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Fri, Dec 23, 2005

NASA Gets Its Holiday Wish: Senate Passes Reauthorization Bill

Shuttle And ISS Funded, Centennial Challenge Expanded

Just before they left on their holiday break, senators passed legislation funding NASA's effort to keep the space shuttle program going, as well as for continued support of the International Space Station and giving a much-needed boost to meeting President Bush's call for ambitious future space exploration programs.

"Our national policy will determine the nation’s role in future space exploration and its contribution to broad research and our national security," Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, said in a statement.  "Minimizing the gap in space flight must be a goal if the U.S. wants to be a leader in space exploration."

"The NASA Administrator recently announced a new NASA plan which reduces the gap to as little as one year," added the senator. "I applaud his recognition of the concerns outlined in my bill and encourage action to narrow the gap even further."

The legislation authorizes NASA for Fiscal Years 2007 and 2008, establishes a policy objective of uninterrupted US spaceflight capability and requires completion of the International Space Station (ISS).

The legislation also designates the US segment of the ISS as a national laboratory facility, and the administrator would be required to outline operations and functions of the ISS national laboratory activities. 

"Designation of the ISS as a national laboratory will expand the variety of areas to which space research can be applied. Our future in space has unlimited potential that can be harnessed through appropriate guidance, oversight and accountability," Senator Hutchison said.

In addition, the legislation authorizes $17.9 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 and $18.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 in NASA appropriations funding. It includes language to ensure NASA completes a balanced science plan and requires a report to Congress every two years.

The legislation also provides for the development of a National Aeronautics Research Plan to guide the course of future investments and priorities in this important area of NASA's scientific activities. It also expands the Centennial Challenge prize program for private space development, substantially increasing the current per-competition prize limit of $250,000 to multimillion dollar amounts.

The bill has been reconciled with the House version, according to Hutchinson's office, and will now be sent to President Bush to be signed into law.

"Passage of this legislation marks another endorsement by the Congress of the nation's Vision for Space Exploration," said NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. "We appreciate the efforts of the House and Senate members and their continued strong support of NASA. America must continue to be the leader in space exploration as we transition to a new and exciting mission for the American people."



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