Congress: July 2013 Archives

Senate panel approves NASA bill that conflicts with House version, Florida Today

"A key Senate panel narrowly approved a bill reauthorizing NASA on Tuesday, setting up a showdown with the House over how much money the nation's space program should get to carry out its missions and which ones it should be allowed to execute.

The three-year bill, which now heads to the full Senate, would give the space agency $18.1 billion in fiscal 2014, $18.4 billion in fiscal 2015 and, $18.8 billion in fiscal 2016. NASA received $17.7 billion in fiscal 2013, which ends Sept. 30.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the bill 13-12 along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed."

The Onion Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan, Mother Jones

"President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:...

...In a way, the Times got scooped on this story. By the Onion. More than two years ago:..."

Marc's note: What to say ...

NASA Sees Enthusiastic Response to Asteroid Call for Ideas, NASA

"NASA has received more than 400 responses to its request for information (RFI) on the agency's asteroid initiative, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced Friday.

"Under our plan, we're increasing the identification, tracking and exploration of asteroids, and the response to this initiative has been gratifying," said Garver, speaking at the Space Frontier Foundation's NewSpace 2013 conference in San Jose, Calif. "The aerospace industry, innovative small businesses and citizen scientists have many creative ideas and strategies for carrying out our asteroid exploration mission and helping us to protect our home planet from dangerous near-Earth objects."

Marc's updated note: Members of Congress have been very vocal about their desire that NASA should NOT proceed with the Asteroid Initiative, specifically the Asteroid Redirect Mission. Until Congress is reassured about the merits of the mission, it will be difficult for NASA to proceed.

House and Senate NASA FY14 appropriations comparison, Space Politics

"With the passage on Thursday of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill by the full Senate Appropriations Committee, it's possible now to compare that bill's funding levels for various NASA accounts with the House version of the same bill and the administration's original fiscal year 2014 budget request (amounts below in millions of dollars)."

NASA Budget Reaction

House, Senate fund different paths for NASA, Florida Today

"Congressional votes on Thursday provided more evidence the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate have fundamentally opposing views of the space program. Key committees in both chambers approved divergent paths for NASA that will have to reconciled later this year.

The difference is not just about money, though most lawmakers agree there's a significant gap between the $18 billion the Senate Appropriation Committee wants to give NASA in fiscal 2014 and the $16.8 billion authorized by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee."

Impasse: House Science Committee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill on Party Line Vote, AIP

"We are just never going to agree on this," said Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) midway through an hours-long committee markup yesterday of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013. Grayson's comment reflected the deep-seated division between the Republican and Democratic members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee about the approach that should be taken to funding NASA, and in a larger sense, all federal agencies in coming years.

Yesterday's markup session of this bill to set policy and funding direction for the space agency for FY 2014 and FY 2015 started shortly before noon, and lasted until 5:30 PM, with the committee considering 35 amendments to the bill. In general, the deliberations were cordial, but decisions involving roll call votes were almost always along party lines."

Marc's note: At some point we'll have a compromise but it could be awhile.

Full Committee Markup - H.R. 2687, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2013, House Science Space & Technology

- Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statements on House Appropriations Committee NASA Budget
- Committee Approves Bill to Prioritize NASA's Missions
- Committee Republicans Set NASA up to Fail with Flawed Bill - Positive Democratic Alternative Defeated
- Statement by Rep. Edwards
- Statement by Rep. Johnson
- Statement of Rep. Palazzo: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization
- Statement of Rep. Lamar Smith: Full Committee Markup Of 2013 NASA Authorization

Marc's note: Yesterday's long NASA Authorization Act of 2013 markup meeting, which was passed, included 35 amendments, available on the full page of this article, of which 10 amendments were approved, 3 withdrawn and 22 defeated. Of the 35 amendments put forward only 1 was by a Republican and was passed.

All of the substantial amendments put forward by the Democrats were defeated and only small changes were approved.

Of note for the historians out there, Representative Kennedy (D-Mass.), related to that other Kennedy, had his Amendment 004 passed which added the following paragraph to the Bill:

"The President should invite the United States partners in the International Space Station program and other nations, as appropriate, to participate in an international initiative under the leadership of the United States to achieve the goal of successfully conducting a crewed mission to the surface of Mars."

- Download or play audio of the Committee meeting. (173MB mp3 - Edited to 5 hours 2 minutes)

Closing Marshall?

NASA Amendement Would Weigh Marshall Closure, Space News

"U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Science space subcommittee, is expected to introduce an amendment to the NASA authorization bill July 18 calling for a commission to consider closing NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala."

Marc's note: If true, this would be seem to be a political shot across the Republicans bow as part of the budget battle with Alabama's Representative Mo Brooks, and fellow committee member in mind. It's unlikely to get traction to happen.

