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Obama signed the NASA authorization bill today.
Update and bumped: This Spaceflight Now article includes this quote from Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida):
“What is in this bill is $11.5 billion over the next six years, anticipated, even though it’s a three-year authorization, for development and testing of a heavy lift rocket. Now if we can’t develop a new rocket for $11.5 billion, building on a lot of the technologies that were already developed in spending $9 billion (on the Constellation program’s Ares rockets), if we can’t do it for that, then we ought to question whether or not we can build a rocket.”
Based on NASA’s track record in trying to build a replacement to the shuttle, I remain very skeptical indeed whether NASA can build this rocket. I do hope, however, that my skepticism is proven wrong.
Note also that the funding for this authorization bill is as yet not appropriated. Plans to do so during the lame duck session of Congress after the elections remain fraught with problems.