Legislation Introduced on Shuttle Retirement Homes, U.S. Space Goals

Legislation Introduced on Shuttle Retirement Homes, U.S. Space Goals

As the House prepared to recess for its spring break, three bills were introduced that would affect NASA. Two address the retirement homes for the space shuttles and one would direct NASA to focus on returning astronauts to the Moon.

The shuttle retirement home issue arose after NASA Administrator Bolden decided to send the four orbiters to Kennedy Space Center (Atlantis), New York City (Enterprise), Washington, DC (Discovery) and Los Angeles (Endeavour). Folks in Texas and Ohio felt slighted. Some of the Ohio congressional delegation have called for a GAO investigation. Those who want Houston to be one of the locations have taken a different approach — legislation.

H.R. 1590, introduced by Rep. Shiela Jackson Lee (D-TX) and four co-sponsors would require that space shuttle Discovery be placed on display at Space Center Houston for 15 years and then “returned” to Washington, DC. NASA’s decision was to send Discovery to the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center outside of Washington, and since the legislation says that it would be “returned” to Washington it seems to assume that it would be in Washington first. How long it would be in Washington before being sent to Houston is not addressed in the legislation, nor is the money needed to transport it from one place to the other. NASA uses a specially converted 747 to ferry the shuttles around the country and presumably it would have to remain in service to accomplish the goal of this legislation.

H.R. 1536, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), would send Atlantis to Florida and Discovery to Washington, DC as NASA wants, but Enterprise would go to Los Angeles instead of New York. Endeavour, which NASA plans to send to Los Angeles, would go to Houston instead. New York would lose out. One complaint has been that three of the orbiters would be on the East Coast and none in the center of the country.

Separately, Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) introduced H.R. 1641, the Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act or the REAL Act. It directs NASA to plan to return astronauts to the Moon by 2022 and “develop a sustained human presence on the Moon, in order to promote exploration, commerce, science, and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations.” The bill does not include any funding, but states that NASA’s budget requests and expenditures should be “consistent with achieving this goal.”

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