NASA's Appropriations Committee Markup, NASA Blog

"Today, the House Appropriations Committee is marking up legislation to provide 2014 appropriations for NASA. While we appreciate the support of the Committee, we are deeply concerned that the bill under consideration would set our funding level significantly below the President's request. This proposal would challenge America's preeminence in space exploration, technology, innovation, and scientific discovery. We are especially concerned the bill cuts funding for space technology - the "seed corn" that allows the nation to conduct ever more capable and affordable space missions - and the innovative and cost-effective commercial crew program, which will break our sole dependence on foreign partners to get to the Space Station. The bill will jeopardize the success of the commercial crew program and ensure that we continue to outsource jobs to Russia.

In the coming months, NASA will continue to work with the Congress to move towards legislation that funds a balanced portfolio for NASA to spur economic growth here on Earth and maintain American preeminence in space exploration."

Marc's note: The next salvo has been launched in the budget battle.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $18 Billion for NASA in FY2014, Space Policy Online

"The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over NASA approved $18 billion for the agency for FY2014 this morning, a significant increase over the level recommended by its House counterpart last week and more than the Obama Administration requested.

The Senate Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) subcommittee, chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who also chairs the full committee, approved the bill with little discussion in a short markup session. Full committee markup is scheduled for Thursday at 10:00 am ET."

Marc's note: Before you get too excited remember that the House will want to lower the budget. So this is yet just another House-Senate ongoing battle leading nowhere at the moment.

UPDATE: Here's the House Bill with more details.

"The Committee recommends $16,598,300,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $928,430,000 below fiscal year 2013 and $1,117,095,000 below the request."

Loony or logical? Bill favors national park on moon, Florida Today

"Imagine a U.S. National Park like Yellowstone or the Great Smoky Mountains on the moon, one that would protect artifacts left behind by the Apollo astronauts. Sound crazy? It's not as far-fetched as it seems.

A bill introduced in Congress recently would "endow the artifacts as a National Historic Park, thereby asserting unquestioned ownership rights over the Apollo lunar landing artifacts."

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., and Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, are co-sponsoring "The Apollo Lunar Landing Legacy Act" -- also known as H.R. 2617."

- Text of H.R.2617 (PDF)

Marc's note: Protecting the Apollo sites within the legal framework of the U.S. is one thing, and might makes sense. Using UNESCO to make the sites "World Heritage Sites" is an international legal conundrum. While the U.S. is a signatory of the 1969 Outer Space Treaty it has not signed the 1979 Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. The Bill might protect the sites from U.S. citizens disturbing them but has no international legal standing. However, merely passing the Bill might deter other nations citizens from disturbing the sites.

House Committee Approves Smallest NASA Budget Since 1986, Planetary Society Blog

"The House Appropriations committee, apparently feeling nostalgic for the Karate Kid and warm leggings, just approved the smallest NASA budget (in terms of purchasing power) since 1986.

The subcommittee responsible for NASA's budget approved $16.6 billion for the space agency in 2014. While SpaceNews reported this as the smallest budget since 2007, it's actually much worse if you correct for inflation."

Marc's note: The caveat here is if the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, that the House Subcommittee on Space marked-up earlier this week, doesn't change substantially. What the final Bill will look like is yet to be determined. But even when the Senate weighs in, it appears with the current Congress, and for at least the next few years, you can expect a lower NASA budget. I don't see the White House expending political energy, to truly fight for NASA.

Asteroid retrieval is costly and uninspiring, Lamar Smith Op-ed, The Hill

"The proposed asteroid retrieval mission would contribute very little to planetary defense efforts. The size of the target asteroid for this mission is only 7-10 meters in diameter, too small to cause any damage to Earth. Any insight gained by such a mission would have little relevance to protecting against larger "city-killer" asteroids. Congress directed NASA in 2005 to identify and track 90 percent of asteroids larger than 140 meters by 2020. Asteroids of this size are ones that could cause significant damage, and NASA still has work to do to accomplish this goal. Asteroids that are 7-10 meters simply disintegrate in our atmosphere."

Russian Meteor's Origin and Size Pinned Down,

"The asteroid was about 17 meters in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT." That's 30 to 40 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima during World War II. The Russian fireball likely produced the most powerful such space rock blast since a 130-foot (40 m) object exploded over Siberia in 1908, flattening 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest.

This morning's hearing of the Subcommittee on Space Markup of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 was a partisan affair with an outcome that surprised no one.

Chairman Palazzo and other Republicans, including a very vocal Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), railed upon the Democrats for the current fiscal mess and said until such a time as the budget is dealt with NASA's budget would be curtailed.

