U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), today announced subcommittee approval of the fiscal year 2011 CJS Appropriations bill, which restores significant funding for NASA’s human space flight program. Following today’s action by the subcommittee, the bill will now go to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration.

“The Administration cancelled the only realistic approach for the United States to return to low earth orbit and beyond,” said Shelby. “The President’s budget proposal surrendered our nation’s leadership in space to the Russians, Chinese, and Indians and instead chose to set up an entitlement program for the so-called commercial space industry.

“This proposal was simply unacceptable. The overarching point is simple: No so-called commercial space company has ever carried anything successfully to the space station, much less safely launch and return a human being. We cannot risk human lives or the entire future of the space program by deploying an unproven commercial crew concept. The risk is too great.

“The Administration’s plan was not a responsible or realistic approach to human space flight and was not approved by the subcommittee. Instead, the bill restores NASA to its historical purpose, a preeminent leader in space flight.

“The CJS bill solidifies American’s human space flight program by funding a robust heavy lift vehicle based on demonstrated technological reality.”

The Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget request terminated NASA’s Constellation program. This bill reaffirms our nation’s commitment to a robust human space exploration program by providing $1.9 billion to begin to build an integrated heavy lift launch vehicle system that will be designed, managed, and integrated by the Marshall Space Flight Center. This heavy lift rocket, when completed in 2016, will ensure that NASA begins to explore well beyond low earth orbit where we have been stuck for decades.

Senator Shelby was instrumental in increasing the $1.6 billion funding level recently proposed by the Senate Commerce Committee for a heavy lift rocket to $1.9 billion under this bill and specifying Marshall Space Flight Center as the lead NASA Center for the heavy lift vehicle.