COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) intends to introduce legislation this spring that would permit NASA to raise money through advertising revenue and use it to fund the Centennial Challenges space prizes program.
“When I return to Congress after the recess, I will introduce legislation to authorize space advertising for NASA with the goal to bring in extra funding for the agency’s prize authority under the current Centennial Challenge program to raise awareness among private entrepreneurs about the business opportunities in space,” Calvert, the ranking member on the House Science and Technology space and aeronautics subcommittee, said in his key note address here at the 23rd National Space Symposium.
Calvert said his bill also would create a commission to recommend “appropriate criteria for space advertising,” citing the Professional Golf Association, National Public Radio and the Smithsonian Institution as three organizations that could serve as models with their tradition of “long-term, dedicated and tasteful sponsorships.”
Calvert predicted NASA could raise as much as $100 million annually through sponsorships and use the proceeds to fund Centennial Challenges “well above” the $4 million or $5 million a year the agency currently intends to spend. Centennial Challenges is a program that uses cash prizes to spur outside innovations in space-related technology.
Calvert said in an interview after his speech that he has no co-sponsors for the legislation but expects that to change once he explains his proposal to colleagues.
Calvert also predicted a tough budget year for NASA, warning that a “dangerous trend of bi partisan non-support for funding NASA” could leave the agency financially hamstrung as it attempts to field new vehicles to replace the space shuttle.
He identified House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey as a particularly tough obstacle to increased NASA funding, noting that the Wisconsin Democrat was one of 15 House members who voted against the 2005 NASA Authorization Act endorsing higher spending levels for NASA to pay for its new space exploration goals.
The level of support NASA can count on in Congress is something of an unknown quantity this year, Calvert said, given that the House and Senate have 64 new lawmakers who have “never registered a vote on space exploration or military space.”
Calvert devoted part of his speech to expressing his opinions on China and its intentions in space.
“I do not believe China’s goal to go to the Moon will be just an elaborate exercise in planting the flag and heading back home — or even an ongoing peaceful presence on the Moon,” he said. “The challenge we face is their possible use of space, up to and including weaponization.”
Until China makes its intentions clearer, he said, “the best offense is a good defense, especially in space.”