Senate committee approves NASA funding amendment

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted Thursday to approve an emergency funding amendment that would give NASA an additional $1 billion in FY 2007. The best coverage of the bill comes from Space News (subscription required), Florida Today, and ScienceNow, there are also some more general wire stories by AP and Reuters. Space News notes in particular that the amendment was approved over the objections of two Republicans on the committee, Sens. Pete Domenici of New Mexico and Larry Craig of Idaho; Domenici in particular was quoted as calling the amendment “wasteful” and “a very big stretch of the word” emergency. While the amendment’s passage is a big victory, the amended appropriations bill still has to make it through the full Senate and an eventual conference with the House version of the budget, which offered no supplemental money for NASA.

One other item from the Space News article that should warm the hearts of supporters of the entrepreneurial space industry: the Senate legislation includes the full $121 million requested for COTS.

3 comments to Senate committee approves NASA funding amendment

  • Red

    From the ScienceNow article:

    … and told NASA to halt its Centennial Challenges program because the tens of millions of dollars in scheduled prize money would be a drain on the rest of the agency’s budget.

    From NASA Watch excerpt at

    NASA Excerpt: Senate Report 109-280 Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill 2007

    The Committee does not provide any funding in fiscal year 2007 for the Centennial Challenges program. Funding provided in previous fiscal years for this program is sufficient for NASA to run a prize based competition, as well as to verify that NASA will see tangential benefits from running such a program. Providing additional funds to a program based on prizes only creates a pot of unused funds while other aspects of NASA’s mission are being cut or delayed due to a lack of funds.

    My comment: I don’t really think that handful of $250,000 prizes over several years is a huge drain on the NASA budget. Would this amount fuel the cash burn in the Shuttle/ISS/CEV/CLV program for an hour? I don’t think the CC program administration is too great, either, since a lot of it is done outside NASA.

    The committee’s language is interesting too. It sounds skeptical that NASA will even receive tangential benefits if a prize is won. First of all, is the purpose of the program to benefit NASA, or the United States? Second, I’m sure NASA is competent to design prizes that will benefit NASA more than tangentially if won. Of course the benefit will likely be closely related to the size of the prize, but that suggests that some larger prizes and more ambitious goals should be in the mix. Finally, the statement about having an unused pot of funds makes it sound like the goal is just to spend money. As a taxpayer I think it’s nice to have a program where the money isn’t spent unless a success is achieved. If there are available funds for prizes that haven’t been offered I would expect the CC management to be happy to make a plan to address that.

    See section III of the Aldridge Commission report … I don’t see how the VSE can succeed without this (the whole section, not just the prizes), nor do I see what the point of the VSE is without it.

  • I don’t see how the VSE can succeed without this (the whole section, not just the prizes), nor do I see what the point of the VSE is without it.

    You’re half way there.

    It can’t succeed.

    It doesn’t have a point.

  • Of course it has a point, Shubber.
    It’s something for NASA to do.

    And it will probably fail at that