A companionbill introduced in the House of Representatives June 11 provided $17.6 billionfor NASA and $4 billion for NOAA. That bill is due to be taken up by the fullHouse Appropriations Committee July 11.

 

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