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Key Lawmakers Urge Bush To Increase NASA Funding

By | April 23, 2007

      Two key lawmakers pressed President Bush to increase total funding for NASA, saying the beleaguered space agency simply doesn’t have enough money to do the many, and mightily important, missions assigned it.

      Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technolgy, and Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), chairman of its space and aeronautics subcommittee, joined with other lawmakers in asking Bush to work with them to provide critical fiscal support to NASA.

      Gordon and Udall urged Bush to protect his “ambitious” vision for U.S. space exploration, noting that the president in 2004 said America should embark upon expeditions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

      They called on the president to ensure that NASA has the resources necessary to make the Bush vision a reality.

      Concerned, the lawmakers noted that since the president enunciated the space expeditions goal, “NASA has faced a continued series of funding cutbacks to International Space Station (ISS) research, technology development for future exploration ventures, and for robotic exploration of the moon.”

      And the lawmakers noted that the U.S. space program is on course to lose even the most basic ability to place astronauts and cargo into low Earth orbit. The space shuttle fleet is set to retire in 2010, and the next-generation Orion-Ares space vehicle system won’t fly for at least half a decade after that. However, a newly announced two-year delay in development of the Orion vehicle will be offset by shortening production of the craft by two years. (Please see story in this issue on page 1.)

      The “projected multi-year gap in U.S. independent access to space for its astronauts after the shuttle’s retirement still remains a serious concern,” the lawmakers stated.

      Aside from the high-profile space program, other significant elements of NASA are hurting as well, the lawmakers stated, such as in aeronautics.

      “Your Administration recently released a national aeronautics research policy that sets worthwhile goals for addressing our nation’s future aviation needs,” the congressmen wrote.

      “However, without a corresponding commitment of the necessary resources, the goals espoused in the aeronautics policy will be difficult if not impossible to achieve. Given the importance of the nation’s air transportation system to our economy and competitiveness, our national security, and our quality of life, we need to ensure that those goals are met.”

      And the lawmakers, as many critics had earlier, worried about funding for NASA research work, science programs including space science, Earth science, and the life and microgravity sciences.

      The lawmakers pointed to the impact of cutbacks in NASA basic research and small- and medium-sized missions on the next generation of scientists and engineers.

      In their letter, they asked Bush to meet with members of Congress who share a commitment to exploration, science and education, and aeronautics in an effort to address the challenges facing NASA.

      Their call amplifies a proposal by Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a hard-hitting and indefatigable defender of NASA programs.

      Mikulski, chairman of a key Senate subcommittee with NASA oversight, and ranking Republican member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas earlier this year urged Bush to sit down with them and other lawmakers to forge a consensus on how to increase funding for NASA so that it can perform its mandated jobs.

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