A Senate committee has stoked Mars mania anew by approving a bill to continue support of programs, including NASA’s Mars 2020 project and related spacecrafts.
In vote boasting strong bipartisan support, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Sept. 21 passed Senate Bill 3346, which if enacted by Congress would become the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016. It authorizes $19.5 billion for fiscal 2017 to continue work on a Mars mission, Space Launch System and Orion spacecrafts, and efforts to shift astronaut shuttles to International Space Station from the space agency to commercial companies such as Boeing and SpaceX.
That’s the same dollar amount in a similar bill passed recently by the House. So it appears an eventual reconciliation of the bills could go smoothly, once the full Senate passes SB 3346 as expected in coming weeks.
“We just passed the NASA bill in the Commerce Committee,” Senate Democrats tweeted after the committee vote. “We are going to Mars.”
The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration also applauded the vote in a quickly issued press release.
“The Coalition recognizes the tremendous effort of the Senators and their staffs in developing this bill, especially prioritizing its advancement during a challenging Congressional schedule,” the space advocacy group said.
Added Coalition executive director Mary Lynne Dittmar: “The bipartisan Senate bill advanced by the committee today represents an important step toward updating the 2010 Authorization Act to reflect the significant progress that has been made on NASA’s core exploration and science missions. As we head into the presidential transition and a new Congress, the bipartisan support demonstrated by the Committee reflects our nation’s commitment to a deep space exploration program that relies on these important national capabilities.”