U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) today announced the introduction of S. 3346, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2016. The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.

“America has a long history of leading the way in space exploration and we must reclaim that leadership,” said Cruz, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. “This NASA reauthorization bill brings us one step closer to reasserting American leadership in space by ensuring NASA has the certainty it needs to continue to grow and improve upon what it does best: lead the world in space exploration. This legislation also provides the framework in which the State of Texas and the entire nation can confidently continue reshaping the future of human space exploration. The state of Texas has seen tremendous increase in jobs and activity within the commercial space industry over the past several years, and this bill will foster their continued growth.

“I’m proud to have worked with both my Republican and Democrat colleagues to author this reauthorization bill and would like to particularly acknowledge the dedication and leadership of Senator Nelson on this issue,” Cruz continued. “I would also like to thank Chairman Thune and Senator Peters for their involvement in crafting this legislation. This bill ensures that American astronauts are no longer dependent upon Russia to access space; reaffirms our national space commitment to advance recent achievements in space exploration and space science to extend humanity’s reach into deep space including the surface of Mars and beyond; and maximizes the utilization of the International Space Station while continuing to facilitate the commercialization and economic development of low-Earth orbit. Last year our subcommittee worked in a bipartisan manner in passing and enacting the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act. This legislation builds upon that foundation and provides a bipartisan legislative solution to ensure that NASA has the ability to continue to make progress in exploring space and redoubling its partnership with the private sector. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we work to pass this legislation into law.”

“This will keep all of NASA’s core missions on track through 2017,” said Nelson, the ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “It’s my hope Congress will reach consensus on multi-year spending plan next year that will provide the agency more certainty in carrying out its planned mission to Mars.”

“Florida is a world leader in the aerospace industry, with scores of companies focused on commercial spaceflight, aeronautics, electrical engineering, and manufacturing that employ thousands of hardworking Floridians,” said Rubio, a member of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. “That’s why I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, which lays a blueprint for the next generation of America’s space policy and provides NASA with the resources it needs to advance the space program. With this bill, we can help ensure the United States remains competitive globally, and set the stage for future manned missions deeper into space. Maintaining America’s access to space is a vital and strategic part of our national defense, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill approved by the Commerce Committee and passed by the full Senate as soon as possible.”

“NASA’s impactful and far-reaching work affects everything from our economy to our understanding of the universe, and we must ensure this important work continues on a steady trajectory,” said Peters, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. “I’m pleased this bipartisan bill reinforces the importance of NASA’s ongoing efforts to educate the scientists and astronauts of the future, provides critical updates to monitor and treat the effects of space flight on our astronauts, and ensures the flagship Orion and Space Launch System programs stay on track for their Mars exploration missions. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that NASA has a steady path forward to keep making groundbreaking discoveries and inspiring Americans for years to come.”

Highlights of S. 3346:

Sustaining National Space Commitments and Utilizing the International Space Station

• Support for Continuity – Affirms Congress’ support for sustained space investments across presidential administrations to advance recent achievements in space exploration and space science. This includes the development of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and the Orion crew vehicle for deep space exploration, maximizing utilization of the International Space Station (ISS), the James Webb Space Telescope, and continued commitment to a national, government-led space program.

• International Space Station – Supports full and complete utilization of the ISS through at least 2024, and the use of private sector companies partnering with NASA to deliver cargo and experiments. Also facilitates the development of vehicles to transport astronauts from U.S. soil to end our reliance on Russian launches for crew transport.

• Facilitating Commercialization and Economic Development of Low-Earth Orbit – Requires NASA to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to facilitate a transformation of operations in low-earth orbit from a model largely reliant on government support to one reflecting a more commercially viable future.

Advancing Human Deep Space Exploration

• Journey to Mars – Amends current law by adding human exploration of Mars as one of the goals and objectives of NASA and directs NASA to manage human space flight programs to enable humans to explore Mars and other destinations. Requires NASA to develop and submit a plan to Congress on a strategic framework and critical decision plan based on current technologies to achieve the exploration goals and objectives.

• Development of Deep Space Capabilities – Directs NASA to continue the development of the Space Launch System and Orion for a broad deep space mission set, with specific milestones for an uncrewed exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021.

Medical Monitoring of Astronauts

• Medical Effects of Space – Authorizes NASA to provide for the medical monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of astronauts, including scientific and medical tests for psychological and medical conditions deemed by NASA to be associated with human space flight.

• Recognizing Impact of Scott Kelly’s 340 Days in Space –Gives recognition that the 340-day space mission of Scott Kelly aboard the ISS generated new insight into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation, and the stress of long-duration space flight and will help support the physical and mental well-being of astronauts during longer space exploration missions in the future.

Improving Cybersecurity and Maximizing Efficiency

• Improved Oversight of IT and Cybersecurity – Directs steps to improve agency-wide management and oversight over information technology operations and investments and information security programs for the protection of NASA systems, implementing a number of Office of Inspector General and GAO identified deficiencies. Requires the Administrator to ensure the NASA Chief Information Officer has a significant role in relevant management and oversight.

• Agency Cybersecurity Requirements – Requires the Administrator develop an agency-wide security plan to provide an overview of the requirements of NASA systems, identification of roles and responsibilities, and increased coordination among each center, facility, and mission directorate.

• Addressing Inefficiency – Improves inter-disciplinary collaboration and planning across NASA’s Mission Directorates to maximize outcomes for projects or missions.

Click here for the full text of S. 3346, which the Commerce Committee will consider at mark-up on Wednesday, September 21, 2016.