Rocket gets billion-dollar boost
April 21, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With presidential assurances of a vigorous space program in hand, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has deep-space exploration in the budget bull’s eye.
The Senate’s version of a spending plan for NASA, unveiled today, contains an extra $1 billion for testing and development of a so-called heavy lift vehicle. The extra money would be used to build a rocket needed to move heavy objects into space where we could launch a ship to Mars.
The added sum is about $726 million more than what the President has asked for in the NASA budget, which the White House unveiled in February.
If the extra money is approved, it would save hundreds of jobs at Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in a program to continue testing of a version of a deep-space rocket.
“If we’re going to Mars, as the president has said, then let’s get going,” Nelson said today. “We shouldn’t wait five years.”
Nelson was referring to a speech President Obama gave last week at KSC in which the president gave NASA a 2015 deadline to decide on the design of a deep-space rocket.
Nelson’s budget directive is included in a much broader Senate bill that outlines the future of the space agency and the rest of the government. The bill goes before the Senate Budget Committee starting tonight. It would authorize a total of $19.7 billion for NASA next year.
While Obama’s request for NASA spending over the next five years would increase the space agency's budget by $6 billion, that money is to be used mainly for rockets to go to the space station in low-earth orbit instead of deep space, Nelson said.
The Florida Democrat also cited national security concerns as a reason not to wait five years to decide on a heavy lift rocket. The Pentagon is worried about delaying this decision and the effect it might have on the rocket industry, he said.