Senator's Bill Would Expand Shuttle Program
The Obama administration's plans to mothball the space shuttle fleet at
the end of 2010 would be derailed by legislation introduced March 3 by
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX). Under Hutchinson's bill, U.S. manned
spaceflight would continue until at least 2013.
Four more shuttle missions are planned in 2010, with the last flight currently targeted for launch in September. After that, under Obama's plan, the fleet goes into retirement as NASA determines in what direction the future of U.S. manned spaceflight is headed.
Hutchinson's Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act would allocate an additional $3.4 billion between 2010 and 2012 to keep the space shuttle flying. Obama's NASA budget calls for $989 million for the space shuttle program and another $85 million in 2012, funds mostly dedicated to retiring the fleet.
"We must close the gap in U.S. human space flight or face the reality that we will be totally dependent on Russia for access to space until the next generation of space vehicle is developed," Hutchison said in a statement. "If the space shuttle program is terminated, Russia and China will be the only nations in the world with the capability to launch humans into space. This is unacceptable."
The bill would require NASA to spread out the remaining shuttle flights and could possibly add additional flights. It would also mandate that NASA study options for a new rocket launcher that could deliver astronauts to the the ISS (International Space Station) by the end of 2013 and beyond low Earth orbit by 2019.