Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas issued a press release (not yet posted on her web site but available here) Tuesday triumphantly announcing that the House-Senate compromise version of the FY 2010 budget resolution includes $2.5 billion for NASA in FY 2011 for shuttle operations, should the remaining shuttle flights not be completed by the end of FY10. (The language is on page 36 of the conference report). “This budget is a significant step towards maintaining safety, minimizing the spaceflight gap, and preserving the highly skilled workforce at Kennedy Space Center and throughout Central Florida,” she said in the statement. “Kennedy Space Center is an economic engine for our community and I will not stand idly by while these jobs are at risk.”
Some media reports followed that line, like a Florida Today article that claimed that resolution “would eliminate a hard deadline for the retirement of NASA’s shuttle fleet.” Or, as the Washington Post noted, “NASA’s Congressional supporters appear to have bought some time in their efforts to ease the Space Shuttle program’s hard retirement date.” Others, though, emphasized that a budget resolution is not the same as an appropriations, and anything in the budget resolution in FY11 is, as most, guidance for appropriators next year. “Unfortunately for her [Rep. Kosmas]… the budget bill is what amounts to an advisory document. The real money decisions are made in appropriation subcommittees,” the Orlando Sentinel noted.
However, this does come just days before the expiration of the Congressionally-mandated moratorium that prevented NASA from taking steps that would preclude extending the life of the shuttle beyond 2010. Will this effort influence NASA or the administration on any decision to resume such work? Will it influence appropriators who will be taking up the FY10 budget request in the coming weeks? Or is it simply something that makes it look like members of Congress are taking action without any real influence on events?