WASHINGTON — Three Republican members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee are vying for the panel’s chairmanship in the upcoming 113th Congress as current chairman Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas) is being forced out by term limits.

Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) and Lamar Smith (Texas) have declared their interest in the job. Sensenbrenner, who was elected to an 18th term Nov. 6, has held the chairmanship before. So has Smith, who just won a 14th term.

House aides said they expected discussions about the chairmanship to begin the week of Nov. 12, and that a new chairman could be selected before Congress adjourns for the Nov. 22 U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

Smith, a who come January will lose chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee because of the Republican Conference’s six-year chairmanship term limit, announced his interest in leading the Science Committee in October.

“It is important that NASA have a unifying mission,” Smith said in the press release that formally announced his interest in leading the Science Committee. “Even though it has been almost 40 years since man last set foot on the moon, we should continue to shoot for the stars.”

In a Nov. 8 press release, Rohrabacher said his priorities as chairman would include “making certain NASA has a real, achievable plan for near-term human space exploration; directing the Department of Energy to concentrate their resources on advanced energy concepts leading to energy independence; reforming all departments and agencies under [Science Committee] jurisdiction by bringing them back to their core missions and proper roles.”

Sensenbrenner said in a Nov. 7 press release that if he gets the chairmanship, he would press the committee to “responsibly fund our research and development programs, refocus NASA and foster the developing private space industry, and put the United States back on a path toward being a leader in [Science, Technology and Mathematics] education.”

Dan Leone is the NASA reporter for SpaceNews, where he also covers other civilian-run U.S. government space programs and a growing number of entrepreneurial space companies. He joined SpaceNews in 2011.Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications...