Bill Would Direct NASA To Embark on Moon Mission

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NASA would be required to embark on a lunar return by 2022 and establish a sustained human presence on the Moon if a bill introduced April 22 by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) is enacted.

The “Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act” (H.R. 1641) reiterates key tenets of bipartisan NASA authorizing legislation enacted in 2005 and 2008 that endorsed former U.S. President George W. Bush’s vision for space exploration, including a goal to “promote exploration, commerce, science, and the United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations,” according to Posey’s bill.

Co-sponsors include Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), Pete Olson (R-Texas), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the chairman of the House Appropriations commerce, justice, science subcommittee that oversees NASA spending.

The bill takes aim at President Barack Obama’s decision to  scrap the Moon-oriented Constellation program, in favor of fostering  privately developed space taxis.

Congress endorsed Obama’s plan in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. Widely viewed as a compromise between the White House and lawmakers like Posey whose state could lose billions in federal spending after the space shuttle retires, the new law called on Congress to provide NASA $2.75 billion this year to immediately begin building a heavy-lift launch system and crew capsule capable of deep space missions. NASA has been slow to heed the mandate, citing a lack of budgetary certainty as lawmakers spent half the budget year debating Obama’s 2011 spending plan. But in April, congressional appropriators approved legislation for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, providing $3 billion for the space launch system.

Posey’s bill would provide no funding for the 2022 lunar return, though H.R. 1641 stipulates that NASA budget requests and expenditures be consistent with achieving that goal.