Final NASA Spending Bill Includes Protections for Moon Program

NASA's New Rocket Sports a Supersonic Look
A bow shock forms around the Constellation Program's 327-foot-tall Ares I-X test rocket traveling at supersonic speed during its Oct. 28, 2009 launch from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla. The rocket produces 2.96 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and goes supersonic in 39 seconds. (Image credit: NASA, courtesy of Scott Andrews)

WASHINGTON? House and Senate negotiators reached agreement this week on a 2010 omnibusspending bill that includes $18.7 billion for NASA ? a $942 million increaseover the agency?s 2009 budget ? and includes a provision that would prevent theagency from scaling back or canceling its current human spaceflight activitiesin the absence of formal legislative approval from congressional appropriators.

Earlierthis year, a White-Houseappointed panel known as the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight PlansCommittee, led by former Lockheed Martin chief Norm Augustine, found NASA?scurrent plan to replace the space shuttle with rockets and spacecraft optimizedfor the moon is incompatible with the agency?sprojected budget. The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama isweighing a number of scenarios outlined in the Augustine panel?s Oct. 22 finalreport, and is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks that likely willreshape the future of NASA?s manned spaceflight activities and investments.

?In theabsence of a bona fide proposal from the Administration on the future of U.S.human spaceflight activities and investments, the bill provides the budgetrequest of $3.8 billion for activities to support human spaceflight in fiscalyear 2010,? House lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 8 summary of the 2010 ConsolidatedAppropriations Act, which combines six spending bills, including the Commerce,Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for 2010 that directsNASA spending. ?However, the bill requires that any program termination orelimination or the creation of any new program, project or activity not contemplatedin the budget request must be approved in subsequent appropriations Acts.?

NASA isdeveloping its space shuttle replacement system and other exploration hardwareunder a programcalled Constellation.

Within the$3.8 billion appropriated for exploration, the conference bill includes $100million for ?heavy lift cargo launch capability? and $39.1 million fordevelopment of commercially procured cargo transport to the International SpaceStation under NASA?s CommercialOrbital Transportation Services contract.

The billtrims $28 million from the agency?s $6.17 billion request for space operationsand another $6 million from NASA aeronautics programs. It also shaves $3million from NASA science programs and reduces the president?s $3.4 billionrequest for cross-agency support by $206 million. The bill includes $448.3million for construction and environmental compliance.

The fullHouse of Representatives must approve the omnibus spending package before itcan be taken up in the Senate, where debate on health care reform continues. Acurrent continuing resolution to maintain 2009 funding levels for federalprograms not covered by enacted appropriations bills expires Dec. 18.

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SpaceNews Staff Writer

Amy Klamper is a space reporter and former staff writer for the space industry news publication SpaceNews. From 2004 to 2010, Amy covered U.S. space policy, NASA and space industry professionals for SpaceNews. Her stories included profiles on major players in the space industry, space policy work in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as national policy set by the White House.