Senate Approves NASA Authorization Act

September 28, 2005

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate today approved S. 1281, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Act of 2005 by unanimous consent. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, introduced the legislation, which was co-sponsored by the subcommittee’s Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Co-Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), and Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) also co-sponsored the bill.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the original legislation, which authorizes funding for NASA’s programs for Fiscal Years 2006-2010, by a unanimous vote on June 23, 2005.

The five-year authorization provides a framework for NASA’s science and aeronautics programs, while also laying out key policy elements to support a transition from NASA’s current human space flight programs towards a permanent human presence on the Moon, starting in the next decade. That transition will be enabled by new crew and cargo transportation systems based on Space Shuttle system elements. The bill also provides for completion and robust utilization of the International Space Station (ISS), the development of the capabilities to use space resources, and increased innovative approaches to help spur space development and exploration.

The final version of the NASA Authorization Act included a Manager’s Amendment that makes a number of refinements to the reported bill, and addresses some issues that have arisen since the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee marked up the bill. The amendment:

-- directs NASA to develop a human capital strategy to ensure that NASA has a workforce of the appropriate size and skills to carry out NASA’s programs, including the use to the maximum extent possible the people and capabilities of NASA to implement the Vision for Space Exploration;

-- removes the strict prohibition of any gap, or hiatus, in the capability for assured human access to space, provided the Administration notifies the relevant Congressional Committees one-year prior to the last planned space shuttle flight that such a gap is unavoidable, and provides a mitigation plan to offset that circumstance in order to meet the United States' ongoing human spaceflight activities and obligations; and

--more specifically outlines key areas of aeronautical research to be pursued by NASA and further defines the framework for a national aeronautics policy to be developed by the Administration.