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House NASA spending bill provides a modest increase

Rep. Frank Wolf
Rep. Frank Wolf
Photo by Chip Somodevilla

According to a Wednesday post on the Space Politics blog, the House appropriations subcommittee passed a spending bill that provided $17.9 billion for NASA for FY 2015. This represents a $435 million over the president’s budget request (and $250 million above the agency’s fiscal year 2014 budget. The breakdown by account is as follows:

“Science $5,193.0

Aeronautics $666.0

Space Technology $620.0

Exploration Systems $4,167.0

Space Operations $3,885.0

Education $106.0

Cross Agency Support $2,779.0

Construction $446.0

Inspector General $34.0

Total $17,896.0’

There are few details thus far about many specific program. The heavy lift Space Launch System received $1.19 billion. The Orion spacecraft received $1.14 billion. A Europa mission, which got $15 million in the president’s request, got $100 million.

The commercial crew program has gotten an unspecified increase, presumably from the $696 million it got in the current fiscal year’s budget. The president has requested $848 million for the program to pay for a commercially operated spacecraft to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The program has been a subject of contention between Congress and the president ever since Obama cancelled the Constellation program in 2010.

The commercial crew program has received added focus as a result of tensions between the United States and the Ukraine due to the latter country’s imperial drive against the Ukraine. Since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 the United States is solely dependent on Russia for rides to and from the ISS. Russia has already made some veiled threats concerning space station access as a response to sanctions imposed by the United States. The commercial spacecraft are not expected to be ready until 2017.

This appropriations bill will be the last under subcommittee chairman Rep, Frank Wolf,.R-Virginia, who is retiring. He is expected to be replaced by Rep, John Culberson, R-Texas in the next congress. Culberson, being from the Houston area, is expected to be supportive of NASA funding, especially of the exploration programs. But he is also a driving force behind the mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter that is thought to have a sub-surface which might contain life,

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