An artist's rendition of the Curiosity robot designed for round-the-clock scientific experiments on the Martian surface.
WASHINGTON (Florida Today) -- A key Senate panel voted Tuesday to
give about $18 billion to NASA for fiscal year 2014, setting up what
could be a showdown with the House over the funding of the nation's
The Senate bill funds
continuing work on NASA's top priorities: a deep-space, crewed mission
to Mars, deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope, and a joint
venture with private companies to transport astronauts from U.S. soil to
the International Space Station within the next few years.
does not mention NASA's proposal to retrieve an asteroid as part of its
steppingstone approach to Mars. A NASA funding bill in the House
includes language barring NASA from spending any money on the asteroid
mission, which lawmakers have called poorly conceived.
$18 billion spending plan was approved without dissent by the Commerce,
Justice and Science Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations
Committee. The full committee is expected to approve the measure
bill, part of a $52.2 billion bill that also funds federal law
enforcement and science programs, provides more than the $17.7 billion
NASA requested in the president's budget. And it provides considerably
more than the $16.6 billion measure that the House Appropriations
Committee is expected to pass today.
means that funding for NASA - and many other federal programs - is on a
collision course between the Republican-led House and the
lawmakers are assuming the automatic budget cuts that began this year,
known as sequestration, will continue into next year and want proposed
budgets to reflect that. Democrats, meanwhile, are banking that a deal
will be reached to end the across-the-board reductions and want budgets
to reflect real program needs.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski said she's worried "the whole budget is in trouble" unless Republicans relent.
long as (House Budget Chairman Paul) Ryan insists that Appropriations
uses sequester as the new normal, the (spending) bill along with
critical national agencies like NASA will be back to where they were
even before 2007," she said after Tuesday's vote. "So am I concerned?
Senate Republicans already are lining up against the appropriations bill.
Sen. Richard Shelby, the top Republican on the subcommittee, voted for
the $52.2 billion measure Tuesday, but said he would vote against it
Thursday when it comes up before the full committee. He'd like to see a
spending plan closer to $47 billion, which is the amount the House is
looking to approve.
from the overall budget number, the Senate bill provides good news for
NASA: $775 million for the partnership with private companies known as
would be far more than the roughly $500 million the program got this
year and reasonably close to the $821 million the agency says it needs
to keep the program, which is designed to replace the space shuttle on a
2017 schedule. The House bill includes $700 million.
bill does include language, inserted by Shelby, to study the future of
the space station and make sure, as most predict, that the orbiting lab
will remain in use past its current 2020 expiration date. Otherwise,
aides to Shelby said, there's little point in funding a program if
there's nowhere to fly.
said he put in the provision, as well as others aimed at improving
government performance, "to ensure taxpayers are getting the best bang
for their dollar."