U.S. Congress has just passed a new bill that authorizes $19.5 billion worth of spending for 2017. The bill includes items such as manned missions to Mars and Europa exploration missions.
The House approved on a voice vote the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017, S.442, after a brief discussion on the House floor where no members spoke against the bill. The same bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent Feb. 17.
This is huge news, as it’s the first time in over 6 years that congress has approved a NASA authorization build. Facing little opposition, the bill is now awaiting the signature of President Trump.
The bill argues that the robotic exploration of Europa “should be supported”and will work towards the “long-term goal of human missions near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s”. It will also maintain funding for existing projects such as Orion, SLS, and the commercial crew program.
One part of the mission, the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), was scheduled to move an asteroid into lunar orbit by 2020, but this project seems destined for delays as congress acknowledges “the technological and scientific goals… have not been demonstrated”.
“The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 reaffirms our support for the bold visions and commitments that will shape America’s future in space,” Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, said in a statement after the bill’s passage. “This bill reiterates the importance of maintaining NASA’s continuity of purpose to ensure America remains a leader in space exploration.”