Senate Panel Recommends Funding Boost for NASA

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kai_25

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WASHINGTON -- NASA’s vision for space exploration received a boost in the Senate Sept. 21 when a budget panel approved $16.38 billion for the agency for next year, $200 million more than the White House requested.<br /><br />The Senate Appropriations Committee had been poised to recommend providing just $15.579 billion for NASA next year, $200 more than the agency’s 2004 budget and some $665 million less than the White House requested. But an amendment offered by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) to add $800 million of so-called emergency funding for the space shuttle program and a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission was approved, resulting in the higher number.<br /><br />The space shuttle program would receive $500 million of the added funding to help defray the cost of returning the fleet to flight status. The remaining $300 million would go toward the early planning for a robotic mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.<br /><br />Including the emergency funding, the Senate bill would provide a total of $4.8 billion for the space shuttle program. The international space station would get $1.6 billion, about $120 million less than NASA asked for in its request, which was sent to Congress in February.<br /><br />Senate appropriators also approved $268 million for NASA to get started on the Crew Exploration Vehicle and $20 million to begin designing of a robotic lunar exploration mission. Both projects are priorities under the space exploration vision laid out by U.S. President George W. Bush in January.<br /><br />The Senate’s proposed NASA budget -- included in a $128 billion spending bill that also funds veterans’ benefits, housing programs, environmental protection and other programs — stands in marked contrast to the counterpart bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee this summer. The House bill would trim $1.1 billion from the NASA request and deal a serious blow to the agency’s space exploration ambitions.<br /><b></b>
 
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