Mixed Reaction to House’s NASA Authorization Bill

There have been sharply differing reaction from industry and advocacy groups to the House draft of a NASA authorization act that largely rejects the Trump Administration’s plan to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 and establish a permanent presence there. Instead, a moon landing would be used as an interim step to sending astronauts to Mars. Commercial participation in these missions would be limited.

[See House NASA Authorization Bill Focuses on Sending Astronauts to Mars; Moon Seen as Interim Step and NASA Authorization Bill Introduced in House for details.]

Below are statements by the Aerospace Industries Association, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and National Space Society.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has also weighed in here.

Aerospace Industries Association

Statement by Aerospace Industries Association President and CEO Eric Fanning

The introduction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2020 is a vital part of supporting and sustaining American leadership in space and aeronautics.

“NASA is a critically important organization that is leading us into the future. It not only conducts cutting-edge research, but also drives our economy and inspires the next generation of American workers,” said AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “But none of this is possible without the passage of an authorization bill. Thank you, Chairwoman Kendra Horn, for your leadership in putting forth this legislation. We remain committed to working with Congress to pass a NASA authorization bill this year.”

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration (CDSE) – a broad based association of companies supporting NASA’s programs in human and scientific exploration of space, space commerce, and the advancement of space technology – thanks the House Space, Science and Technology subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and its Chairwoman, Representative Kendra Horn, and Ranking Member, Representative Brian Babin, as well as the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the full committee, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Frank Lucas, for their hard work on the development of HR 5666.

“As we have seen in NASA Authorization Acts for a decade, Congress has been clear that Mars is the goal, so it is no surprise that we are seeing that here,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, president & CEO of CDSE. “However the path to executing this goal – including meaningful activity at the Moon – remains a topic of significant discussion, and this bill is helping to spark a robust exchange about the best way to achieve that bipartisan vision. We look forward to active engagement across the entire aerospace community – with NASA, industry, associations, the National Space Council, and Congress – as we collectively continue to work toward this goal and our shared future in space.”

Commercial Spaceflight Federation

“As written, the NASA Authorization bill would not create a sustainable space exploration architecture and would instead set NASA up for failure by eliminating commercial participation and competition in key programs. As NASA and the White House have repeatedly stated, any sustainable space exploration effort must bring together the best of government and commercial industry to achieve a safe and affordable 21st century space enterprise. We look forward to working with members of the House Space Subcommittee to address a number of concerns with the bill.”

National Space Society

The National Space Society (NSS) recognizes and supports all activities that help to enable commercial space development and settlement. Unfortunately, H.R. 5666 represents a dramatic step back from such activities. NSS agrees with the Commercial Spaceflight Federation that the bill could incur large additional costs for NASA by eliminating commercial participation and competition in key programs. For example, the bill eliminates commercial options for lunar lander operations while inappropriately dictating to NASA a particular technical design. Additionally, the bill de-prioritizes efforts to build a base on the Moon, enable commercial lunar operations, or use ample lunar resources to dramatically lower the cost of going to Mars. Overall, the bill contains many technical specifications and requirements that are best left to NASA engineers and scientists.

We would strongly encourage the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee to reconsider this bill and build on the successful model of development programs, such as Commercial Orbital Transportation Services and Commercial Crew. We also strongly urge support for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services program based on the same model. These programs effectively harness commercial participation, save taxpayer dollars, and support the development of a sustainable space economy. We look forward to working with members of the House Aeronautics and Space Subcommittee to address ways to strengthen H.R. 5666.