September 22, 2016 – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation yesterday unanimously approved the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016 (S.3346) which advances deep space exploration, the journey to Mars and the International Space Station for fiscal year 2017.
The bill will provide important continuity as a new Administration enters office in 2017. It highlights the importance of continuing NASA’s efforts to send humans to Mars and also underscores the value of several major science missions currently in development including James Webb Space Telescope, the Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), the Mars 2020 rover, and a Europa flyby mission.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), a member of the committee, authored two amendments that were included in the NASA Transition Authorization Act:
The first amendment authorizes NASA to consider satellite servicing options for future programs. This amendment encourages NASA to examine the possibility of servicing and refurbishing existing satellites to extend their lifespan and capabilities.
The second Gardner-authored amendment requires NASA to develop a plan to reach Mars that includes specific timelines and benchmarks, which will allow Congress to hold the agency accountable and provide proper oversight.
“I’m pleased my amendments unanimously passed the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee because they will encourage NASA to maximize its resources and keep America competitive in space exploration,” said Gardner. “Aerospace plays a major role in Colorado’s economy and contributes to thousands of jobs across the state. I’m proud my colleagues supported these measures, and I’ll continue to exercise my oversight role to promote competition, control costs, and drive innovation.”
Since entering the Senate, Gardner has used his position on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to advocate on behalf of Colorado’s space industry. In June, the Senate approved S.2943, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (NDAA), which included language Senator Gardner authored that allows for the Department of Defense (DoD) to purchase rockets from any certified launch provider between now and December 31, 2022 so long as the provider offers the best value to the DoD. Gardner’s fiscally responsible amendment to the NDAA promotes competition, protects our national security, and paves the way for assured access to space, which is critical to the detection of missiles, transmitting secure communication, and gathering intelligence. It is estimated that the amendment could potentially save the DoD as much as $5 billion.
Gardner also authored the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act, bipartisan legislation introduced with Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) to improve efforts to predict and mitigate the effects of space weather events, which can have significant economic and security implications, on Earth and in space. The legislation will strengthen space weather research and response by delineating clear roles and responsibilities to the agencies that study and predict space weather events, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Department of Defense (DOD).
The Senate committee also approved the Inspiring Next Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act, H.R. 4755, without amendment. The bill, which requires the NASA Administrator to take steps that encourage women to study STEM subjects, has already passed in the House. No money is authorized by the bill.