First, the Senate Approprations Committee approved unanimously the Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. The press release announcing the bill’s approval offers no details, but since the NASA overall budget number remains unchanged at $16.4 billion, it seems the full committee did little or nothing to change the subcommittee’s work earlier this week.
What did get more attention, though, was the passage by the Senate Commerce Committee of a NASA authorization bill, S.1281. Besides the provisions originally reported, the press release about the legislation notes that the bill “also requires NASA to conduct a balanced and broad science program, including the development of a plan for a Shuttle servicing mission to Hubble after completion of the first two ‘return-to-flight’ Shuttle missions, unless such a mission would compromise astronaut safety or the integrity of NASA’s other missions.” NASA must also “ensure diverse and growing utilization of and benefits from the ISS.”
The committee pushed aside two proposed amendments to the bill, the Houston Chronicle reported. One, proposed by Sen. George Allen (R-VA), would have set minimum funding levels for aeronautics, while the other, by Sen. John Sununu (R-NH), would have set similar funding thresholds for science missions. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison opposed the amendments, according to the report, since they would “undermine the transition to the crew [exploration] vehicle.” On aeronautics in particular, the Hampton Roads Daily Press reported that Hutchison would like to see the Defense Department pick up more of the tab on aeronautics research.
The Chronicle article also quoted House Majority Leader as saying that the full House will vote on its version of the authorization bill either in July or in September, after the summer recess. The space subcommittee of the House Science Committee may take up its bill in the next week or so.