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US Congress seeks control over NASA moonshot

House passes bill barring changes

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Members of the US Congress are preparing to battle Obama's White House over control of NASA's Constellation moon-rocket program.

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a major 2010 spending bill that would effectively tie Obama's hands if he attempts to make changes to the current Constellation program.

The 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill provides $3.46bn for Constellation and $1.5 billion for Ares rocket projects. It also notably includes language that would block any effort by NASA or the Obama administration to cancel or change the Constellation program without first receiving congressional approval.

The language was inserted by US Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, whose state houses the Marshall Space Flight Center, a leader of Constellation's Ares rocket program.

The bill still must be taken up by the full Senate and then signed by Obama before becoming law. It arrives as NASA waits for the administration to forge a new space-program policy that could include cancellation of the Ares I rocket development and embrace more international cooperation when the space shuttle program is retired in 2010.

"This bill not only saves but preserves the survival of the safest, most advanced, and most efficient vehicle we have at NASA," said Alabama congressman Parker Griffith in a statement. "Ares has shown it is the best choice to usher in the next era of human space exploration."

On Thursday, NASA administrator Charles Bolden warned of a turbulent year ahead while officials battle over the fate of the country's manned space mission initiatives.

"We are going to be fighting and fussing over the coming year," Bolden said at an aerospace luncheon, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "Some of you are not going to like me because we are not going to do the same kind of things we've always done." ®

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