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Sun, Nov 30, 2014

NASA's Priorities May Change Under New Congress

GOP-Led Senate Likely To Raise Questions About Certain Missions

When the next congress convenes with Republicans in control of the U.S. Senate, NASA may be fighting an uphill battle to keep some of the programs it currently considers high-profile in place.

One of the biggest losers may be the asteroid redirect mission, which has long been a target of the GOP-led House Science Committee. Under a Republican-controlled Senate, that mission is likely to face increased scrutiny in the upper chamber, according to a report in USA Today. The asteroid redirect mission has been an apparent favorite of the Obama administration. But Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz ... an well-known budget hawk ... is likely to become the chair of the Senate Science and Transportation subcommittee that has NASA oversight responsibility, and Cruz may join the House Science Committee which has defunded the asteroid redirect mission in the past.

Some critics of the GOP say they fear that a Republican-led Senate may also cut funding for the Commercial Crew program, which would eliminate the need to purchase seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft from Russia to ferry American astronauts to ISS. However, some in the GOP have said that the Commercial Crew effort diverts necessary resources from the SLS program. NASA says that cutting funding for the program could add as much as a year to the timeline for the first launch of astronauts to ISS from American soil.

NASA's Earth Sciences will also likely be the target of increased scrutiny. Nearly 10% of NASA's $18 billion budget goes to monitoring atmospheric conditions, oceans, and precipitation levels. NASA currently manages more than a dozen satellites with a primary mission of monitoring the planet's ecosystem. Many both on Capitol Hill and elsewhere say that the agency should focus more on space exploration and less on turning its gaze back towards Earth.

(Image from file)



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