U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), the chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, said Jan. 19 that he plans to move a NASA authorization bill through the House this spring.

“Congress believes that a strong and balanced civil space and aeronautics program of science, aeronautics, and human spaceflight and exploration is important and worthy of the nation’s support, and an important part of the nation’s innovation agenda,” Gordon said in a Jan. 19 news release.

President Barack Obama is expected to set a new direction for NASA’s human spaceflight program in his 2011 budget request due to Congress Feb. 1. Gordon’s NASA authorization bill likely would weigh in on Obama’s decision.

Gordon, who said in December he will not seek re-election this year, plays a key role in overseeing NASA’s programs and policy direction. An advocate of the agency’s plan to retire the space shuttle in 2010 and replace it with vehicles optimized for carrying astronauts to the Moon, Gordon helped win passage of two major pieces of bipartisan legislation that endorsed the Vision for Space Exploration laid out by former President George W. Bush in January 2004. At the same time, Gordon has criticized the executive branch for failing to adequately fund NASA’s space shuttle replacement effort, and has been adamant that the agency not focus on getting back to the Moon at the expense of its aeronautics and science portfolios.

Committee member Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) said in December he wishes to succeed Gordon as House Science and Technology Committee chairman.