Draft NASA funding bill could cancel asteroid mission in favour of return to the moon

According to a June 14, 2013 story in Space News, a draft version of the 2013 NASA Authorization Bill nixes any funding for President Obama’s asteroid retrieval mission and instead directs NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface as soon as possible, funding of course permitted.

Other details of the bill include an increase in authorized funding for the commercial crew program, a decrease in Earth and climate science research, an increase in robotic planetary missions, and support for the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as a survey to hunt for Earth approaching asteroids and a search for exo solar planets.

The NASA bill is currently working its way through the House Science Committee. Thus far the Senate has not taken up NASA authorization. However the cancellation of the asteroid retrieval mission and an insistence on returning to the moon, which both President Obama and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden have opposed, would place Congress on a collision course with the White House should that version of the bill be passed by both houses of Congress.

Congress and the White House have been at odds over NASA’s space exploration policy ever since President Obama abruptly cancelled the Constellation space exploration program that would have returned American astronauts to the moon by 2020.

The bill holds NASA funding to below $17 billion which many consider to be inadequate for a return to the moon program.

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