House Votes to Deny Funding for Mission to Explore Moon and Mars
Ignoring protests by President Bush, the House voted Thursday to deny money for the proposed space exploration mission to the moon and Mars.
Bush had requested $309 million for preliminary work on the moon-Mars mission, but nearly all of the money was left out of the $83.6-billion 1991 appropriations bill for the space agency and various other agencies and departments, including the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs.
The House passed the bill on a 355-48 vote after an attempt by Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa.) to restore $267 million for the mission was ruled out of order on a procedural point. Walker argued that the space exploration project is “an important initiative to this nation’s future.”
The bill now goes to the Senate, where the Administration may try to restore money for the program.
Bush, in a June 20 visit to the Marshall Space Center in Huntsville, Ala., criticized the House Appropriations Committee, which had voted against the funding, for “pulling the plug” on the mission. Cutting the funds showed “not everyone on Capitol Hill shares this commitment to investing in America’s future,” he said.
During debate on the bill, Rep. Bob Traxler (D-Mich.) defended elimination of the moon-Mars funding, saying it was made necessary by the “very, very difficult financial times” faced by Congress.
Traxler noted that the overall increase for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the largest in 10 years.
Although the Appropriations Committee and the House voted to eliminate the moon-Mars mission funds, the bill provides an overall 17% increase in NASA’s appropriation over the current year. The total for NASA is $14.3 billion. Bush had sought 5% more than the bill provides.
Included in the bill is $2.3 billion for the space station, which is $195 million below Bush’s request, and $114 million for the national aerospace plane, $5 million less than the request.
After a brief debate, the managers of the bill accepted an amendment to eliminate $6 million for the NASA program that searches for evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence.