The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to markup its version of a NASA authorization bill, among other non-space legislation, during a session this afternoon. There aren’t many details about the legislation itself: the hearing notice doesn’t even include a bill number for the authorization bill. CQPolitics reported yesterday that the bill will be similar to what the House approved last week, which is what Sen. Bill Nelson, chairman of the committee’s space subcommittee, said in remarks last month. There may be one key difference, though:
According to a Senate Democratic aide, the draft also contains language that would prevent NASA from retiring the shuttle fleet in 2010 if scheduled missions remain on its flight manifest. The administration decided to retire the shuttle fleet in 2010 and develop a new craft that could take astronauts farther into space.
The aide said the measure would require NASA to report on the steps, costs and schedule for recertifying the shuttle fleet beyond 2010 if that becomes necessary.
The House version, HR 6063, contained language not nearly as strong as what this article suggests: while it added a mission to fly the ISS, it states that the shuttle will be retired after completing that and the other missions on its manifest, “events that are anticipated to occur in 2010.” The House version also contains no language about shuttle recertification. Given that the White House had a strong negative response to the addition of the AMS shuttle flight in the House version, this language will likely provoke a similar, perhaps even stronger, response—perhaps even a veto threat?