Representative Donna Edwards (D-Maryland) presented her amendment to the Authorization bill that would have increased NASA's funding and while other Democrats used their time to support the amendment, the Republican majority on the committee voted it down 12-9 with all votes being on party line.

One note of interest from the hearing is that Representative Rohrabacher stated he voted for the Bill with the understanding changes would be made that address his concerns before the final Bill goes to the full committee for markup. Chairman Palazzo agreed. We'll have to wait and see what changes are made for the final markup but it doesn't appear that any of Rep. Edwards changes from the amendment will make it into the final Bill.

- Listen to the hearing (MP3).
- The Subcommittee on Space will meet to markup the NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (PDF)
- Statement of Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) Space Subcommittee Markup of
Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013

- Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) on Edwards Amendment - With Charts (PDF)
- Opening Statement Rep. Donna Edwards Subcommittee on Space Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
- Subcommittee Approves NASA Reauthorization Bill - Maintains Priority Programs and Provides Consistent Direction to NASA
- Republicans Approve Bill That Harms NASA

The other hearing this morning was the Subcommittee Markup - FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill

- FY 2014 Commerce, Justice, and Science Bill - Subcommittee Draft (PDF)

House Democrats Preparing Their Own NASA Authorization Bill, Space News

"Democrats in the House are set to unveil their own NASA authorization bill, which unlike a much leaner Republican proposal due to be marked up June 10 would authorize $18 billion in spending for 2014 -- more than NASA has gotten since 2011.

... The Republican bill would ban an asteroid retrieval mission the Obama administration proposed in April and instead direct NASA to send more astronauts and hardware to lunar space. The Republican bill, which assumes NASA will be subject to across-the-board sequestration cuts for the foreseeable future, also called for shrinking NASA's Earth science program and restructuring NASA management.

The official summary of the Democratic bill mentions none of these things, and directs NASA to only one destination: Mars. The agency would be on the hook to draw up a 15-year Mars road map for Congress, under the Democrats' bill, but it would be entirely up to NASA to decide whether the road to the red planet included detours to the Moon, asteroids or Mars' natural satellites. "

UPDATE: Ranking Member Edwards Introduces Legislation to Authorize NASA, Cites Need to Return Agency to Path of Greatness, Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-MD)

UPDATE July 10: The amendment Rep. Edwards proposed was defeated 11-9 at today's hearing.

Marc's note: There will be two subcommittee meetings on Wednesday related to NASA's budget.

- Subcommittee on Space Markup of Committee Print, NASA Authorization Act of 2013 (10:00 am)

- Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee FY2014 Appropriations Bill Markup (11:00 am)

FAA Commercial Space Office Fares Much Better in Senate, House Cut Would be "Crippling", Space Policy Online

"The House and Senate Appropriations Committees completed action on the FY2014 funding bill that includes the FAA this week. The two took opposite approaches to funding the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace calls a substantial cut approved by the House committee "crippling." Conversely, the Senate committee recommended more than the request.

On Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY2014 Transportation-HUD (T-HUD) bill, making no change to the almost 12 percent cut to AST recommended by its T-HUD subcommittee: $14.16 million instead of the $16.01 million requested. That is roughly 8 percent less than its current funding level."


- Senator Nelson Weighs in NASA Authorization Bill
- Space Development: Going Everywhere and Nowhere
- Hearing Today: NASA Authorization Act of 2013
- FAA Commercial Space Launch Office Deep Budget Cut Possible
- Draft Only: Highlights of the NASA Authorization Act of 2013

Marc's note: After the 4th of July break the budget battle will be back on and it's shaping up to be quite a battle as the House and Senate clash.

UPDATE: Just before the holiday Space News reported that an "undated 35-page legislative proposal -- which also contains many noncommercialization suggestions for Congress to consider -- was crafted by NASA in response to the draft NASA authorization bill unveiled June 19 by the Republican leadership of House Science, Space and Technology space subcommittee.

... An industry source agreed that a NASA authorization bill is far from a certainty this year, and added that a regular appropriation bill is even more unlikely.

Congressional staffers "are telling us to expect an omnibus appropriations [bill] for 2014," the source said June 28."

Marc's note: It's looking more like a stalemate with Congress having forgotten what the word bipartisan means.

Letter to Congress From Space Companies Regarding NASA Space Technology,

"On behalf of our nation's universities, small and large businesses in the aerospace industry, and those of us in the space-science research community, we write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology account for FY 2014. Space Technology creates critical capabilities required for NASA's future science and exploration missions, enables a vibrant and competitive U.S. space industry, and forges technology-based partnerships across government agencies. To remain the leader in space exploration, space science and space commerce, we are convinced that NASA must invest in new technologies and capabilities. As such, we urge the Congress to provide $740 million for the Space Technology account."



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