Saturday, May 17, 2008

Congress to make NASA International?

Members of the House Science and Technology Committee will radically reshape President Bush and NASA's Vision for Space Exploration, requiring NASA to seek international help in completing the International Space Station, by putting far more emphasis on Earth sciences, particularly "climate change," and founding any further exploration beyond low Earth orbit on future international agreements.

Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), chairman of the Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics has introduced House Bill 6063, the "NASA Authorization Act of 2008" persuading bipartisan co-sponsors in veteran Republican Ralph Hall (R-TX) and the full committee chairman Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN).

Mark-up of NASA's reauthorization for FY 2009 was set to continue May 20, but it remains unclear how radical a change in national policy Udall's bill represents.

Negotiations were underway to enable NASA to keep its schedule to retire the Space Shuttle in late 2010, complete the International Space Station and continue design and testing already well-underway of Orion, the first manned component of the Constellation program, and the Ares I booster, currently scheduled to fly no sooner than 2015.

It is also not clear whether Congress intends for NASA to keep a 2020 appointment to begin construction of a permanent manned lunar base near the moon's south pole.

In recent days, NASA reportedly scrapped yet another recommendation by Vision planners, a problematic dry landing system for the Orion crew module, saving time and funding overcoming thorny engineering problems and 500 kilograms of vehicle weight, enabling NASA, planners agreed, to keep its long-term time line.

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