Monday afternoon the House briefly debated and then approved HR 667, legislation that woud rename NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, while the Western Aeronautical Test Range in California would be renamed the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. It’s the second attempt by the House to rename the center after the late astronaut, who passed away in August; it passed a similar bill in the final days of the last Congress, but the Senate did not act on it before the previous Congress ended.
Most of the statements on the House floor or subsequent press releases were supportive of the bill. “This bill recognizes the achievements of Neil Armstrong in aerospace travel and space exploration, and emphasizes his affiliation with Kern County,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), whose district includes the center, in a statement after the bill’s passage.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) offered a somewhat contrarian view during consideration of the bill on the House floor. While supporting the bill, she questioned the decision to honor Armstrong by renaming Dryden. “I doubt in this era of declining funding for NASA that either Neil Armstrong or Hugh Dryden would want a single precious dollar to be spent on a cosmetic facility name change when that money could be spent instead on fulfilling NASA’s mission to reach for the stars,” she said. She also questioned considering the bill just days before sequestration is set to take effect. “I am sad that, here in this Congress, we’re also prepared to cut millions of dollars in a budget that should be spent on the kind of science and exploration that both of these two gentlemen pioneered.”
The legislation passed on a vote of 394-0. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the ranking member of the House Science Committee, elected to vote “present”; she did not speak during the consideration of the bill nor offered an explanation of her vote.