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Sen. Nelson To Return to Chair Panel Overseeing NASA

By | February 16, 2009

      Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) will again chair the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee science and space subcommittee that oversees NASA.

      Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the full committee, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the ranking Republican on the full panel, announced leaders of the subcommittees.

      Nelson has been a tireless advocate for NASA programs, and has been vocal in warning of mass layoffs in Central Florida as NASA and contractor workers are furloughed when the space shuttle fleet stops flying in October next year on orders from former President Bush.

      NASA won’t have another spacecraft to carry astronauts aloft until the next-generation Orion-Ares system begins manned flights in 2015, leaving a half-decade gap where astronauts will have to launch from Kazakhstan on Russian Soyuz vehicles.

      Even when Orion-Ares begins manned flights, that won’t involve nearly as much employment as the old shuttle fleet.

      Ranking Republican member on the science and space subcommittee will be Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, who takes that post which Hutchison occupied in the last Congress.

      Louisiana is home to the Michoud Assembly Facility, where the external fuel tanks for the space shuttles are produced.

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