Supporters of NASA's manned spaceflight program took action Thursday to oppose President Obama's plan to slash funding. The Senate Appropriatoins Committee voted unanimously to reinforce a current law requiring congressional approval before cutting funding for the Constillation program.
Republican Sen. Richard Shelby and Bob Bennet sponsored the measure, which was tacked onto a $58.8 billion emergency spending bill funding the war in Afghanistan. Bennet said the amendment ensures the administration cannot end the program or terminate current Constillation contracts without congressional approval. Shelby said the administration is violating the spirit of the law by attempting to quash Constillation from within NASA.
"The president's NASA proposal has no clear direction other than to concel Constellation, at any price, even if it means relinquishing our leadership in space, "said Shelby. "NASA is now attempting to undermine current law as it relates to Fiscal Year 2010 Constillation funding by slow rolling contracts and pressuring companies to self-terminate. It is disappointing that the political appointees at NASA have so much trouble following the letter and spirit of the law."
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson also expressed support for the measure and criticized the administration for interfering with NASA contracts.
"The administration's proposals have not been approved by Congress and probably will not be, and it was premature for them to begin terminating procedures," Hutchinson told the Houston Chronicle. "In the supplement bill, we were able to stop the administration from terminating contracts for work on the Constellation program," she added.
The language of the amendment states funds budgeted for Constellation in fiscal 2010 must be used to fund the program, and contracts "may not be terminated for convienience" by NASA during the fiscal year. In February, the Obama administration unveiled a plan to end the Constillation program and shift NASA's focus to building a capsule to take astronauts to Mars and beyond.
However, the President's paln to rely on the commercial space industry to ferry astronauts to the international space station was blasted by many in the scientific community, including astronaut Neil Armstrong who criticized the White House's approach at a hearing this week.
So has president Obama violated the checks and balances of power? Basically Congress passed the Constillation program and included in the verbage that defunding could not take place unless Congressional approval was given. However, Obama appointed cronies from within NASA have undermined this by slow rolling contracts and pressuring companies to self terminate, hince terminating the Constillation program from within so as to bypass the letter and spirit of the law.