Shelby delivers big bucks to SLS, Gateway


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The boondoggle that never ends! The Senate has passed a 2020 budget that includes an increase of $1.2 billion for NASA’s Artemis program and Trump’s 2024 manned lunar landing proposal, almost all of which will go to Alabama, the home state of Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama).

In the Exploration section of the budget that does include the Moon mission, the big new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) would get nearly $2.6 billion in 2020, a $1.2 billion jump from this year. SLS is managed by the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The Orion crew capsule program would get $1.4 billion for continued development, the planned Lunar Gateway would get $500 million and lunar landers would get $744 million.

If the Democratically-controlled House ever decides to do anything but pursue sham impeachment charges against President Trump (such as approve a budget or deal with the Senate’s proposed commercial space legislation), it remains doubtful it will approve similar increases. During recent hearings on the budget, when the House was actually doing its real job, the Democrats were very hostile to funding Trump’s 2024 Moon proposal.

And even if the House should eventually go along, unlikely as that is, the money will not really get us closer to the Moon. The bulk of this cash is targeted to pay the salaries of NASA bureaucrats at Marshall, not actually build anything.

Meanwhile the second link above, “Cruz criticizes House for lack of action on commercial space legislation,” highlights the irresponsibility of the House under Democratic control.

Cruz and several other senators from both parties reintroduced the Space Frontier Act in March. The bill, favorably reported by the Senate Commerce Committee in April, calls for reforms of commercial launch and remote sensing regulations, which are already in progress, extends the authorization of the International Space Station through 2030 and elevates the Office of Space Commerce within the Commerce Department to the Bureau of Space Commerce, led by an assistant secretary.

The House, though, has not introduced a companion bill or related legislation, a lack of action that Cruz criticized. “It’s now been nearly a year since the Space Frontier Act has been on the House floor, and airlines, airline pilots and commercial space companies are no closer to getting greater certainty or having more of a voice on how our national airspace is managed than they were a year ago,” he said.

The Democrats might not agree with the language in this Senate bill, but they have an obligation to offer some alternative. Instead, they spend their time trying to overturn a legal election that they lost.

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3 comments

  • Wodun

    Democrats don’t want space commercialized, so don’t expect them to do anything. Marxism is ascending.

  • Dick Eagleson

    Well, Marxism is ascending in the Democratic Party and has already become normative in academe and the media. In the larger U.S. society that is less obviously the case. A century ago the U.S. had an actual Socialist Party that was a factor in Presidential Elections. It polled almost 6% of the national popular vote in 1912 though it never won a single electoral vote. The U.S. no longer has an aboveboard socialist party of anywhere near that size and it’s not clear that the Democratic Party is going to fill that void.

  • jaysin

    So, full disclosure: I basically disagree with everything you’ve ever said about the SLS+Orion programs on this site. I also disagree with your attempts to describe these actions in political terms, and your particular leanings. However, I am not here to discuss either of those things. What I am here to discuss is this:

    You’re wrong that it’s unlikely for the House to pass the increased budget for the lunar landers. A certain Senator Shelby proposed S.Amdt.948 to H.R.3055 (the House appropriations bill). The amendment includes roughly ~$700M for the HLS program (aka the lander program) and passed on a vote of 84-9 and the bill was returned to the House to approve the changes.

    Now I will grant you that, as the House has neither approved nor disapproved the changes yet, passage is not guaranteed. However, this is clearly the Senate showing its hand and stating they view these appropriations as a priority. If the House just *ignores* what the Senate wants, they’re not going to pass the bill. And do you really think Artemis is enough of a political item that any House rep will want to expend precious political capital fighting it? Especially considering how beloved of an agency NASA is by the public-at-large. Crucially, it’s one of the few agencies in this day and age where public approval isn’t partisan; Democratic voters like NASA roughly as much as Republican voters do.

    Anyway, my point is that I’m pretty sure you’re going to eat your words in this regard (sorry if that phrasing comes off as hostile, but I’m not sure how else to put it). The political factors involved here really point to passage of at least *some* Artemis funding in the House. The Senate would clearly not accept anything less.

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