House vote shoots down plans for manned asteroid mission

A U.S. House committee has rejected funding for a manned mission to an asteroid, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s human space exploration proposal.

The House Science Committee voted Thursday for a stripped-down $16.8 billion authorization bill for NASA that included language explicitly prohibiting the agency from proceeding with the proposed asteroid project, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The authorization bill came in at more than $1 billion less than the White House and the Senate had been seeking for NASA.

Turning its back on the White House’s initiative to send a robotic mission to a small asteroid by 2016 and return it to a lunar orbit for examination by astronauts, the bill sets priorities for returning astronauts to the moon, perhaps as soon as 2020, and a future manned mission to Mars.

Although NASA declined to comment after Thursday’s vote, a spokesman had said earlier agency officials were “deeply concerned” that House GOP leaders were attempting cuts to White House budget requests “that would challenge America’s pre-eminence in space.”

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