Bipartisan NASA Authorization Bill Clears Senate

December 18, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, today released the following statements after the NASA Authorization Act of 2020 passed the Senate. The bill provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the clear direction needed to advance our nation’s space initiatives and investments and assert American global leadership in the final frontier.

“NASA needs the resources to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon by 2024,” said Wicker. “The NASA Authorization Act would provide strong support for the Artemis program along with the tools needed for a sustained lunar presence and deep-space exploration.”

"Congress just took a big step forward in authorizing the Artemis Program, which will send women to lead our next mission to the Moon,” said Cantwell. “It also includes authorizations for continued space exploration and growing the space economy, including extending the International Space Station and supporting the lunar lander system. For more than 50 years, the State of Washington has been a leader in the space program, and with this legislation our state is poised to be a key part of NASA’s return to the Moon—maybe even with a woman from Washington taking that historic first step.” 

“As chairman of the Aviation and Space Subcommittee, I'm proud to once again lead this bipartisan legislation that continues to ensure America remains on the cutting edge of innovation and the manned exploration of space,” said Cruz. “I am grateful America’s leadership in space remains an issue of such broad bipartisan agreement. A few months ago we witnessed the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly a decade, on the first commercially-created spacecraft in American history. That successful mission was a bright moment in an otherwise difficult and tumultuous year, and has united and inspired Americans to further human potential. These next 50 years in space have the potential to be even more consequential than the last 50 years, and the legislation we’ve passed today gives NASA the resources and direction it needs to face this new era, and the challenges that will come with it, with boldness. Not only will this legislation enhance our presence in low-Earth orbit, but will help Americans safely return to the moon, and put America's dreams of taking the first step on the surface of Mars directly on our horizon. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to strengthen America’s leadership in the final frontier.”

“Strengthening America’s leadership in space exploration boosts our national security and expands economic opportunities for Arizona,” said Sinema.  

The NASA Authorization Act of 2020 would:

  • Support NASA’s human spaceflight and exploration efforts to return American astronauts to the Moon and prepare for future journeys to Mars;
  • Extend authorization for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 and direct NASA to take steps to grow the space economy;
  • Require the United States to maintain a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit through and beyond the useful life of the ISS;
  • Support NASA’s leadership in coordinating the development of next generation spacesuits;
  • Leverage private sector investment to bolster human space exploration with the Artemis Program and NASA’s Human Landing System;
  • Authorize NASA's Enhanced Use Leasing (EUL) authority. EUL allows companies to lease vacant or underutilized buildings owned by NASA with lease proceeds helping to fund capital improvements at the NASA centers;
  • Provide rapid acquisition authorities similar to those that have proven successful at the Department of Defense and other agencies;
  • Direct NASA to maintain and upgrade irreplaceable rocket launch and test infrastructure;
  • Support vital life and physical science research to ensure that humans can live in deep space safely;
  • Direct NASA to improve upon its planetary defense measures in order to protect Earth from asteroids and other near-Earth objects;
  • Affirm NASA’s commitment to aeronautics research by supporting a robust X-plane program as well as work on efficient propulsion concepts and advanced composites; and
  • Support NASA’s STEM education and workforce efforts.

To see the full text of the bill, click here.