Proposed Legislation Would Direct U. S. Return to the Moon

April 24th, 2011

The full face of the moon. Photo Credit/NASA Photo

A recently introduced House bill, the Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act, would require the United States to resume efforts to return human explorers to the moon, this time by 2022, and establish a “sustained presence.”

The legislation, H. R. 1641, was introduced on April 15 by U. S. Rep. Bill Posey, of Florida, and referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, where its fate is uncertain.

Posey’s co-sponsors include fellow Republicans Rob Bishop of Utah, Pete Olson of Texas and Frank Wolf of Virginia as well as Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas Democrat.

The lunar strategy would keep the U. S. ahead of Russia and China in space and improve the economy, promote national security, according to the five-page bill. It would underpin U. S. advancements in science and technology, including medicine, and help to inspire America’s youth to improve their proficiencies in math and science, according to the bill.

“We are on the verge of ceding 40 years of American leadership in space,” Posey wrote in an April 7 op-ed in Florida Today in which he outlined his intent to file the bill.  “While budget allocations are important to our space program, without a vision for our human spaceflight program, our program will flounder and ultimately perish.”

President Obama asked for the termination of NASA’s Constellation back-to-the moon program as part of his 2010 budget submission to Congress. The request came after a White House commission determined the initiative, proposed by President Bush in 2004, was on a financially unsustainable course. Constellation aimed at a 2020 human return to the moon with provisions to establish a human base four years later.

The 2011 compromise budget Continuing Resolution, agreed to by Obama and Congress earlier this month, enables NASA to proceed with Constellation’s termination in order to pursue the exploration blue print outlined in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.

The authorization act, another compromise between the White House and Congress on space, requires NASA to develop a new spacecraft — the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle — and a heavy lift rocket — the Space Launch System — by the end of 2016. The new hardware, borrowing from Constellation work as well as shuttle technologies, would be capable of taking humans to unspecified deep space destinations as well as to the International Space Station.

Last year, President Obama asked NASA to forgo human missions to the moon in favor of a voyage to a near Earth asteroid by 2025. The United States should strive for a human mission to the moons of Mars in the decade that follows and ultimately to the surface of the Red Planet, the president said.