Feeds

House bill: 'Hey NASA, that asteroid retrieval plan? Fuggedaboutit'

Republican-led committee also swings budget axe at climate science

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

High performance access to file storage

If the Republican-led House Subcommittee on Space has its way, NASA's proposed asteroid-retrieval mission will be killed, the agency's budget will be capped for the next two years at about 5 per cent less than last year's, and NASA's Earth observation efforts will be cut back.

In addition, Congressional control over the choice of the agency's administrator – a position that is currently a presidential appointee – will be increased to match provisions outlined in the Space Leadership Preservation Act (H.R. 823), introduced by representative John Culberson (R-TX) this February.

At a hearing on February 27 to review that bill, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology chairman, former lawyer and rancher Lamar Smith (R-TX) said of the US space agency, "Today, a question exists about NASA's vision, namely, whether there is one."

On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Space, chaired by former accountant Steven Palazzo (R-MS), will hold a hearing to discuss the NASA Authorization Act of 2013, which includes the budget and oversight items mentioned above, along with a proposal that would make a manned flight to Mars via the moon a NASA priority.

“It is the policy of the United States that the development of capabilities and technologies necessary for human missions to lunar orbit, the surface of the Moon, the surface of Mars, and beyond shall be the goals of the Administration's human space flight program,” the Authorization Act states, SpaceNews reports.

NASA's proposed asteroid-retrieval spacecraft

NASA's asteroid capturer will never fly if the House Subcommittee on Space gets its way (click to enlarge)

That asteroid-retrival mission, and presumably the solar-electric propulsion vehicle that was to propel it? Fuggedaboutit. "The Administrator shall not fund the development of an asteroid retrieval mission to send a robotic spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid for rendezvous, retrieval, and redirection of that asteroid to lunar orbit for exploration by astronauts," the Authorization Act decrees.

The Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket that the asteroid-retrieval mission was to piggyback on, however, were saved from the budget axe. Orion gets $1.2bn in the Authorization Act and the SLS gets $1.772bn. Also living to fight another day is the James Webb Space Telescope, which would receive $658m in 2014 and 2015.

The NASA Authorization Act of 2013 is not, of course, a done deal – the Senate still needs to get its version of a NASA budget authorization together, and sources told SpaceNews that it could do so as soon as this week. Sources also said that the Senate is planning a five-year authorization, and that it plans to be more generous than the House.

And then there's the White House. An Obama administration official requesting anonymity told SpaceNews that the Authorization Act was a "non-starter", notably because of the cancelation of the asteroid-retrieval mission and the Act's 30 per cent cut in funding for Earth Science, the NASA program that collects data on our home planet.

Considering the Republican-led House of Representatives' dim view of NASA's climate-science activities, that proposed 30 per cent budget cut should come as no surprise. ®

Bootnote

It is ironic that as the details of the Authorization Act of 2013's binning of NASA's proposed asteroid-retrieval were being made public, the space agency was announcing a Grand Challenge to "harness public engagement, open innovation and citizen science" to detect and characterize potentially Earth-threatening asteroids.

"NASA already is working to find asteroids that might be a threat to our planet," said NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, "and while we have found 95 percent of the large asteroids near the Earth’s orbit, we need to find all those that might be a threat to Earth."

Find them, yes, but lasso one and put it into lunar orbit? Not if the House Subcommittee on Space can stop it.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.