The House is in session right now, but there’s no timetable for consideration of the Senate NASA authorization bill. This morning there’s been one final wave of statements about the bill and requests for people to contact their representative regarding it. Late this morning NASA released a statement from administrator Charles Bolden expressing his support for S. 3729. Bolden said he was “hopeful” that the bill “will receive strong support in the House and be sent onto the President for his signature.” He adds at the end of the statement: “There is still a lot of work ahead, especially as the 2011 appropriations process moves forward, but the continuing support for NASA ensures America’s space program will remain at the forefront of pioneering new frontiers in science, technology, and exploration.”
A pithier request came from former Congressman Nick Lampson on Twitter: “Please call your congressman and ask him/her to vote FOR the space bill today in the House of Reps. Contact friends for same. Urgent!” What’s noteworthy is that Lampson posted the request on Twitter: his last tweet was more than seven and a half months ago.
Space advocate Rick Tumlinson isn’t one to mince words, and he doesn’t in an essay on The Huffington Post Wednesday morning about why people should support the Senate bill, as imperfect as it might be. “The Senate, on the other hand, although filling its own bill with as much pork as possible and keeping many of the obviously dead end programs started in the last administration alive, at least allows our NewSpace industry a shot at proving itself, and gives NASA marching orders at a time when many of its people are facing uncertainty and chaos,” he writes. And, because this is a relatively low profile issue, he says, a small number of people can make a big difference. “Because so little attention is being paid to this issue, those who do lift a finger can make a difference. And because the stakes are so large, the difference you make is greater than those issues so many see as important today and you can do little about.”
Recently retired Planetary Society executive director Lou Friedman would agree with Tumlinson that the Senate bill has its share of pork, but argues that’s a reason not to vote for it. “The NASA Authorization bills proposed in Congress barely mention exploration. They contain heavy prescriptions for how to build things, pointing to specific contractors. Having politicians design our rockets, propulsion systems, crew vehicles and payloads is a prescription for spending lots of money and accomplishing little,” he writes in a piece on The Planetary Society’s web site. “That’s why I personally oppose both Authorization bills. I am putting my hopes in the Appropriations Committees. Maybe they will authorize the funding and tell NASA to get beyond the Moon, leaving how to the scientists and engineers. Or maybe I am too naive.” Maybe.