This week the Senate Budget Committee released its “Chairman’s Mark” for the FY2010 budget resolution, which included a few paragraphs about NASA. This passage in particular caught the attention of shuttle advocates, particularly in Florida:
NASA currently intends to retire its Space Shuttles at the end of 2010, after completing the current manifest of flights plus an additional flight to transport scientific payloads to the International Space Station. The criteria for Shuttle retirement, however, remains the completion of scheduled flights, and a fixed retirement date could create dangerous scheduling pressures. Consequently, the Chairman’s Mark recognizes the possibility that currently planned Shuttle missions may continue beyond the end of 2010, and provides $2.5 billion above the President’s request for 2011.
Claiming credit for adding the language was Sen. Bill Nelson, a member of the budget committee and a supporter for keeping the shuttle flying if it does not complete its current manifest of missions by the end of next year. “The Budget Committee’s decision sends a strong signal that the shuttle shouldn’t be retired on a date-certain, but only when all the missions are completed,” he said in a statement.
The signal, though, is largely a symbolic one. Even if the language remains in the final budget resolution this year, appropriators next year won’t be beholden to funding it. It does, though, further suggest that Nelson and the Obama Administration—which stated in its budget outline released last month that it still plans to retire the shuttle in 2010—don’t see eye to eye on space issues.