House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today announced the Committee will mark up the NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 on Thursday of next week. The legislation reaffirms Congress’s commitment to NASA and restores much-needed balance to the nation’s only agency responsible for space exploration. It also supports NASA’s role as a multi-mission agency with programs in science, aeronautics, exploration, and human spaceflight, and makes clear that Mars should be NASA’s primary goal.

“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has led the world in space exploration,” stated Chairman Lamar Smith. “We must ensure that the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years.

“The NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 builds on the bipartisan one-year agreement that the House passed just weeks ago. It restores much-needed balance to NASA’s budget while complying with funding levels set by current law. It authorizes full funding for the exploration systems that will take us to the Moon and Mars as well as the Commercial Crew program. It provides NASA with a science portfolio that is truly balanced.

“Astronauts like John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Gene Cernan and Sally Ride are household names and national heroes. And today’s astronauts inspire American students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to reach for the stars. Space exploration is an investment we must continue to make in our nation’s future.”

The NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 is a two-year, budget-neutral bill that continues the consistent guidance Congress has given to NASA for nearly a decade by reaffirming a stepping stone approach to exploration. The bill’s policy provisions largely mirror that of the House-passed NASA Authorization Act of 2015, a one year bill that passed with unanimous bipartisan support in February 2015.

“The NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 reflects our clear and consistent guidance to NASA,” stated the bill’s lead sponsor, Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.). “It requires the agency to develop an exploration roadmap and provides a framework to build an executable plan for future exploration efforts. It demonstrates our support for national assets like SLS and Orion. And it supports our commitment to once more launching American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil.

“More than anything, we want NASA to be successful. That means concentrating limited NASA resources on meeting its core requirements. American leadership in space is a matter of both national pride and national security. This bill will ensure that NASA has the resources and the guidance it needs to continue leading the way into the future.”

The new bill focuses NASA’s efforts to develop a capability to access the International Space Station so that we can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. It also increases support for the Space Launch System and the Orion Crew Vehicle – systems being developed to take astronauts to deep-space destinations like Mars – in an attempt to keep the programs on schedule for a 2017 launch date. The Obama administration has consistently cut funding for these human space exploration programs, while increasing funding for the Earth Science Division by more than 63 percent. The bill provides authorization levels consistent with NASA’s budget request, providing that current restraints within the Budget Control Act are satisfied.

The bill also supports a healthy science directorate that reflects the input from the scientific community and an aeronautics research directorate that contributes to our nation’s aerospace economy.

The markup will take place on Thursday, April 30th at 11:00 a.m. ET.

More information on the bill can be found here.