The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee will mark up a 2024 NASA authorization bill on Wednesday. SpacePolicyOnline.com has obtained a copy of the discussion draft. An amended version is expected to be circulated later today or tomorrow.

Authorization bills set policy. Although they may recommend funding levels, only appropriations committees have money to spend.

In this case, however, the discussion draft of the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2024 recommends FY2025 funding levels that match those approved by the House Appropriations Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee (the full House Appropriations Committee will markup the CJS bill tomorrow morning) with only one exception, STEM Education. The CJS subcommittee approved $89 million compared to the $143.5 million requested by the Biden Administration.  The discussion draft recommends $135 million.

The draft does not propose funding levels for future years.

A quick glance leaves the impression that the draft largely reaffirms existing policy about NASA’s space and aeronautics activities. That includes support for the Artemis program as part of a Moon to Mars strategy, for the International Space Station and commercial space stations to replace it, for a strong aeronautics program with a special focus on hypersonics research, for space technology programs related to lunar exploration, and for a balanced science program that includes different types and classes of missions as well as research and analysis grants and technology development. The science section has extensive language about a number of science programs including Mars Sample Return, directing NASA to pursue it “subject to availability of appropriations” on a timeline to maintain U.S. leadership.

Throughout the draft, the committee expresses support for commercial space activities and NASA partnerships with the private sector, including a section on “advancement of private sector human space activities.”

The draft also supports international cooperation, but a new requirement would be that after January 1, 2025, the NASA Administrator could not include an international contribution that is on the critical path of getting humans on the surface of Mars unless the Administrator determines the risk of under- or non-performance is low, prepares a backup plan in case the international partner does not perform as expected, and submits a report to Congress explaining its decision to proceed 30 days before entering into a commitment.

NASA relies extensively on international cooperation not only for the International Space Station, but for the Artemis lunar program including critical path components like the Orion spacecraft’s Service Module, which is provided by ESA.

This article will be updated when the revised version of the draft is available.

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