Cochran and Wicker file bill to stop threat to Constellation - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Cochran and Wicker file bill to stop threat to NASA's Constellation Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WLOX)- Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker Friday cosponsored a measure to prohibit NASA from suspending work on the Constellation Program without justification.

The Constellation Program was established in 2004 to be the human space exploration program to replace the Space Shuttle.  Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is currently building rocket test stands for the Constellation Engines.  

Last month, President Barack Obama's budget proposal cut funding to the Constellation Program.  Obama supports deep-space exploration, but has yet to lay out a destination for astronauts or a timetable.

The legislation introduced Friday reaffirms language in the FY2010 Omnibus Appropriations Bill that directs NASA to continue moving forward with Constellation and prohibits termination or modification of existing contracts unless separate legislation is passed by Congress.

"The Congress should continuously reexamine the roles and strategies of all federal agencies, but the Senate and House have not had sufficient time to study, much less adopt, the administration's ideas about the future of NASA or U.S. manned space missions. Prematurely shutting down existing projects like Constellation before Congress has determined the policies and funding for NASA is ill-advised and irresponsible. It should be up to the federal taxpayers, who are represented by Congress, to ultimately shape our nation's future in space," Cochran said.

"The termination of the Constellation Program would be a major shift for NASA, and it could have serious implications for America's leadership in space as well as the economic well-being of Mississippi and the rest of the country," said Wicker. "We need a clear plan to continue human space flight, and we must not walk away from this program, in which we have invested billions of taxpayer dollars in critical research and new technologies."

The legislation would also waive Anti-deficiency Act provisions cited by the Administrator as justification for setting aside funding and stalling additional work on Constellation. It also requires a study to review the contracts and prohibits any efforts to cancel contracts necessary for the support of the remaining shuttle flights.

The measure was introduced by Senator George LeMieux (R-Fla.) and is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah).

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