During a two-hour hearing on Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee debates and then approved by voice vote the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill. The committee made no amendments to the bill that affects NASA, which receives a little less than $17.6 billion in the bill.
In his statement introducing the bill, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) got a little emotional when discussing NASA. “Last week, when the shuttle came over, I bet almost everyone in this room went outside to look at it. That was almost a sign that American people are thirsting for this program to do something great,” he said. The funding for NASA’s exploration programs provided in the bill, along with the “decadal study” of NASA’s human spaceflight plans that is separately getting started, will help “get back to the days whereby people got excited about the program as they did in the days of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.”
Wolf also addressed commercial crew development, which was singled out for attention in the report accompanying the bill. The report, he says, directs NASA “to find the fastest, safest, and most cost-effective means of achieving a US capability” to access the ISS by reducing the number of awards and moving to more traditional contracts. The program’s current path, he warned, “runs a risk of high failure by one or more companies receiving government subsidies similar to what we last saw last year with regard to Solyndra. There’s also been one or two senators that have said that if we continue this current path, you could reach to a Solyndra.”
Wolf included a mention of planetary sciences funding in the bill, adding that at some point after yesterday’s hearing he was “going to meet with Mr. Culberson and Mr. Schiff,” a reference to Reps. John Culberson (R-TX) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), two leading advocates of planetary missions in Congress, “if there’s something different in regards to Mars and Europa” that should be done, without being more specific.
At the end of the hearing, full committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that the CJS appropriations bill was scheduled to go to the House floor on May 8.