Even as the full Senate today begins its review of NASA’s newest authorization, the bill has been modified to grandfather in the contract award that NASA gave to SpaceX to build its manned lunar lander using Starship.
An earlier version of the bill had included language inserted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) demanding NASA award within 30 days a contract for a second lunar lander. The modified bill extends that timeline to 60 days, but also specifically protects SpaceX’s contract award:
The Administrator shall not, in order to comply with the obligations referred to in paragraph (1), modify, terminate or rescind any selection decisions or awards made under the human landing system program that were announced prior to the date of enactment of this division.
The revised bill still puts NASA in a ridiculous position. Combined with Cantwell’s amendment, the agency will now be forced to name a second lunar lander contract within sixty days. Though it recommends doubling the money for this program ($10 billion over five years instead of ten), it does not actually appropriate it. Moreover, that new budget recommendation is still about one half of what NASA had originally requested in order to fund the construction of two lunar landers.
Not surprisingly, the entire bill [pdf] has become a pork-laden collection of spending put together without any concern for the needs for the nation. Instead, ithe 1,445-page long bill “is the proverbial ‘Christmas tree’ with a Table of Contents that alone is 15 pages” that different senators keep adding items to, making it a hodge-podge of incoherence.
The bill itself however still has to be approved by both the Senate and the House. While this should act as a corrective to make it more sane, don’t expect that. Instead, the more likely result will be that the two houses of Congress will combine together their own personal earmarks into one humongous bill.
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