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Thursday, September 30, 2010

No Bucks, No Buck Rogers. Until now.

Congress Takes Action on Space Funding
By Mark Daymont
Space Center Educator / Flight Director

It has taken over a year. When President Obama unveiled his plans for NASA's new direction, it set off a firestorm of complaints, praise, arguments and confusion. For many space enthusiasts, it seemed he was deliberately shutting down our only actual plans for continuing human spaceflight and surrendering our lead in space exploration to other countries. To other advocates, his plan seemed to put NASA on a flexible path to developing the new technologies we would use in the future. To be honest, it was a bit of both. The problem was, his plan definitely would have resulted in a longer "space gap" where the US did not have it's own ability to launch humans in space, and worse, there would have been a greater number of layoffs for specialists and engineers from the program.

Late last night, just as Congress prepared to adjourn so they could return home to campaign before the November election, they finally voted on and passed Senate Bill S.3729. This last vote now sends the bill to the President's desk for his signature. Once that is done, the Bill passes into law and the provisions therein become enacted. The money will begin to flow. The actions will be taken, the direction assured.

Many members of congress were not satisfied with the Bill. Many felt it was a poor compromise of the many, many ideas that had been bantered around, argued over and revised time after time. But most felt the time was right to do SOMETHING, and get NASA moving in a direction that felt better than what the White House was choosing. The final vote was 304 for passage, 118 against, with 10 not voting.

The Bill funds one more launch of the shuttle after two that are currently scheduled. It also anticipates helping the private sector develop commercial launchers to put astronauts and other payloads into orbit.

Funding also would go for starting to develop a new heavy launcher, which would be crucial for sending Astronauts to an asteroid of Mars, but also the International Space Station.

Seven billion dollars have been earmarked for work aimed at making the new heavy launcher operational by 2016.
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