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National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - July 22, 2005)

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Gordon), for yielding me this time and also for his kind words.

I also want to acknowledge my good friend, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Boehlert), the chairman, and the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert), for the work we have all done together for this important legislation.

Mr. Chairman, I believe the legislation strikes a productive and essential balance between NASA's core missions and provides important policy direction as the agency embarks on the Mars-Moon initiative. Though I hate to use a cliche, I believe NASA is at a crossroads with its many missions: the Space Shuttle will hopefully be returning to flight next week, after being grounded for nearly 2 1/2 years; a Hubble Servicing Mission is being considered and prepared for; and NASA is looking to accelerate the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle; and research universities are anxiously awaiting news about the future of many of their projects with NASA.

As NASA moves forward with these initiatives, it is the opportune time for Congress to weigh in and provide NASA with long-term policy direction. The bill takes important steps to ensure that NASA continues its important investment in each of its core missions: science, aeronautics, and human space flight, including human exploration.

For example, it sets up a budgetary structure that separates NASA's human space flight and exploration accounts from its science, aeronautics, and education accounts.

In addition to establishing flexible firewalls between NASA accounts, it provides guidance on how to deal with subsequent cuts to the overall budget. Namely, any cuts to the NASA budget would reduce the authorizations for each of its accounts proportionally, ensuring one account does not make the bulk of the cut.

These provisions provide sound government policy to ensure that the intentions of Congress are followed and that NASA maintains a balance within its missions.

The bill contains a number of provisions that seek to establish better oversight of NASA. One I would specifically like to mention requires NASA to provide a transition plan to Congress and identify funds to support any transfer of programs from NASA to NOAA. This should not be considered a congressional endorsement of the transfer of Earth science missions or Earth observing systems from NASA to NOAA. Instead, it intends to ensure that all transfers are done openly.

H.R. 3070 also takes commonsense steps to review the extension of missions which have already met their original goals. With minimal investment, many missions, such as Voyager, can continue to provide useful data even though they have exceeded their original operational timelines.

The bill requires NASA to review each of the missions and assess the costs and benefits to continue these programs, thus allowing a maximum benefit from all of our investments. I would like to turn to four areas of particular importance to me in the bill: Aeronautics, education, remote sensing and the wonderful Hubble telescope.

I am pleased to see the inclusion of positive policy and funding guidance to NASA on revitalizing the aeronautics program at NASA. Historically, aeronautics has provided America with jobs, economic security, a positive input to our balance of trade, and technological advances for both commercial aviation and defense. However, recently those aeronautics investments have been declining with projections of continuing decline in the NASA budget. This all comes at a time when the European Union has announced a goal to become a leader in aeronautics by 2020 and is increasing R&D funding in aeronautics to $2.5 billion. If we are to remain competitive, we must revitalize our R&D programs to match what the European Union and other nations in the world are doing.

The aeronautics piece also names three breakthrough R&D initiatives in subsonic, supersonic and rotorcraft, as well as rejects the proposed decline in the aeronautics budget by authorizing increased R&D funding for 2006 and 2007. Overall the bill ensures that we continue to be a global leader in aeronautics.

As this body knows, and as the gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert) just shared with us, the United States is not graduating students in science, technology, engineering and math in the numbers required to sustain our current workforce. As we prepare for the return of flight with the Shuttle, young boys and girls are looking up to the astronaut corps and thinking one day they would like to become astronauts.

The bill provides specific emphasis on the education programs within NASA that excite and inspire our youth to continue to study in these fields. NASA's missions have the power to attract the American public, both young and old, and I believe we need to ensure that we utilize this excitement and encourage students to follow their childhood dreams of working with NASA.

I am pleased that the bill recognizes the importance of ensuring that our minority and economically disadvantaged young people have access to NASA's educational activities.

Turning to another topic, many of the American public only see NASA looking outward into space. However, the agency's Earth science program provides valuable information about our own planet. NASA collects data about the Earth that has practical applications for States, tribal agencies, cities, and municipalities by providing geospatial data from satellites.

I am particularly interested because in my home State of Colorado, we have two of the leading companies involved in this important work, and many cities and counties in Colorado are working to address growth and sprawl. A bill that I have introduced which has been incorporated into this bill works to increase access to that data from both commercial and public sources.

Lastly, I am gratified that the bill calls for a human servicing mission to be scheduled once the Shuttle has returned to flight with appropriate safety precautions and provides authorization funding for the mission to service the Hubble telescope.

Hubble has truly become the people's telescope. Its data is accessible to scientists and nonscientists alike, and has allowed amateur astronomers of all ages to study our universe. I am pleased that NASA has already taken these steps towards a human servicing mission, and this bill affirms the congressional commitment to extending the life of Hubble.

In closing, I again want to acknowledge the great leadership of the gentleman from New York (Mr. Boehlert), the ranking member, the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Gordon), and the subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert), for their work on the bill. This legislation has truly been the result of productive and positive dialogue and negotiations on both sides of the aisle. The staff has done a marvelous job in bringing us together as well. I believe this is the right policy for NASA, and I urge Members to support its passage.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time, and I rise in support of this manager's amendment.

I concur with the comments of the gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Gordon) and believe he has accurately summarized the strengths of the manager's amendment.

I have to tell my colleagues I am particularly heartened that the amendment adds additional provisions intended to improve participation by Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, and other minorities in NASA's educational programs. In addition, it addresses some important concerns of the NASA workforce.

Finally, as was pointed out by the gentleman from Tennessee (Ranking Member Gordon), this amendment indicates that Congress supports exploration, but also that Congress is making clear that additional funding for exploration should not be obtained by cutting NASA's important science, aeronautics, and education programs. I think this is crucial policy guidance.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to again thank the chairman of the committee, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Boehlert), my good friend, the chairman of the subcommittee, the gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert), and the gentleman from Tennessee (Ranking Member Gordon) for this very important piece of legislation, and salute the staff and everybody involved in the crafting of this legislation. I urge the adoption of the manager's amendment.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding me this time, and I rise in support of her important amendment. We all know that safety is a top priority for our space program and this is a sensible measure the House should support.

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