Courtesy: Explore Mars, Inc.

Last week, Congress passed S. 442: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Transition Authorization Act of 2017.

The bill originally introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

In the House, the chairmen with committees of jurisdiction for the bill are U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, and Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee.

Serious commitment

In a March 10 message from key champion of the bill, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas):

Credit: Bob Sauls – XP4D/Explore Mars, Inc. (used with permission)

“The legislation provides stability for NASA to sustain and build upon existing national space investments designed to advance space exploration and science with an overall authorization level of $19.508 billion for fiscal year 2017.”

“This legislation makes a serious commitment to the manned exploration of space and ensures that the Johnson Space Center remains the crown jewel of NASA’s human spaceflight missions,” Cruz points out.

“I look forward to the President signing this legislation,” Cruz adds, “which lays the groundwork for the mission to Mars and enables commercial space ventures to flourish, which will foster extraordinary economic growth and job creation throughout Texas.”

Artist concept of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) 70-metric-ton configuration launching to space. SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever built for deep space missions, including to Mars.
Credit: NASA


Highlights of S. 442, The NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017:

Sustaining National Space Commitments and Utilizing the International Space Station

  • Support for Continuity – Affirms Congress’ support for sustained space investments across presidential administrations to advance recent achievements in space exploration and space science. This includes the development of the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and the Orion crew vehicle for deep space exploration, maximizing utilization of the International Space Station (ISS), the James Webb Space Telescope, and continued commitment to a national, government-led space program.
  • International Space Station – Supports full and complete utilization of the ISS through at least 2024, and the use of private sector companies partnering with NASA to deliver cargo and experiments. Also facilitates the development of vehicles to transport astronauts from U.S. soil to end our reliance on Russian launches for crew transport.
  • Facilitating Commercialization and Economic Development of Low-Earth Orbit – Requires NASA to submit a report to Congress outlining a plan to facilitate a transformation of operations in low-earth orbit from a model largely reliant on government support to one reflecting a more commercially viable future.

    International Space Station.
    Credit: NASA

Advancing Human Deep Space Exploration

  • Journey to Mars – Amends current law by adding human exploration of Mars as one of the goals and objectives of NASA and directs NASA to manage human space flight programs to enable humans to explore Mars and other destinations. Requires NASA to develop and submit a plan to Congress on a strategic framework and critical decision plan based on current technologies to achieve the exploration goals and objectives.
  • Development of Deep Space Capabilities – Directs NASA to continue the development of the Space Launch System and Orion for a broad deep space mission set, with specific milestones for an uncrewed exploration mission by 2018 and a crewed exploration mission by 2021.

During his nearly one-year space mission, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly took a selfie with the Bahamas from 250 miles above Earth aboard the International Space Station.
Credit: Scott Kelly/NASA

Medical Monitoring of Astronauts

  • Medical Effects of Space – Authorizes NASA to provide for the medical monitoring, diagnosis, and treatment of astronauts, including scientific and medical tests for psychological and medical conditions deemed by NASA to be associated with human space flight.
  • Recognizing Impact of Scott Kelly’s 340 Days in Space –Gives recognition that the 340-day space mission of Scott Kelly aboard the ISS generated new insight into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation, and the stress of long-duration space flight and will help support the physical and mental well-being of astronauts during longer space exploration missions in the future.

To read the full bill, go to:

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