The big news to come out of yesterday’s House Science Committee hearing featuring NASA Administrator Michael Griffin was arguably not his proclamation that the shuttle is ready to launch (it would have been news if had said anything else), but that he said that he and the administration are asking Congress to change the Iran Nonproliferation Act. Specifically, he said that he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have submitted a letter to congressional leaders requesting an amendment that, according to the Orlando Sentinel, “maintains U.S. non-proliferation principles and objectives, while also maintaining the U.S. Russia space partnership.” This is something that some members of Congress have been pushing for months, if not years, concerned that the provisions of the INA—which prohibit NASA from purchasing ISS services from Russia unless the administration finds Russia is not aiding Iran on WMD and related technologies—could keep Americans off of Russian Soyuz spacecraft starting next year. A proposed amendment to INA that would eliminate this problem is “is still being vetted”, committee chairman Sherwood Boehlert said, and will be completed “in the short term.”
That news was music to some members’ ears, after hearing for years that no changes were needed to INA. Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) called the original INA “a worthy goal” that failed because neither the Clinton nor the Bush administrations failed to develop “an overture to the Russians that would give them an alternative.” “There is no reason for us not to be realistic,” he concluded, according to the transcript of the hearing (which NASA, to its great credit, posted on its web site within a few hours of the end of the hearing Tuesday afternoon).