Senators Move To Block Constellation Cancellation

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U.S. Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) and five Republican colleagues introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization bill March 18 that would prevent NASA from using 2010 funds to terminate or stall the agency’s Constellation program.

LeMieux’s amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, and Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett of Utah. It would also waive Anti-deficiency Act provisions cited by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden as justification for setting aside funding and stalling additional work on Constellation, a 5-year-old effort to replace the retiring space shuttle with new rockets and spacecraft optimized for lunar missions.

U.S. President Barack Obama proposed canceling Constellation in his 2011 NASA budget request, a plan that has been met with staunch bipartisan opposition since its release Feb. 1.

“NASA is ignoring the will of Congress by taking steps to terminate the Constellation program,” LeMieux said in a March 18 statement. “This effort sends the clear message that there are no loopholes, exclusions, or other routes the agency can use to kill the program.” He added that Congress has the ultimate authority to determine the future of NASA’s human spaceflight program, “not a budget proposal submitted by the administration.”

LeMieux’s amendment builds on legislation in an omnibus spending package that funds NASA and other federal agencies through September. The omnibus bill prohibits the agency from ending programs and activities that are part of the Constellation program, though it does not prevent NASA from making modifications to existing Constellation contracts, programs and other activities.