Congress, Administration must act to focus resources on NASA’s core mission

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Washington, DC, February 14, 2015 | comments

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was founded in 1958 to support our nation’s space exploration and scientific advancement. For decades, NASA has played an important role in encouraging young Americans to pursue careers in math, science, technology, and engineering. It has always been on the cutting edge of attracting new ideas, new talent, and new businesses, and has helped facilitate the ability of America to achieve the ultimate high ground in any military conflict.

For all of these reasons, it is vital that Congress and the Administration act to focus scarce taxpayer resources on NASA’s core mission: the development of capabilities to explore space beyond Low Earth Orbit. The House and Senate have been unable to agree to a reauthorization bill for NASA since 2010, and the lack of direction from Congress is damaging to the space agency and its hardworking employees.

Earlier this week, the House of Representatives took action to provide resources to NASA, and to prioritize this core mission. The NASA Authorization Act of 2015 would authorize $18 billion in funding for this fiscal year and adopt important policy provisions that provide direction to the space agency. It also sets the stage for a longer-term reauthorization bill in the 114th Congress that we can send to the President’s desk.

This legislation supports the development of space exploration technology like the Space Launch System and critical NASA functions at the Johnson Space Center. It also sets a clear goal that NASA’s human spaceflight program should focus on missions beyond Low Earth Orbit, including to Mars, with a requirement that NASA develop a roadmap to achieve that goal. The legislation also supports the development of commercial crew systems to ensure that we are no longer reliant on Russia for crew transport to the International Space Station. We cannot afford to continue paying millions of dollars for seats on Russian spacecraft.

Congress directed that NASA develop space technology that will bring us back to the moon and beyond, and much of this work is centered in the Houston region. Unfortunately, the President’s 2016 budget would cut this important NASA objective by 12 percent. Like many Americans, I was excited to see the successful test flight of the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle on December 5, 2014, and I am hopeful that the development of the next generation space systems will continue on schedule as long as Congress rejects the President’s NASA budget as it has consistently done in the past.

NASA is critical to our nation and our community, and so are the brave and innovative men and women who work there. They deserve a clear mission and roadmap from the Administration and Congress. As a member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I will work with my colleagues on a long-term vision for the space agency that restores space exploration and technology development as its core long-term mission. Only with this clear vision can NASA remain the world’s premier space exploration agency.                                                        

Congressman Randy Weber represents the 14th District of Texas, serving Brazoria, Galveston and Jefferson Counties.

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