Sicuramente lo sapevate già 8-[, ma girovagando mi sono imbattuto su questo…
Oct. 5, 2007, 9:21AM
[glow=red,2,300]Senate OKs an extra billion for NASA[/glow]
But the funds, which may speed return to moon, face veto by Bush
By PATTY REINERT
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The Senate approved $1 billion in additional funding for NASA on Thursday, with Democrats and Republicans alike ignoring President Bush’s threat to veto any spending bills that exceed his budget proposal.
The extra money, which would increase the space agency’s budget to $18.5 billion for the 2008 fiscal year that began Monday, is intended to reimburse NASA’s accounts that were siphoned in order to get shuttles flying again after the 2003 Columbia disaster.
It also could be used to speed up development of the new Orion spacecraft to send astronauts back to the moon, narrowing a planned five-year gap during which the United States would have no manned spacecraft flying after the aging shuttle fleet is retired in 2010.
“We’re thrilled,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who has been working with Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and other Senate budget writers for the past two years to secure the additional money. “This is a major step in the right direction to ensure that America stays at the forefront of being first in space exploration.”
The NASA money is part of a $56 billion bill designed to fund science programs and the departments of Justice and Commerce. A final vote on the bill will come when the Senate returns after a weeklong break.
The House passed its NASA budget at $17.8 billion this summer, also exceeding the president’s $17.3 billion request for the agency. Differences between the House and Senate bills would need to be worked out in a conference committee.
The White House budget office renewed the president’s veto threat Thursday, issuing a statement saying the overall bill includes “an irresponsible and excessive level of spending.”
The White House blamed Democrats, although the NASA amendment passed on a voice vote after Hutchison and other Republicans with NASA facilities in their states backed it.
“Let me be clear: We didn’t overspend; the president under-funded,” Mikulski said. She added that the Senate would override a presidential veto.
NASA administrator Michael Griffin is in Russia this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the Oct. 4, 1957, launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite, and to discuss collaborations on unmanned missions to the moon and Mars.
His spokesman in Washington, Mike Cabbage, said the agency “supports the president’s budget.”
“It’s inappropriate for us to discuss any addition above the president’s budget,” he said.
A six-person version of Orion is scheduled to begin orbital operations in March 2015, though NASA hopes to fly earlier. Initially, the ship would transport astronauts to and from the international space station.
In testimony before Congress earlier this year, Griffin estimated the cost of moving up the first flight of Orion at $100 million per month, and on Thursday, Melissa Mathews, a spokeswoman for NASA’s exploration directorate, said that figure remains “a very rough estimate.”
The gap between the shuttle’s retirement and Orion worries lawmakers and NASA because the agency would be dependent on Russia or other nations to ferry astronauts to the space station and because NASA risks losing some of its 17,000-member space shuttle work force, whose skills would be needed to make the eventual moon program a success.
Meanwhile, China and other nations could use the time to develop their own lunar exploration programs, which Hutchison and other lawmakers consider an unacceptable national security risk.
In a speech to aerospace industry executives last month, Griffin said he believes “China will beat us to the moon.”
“When that happens, I think people won’t like it,” he said.
Hutchison said the five-year gap without a U.S. spaceship is “just unacceptable.”
“If we can hold this ($1 billion) in conference — and we’re going to really work hard to do it — then we can begin the process of trying to close that gap,” she said.
Houston Chronicle reporter Mark Carreau contributed to this report from Houston.