Trump signs NASA Transition Authorization act of 2017
President Donald Trump signed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization act of 2017 into law on March 21, 2017. The bill is the first such act passed by Congress and subsequently signed by the president since 2010.
The act, known in the 115th Congress as S.442, was designed to ensure continuity of purpose in human space exploration, space science, and technology programs.
“For almost six decades, NASA’s work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on Earth,” Trump said in a signing ceremony for the bill. “With this legislation, we support NASA’s scientists, engineers, astronauts, and their pursuit of discovery.”
Trump said the bill also calls for ongoing medical monitoring and treatment for astronauts from conditions that result from their service. He said it will also make sure NASA’s most important programs are sustained including continuing transiting activities to the commercial sector.
“It’s amazing what’s been going on,” Trump said. “So many people and so many companies are so into exactly what NASA stands for. The commercial and private sector will get to use these facilities and I hope they’ll be going to be paying us a lot of money. But they’re going to make great progress.”
Trump said the bill continues support for the current dual path approach the space agency has been pursuing for the last seven years: commercial crew to carry American astronauts to space to the International Space Station as well as the Space Launch System and Orion capsule for deep space exploration.
In a statement released after the signing of the transition authorization act, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration applauded Trump and Congress.
Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, executive director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, said: “The bipartisan NASA Transition Authorization Act, which was passed without objection by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Trump today, represents our nation’s continued commitment to NASA’s deep space exploration program.
“The unanimous bipartisan support for this re-authorization, along with the budget requested for NASA released by the White House last week, demonstrates the deep support throughout the Administration and Congress for our national space exploration program.”
This signing comes about a week after the White House released its fiscal year 2018 budget blueprint. In this plan, while discretionary spending on a whole would be cut by about $54 billion to pay for a defense spending increase of the same amount, NASA was left relatively unscathed. The proposal would ultimately cut NASA by about $200 million to $19.1 billion, with the hardest hit being four climate science satellites and NASA’s Office of Education. Additionally, the Asteroid Redirect Mission would be canceled.
The blueprint is just that, however. It is a “wish list” of what the president hopes to include in the final proposal, which is due out in May to be submitted to Congress.
From there, both the House of Representatives and the Senate will create and pass budget resolutions, which will then be reconciled and agreed upon in a joint committee. That resolution goes back to each houses’ 12 appropriations committees to determine exact spending levels for each item in the budget.
None of this has to reflect the president’s original budget proposal.
After both houses pass their appropriations bills and reconcile differences in another joint committee, it is then sent to the president’s desk where he will either sign it to make it law or veto it.
For now, the new NASA Transition Act of 2017 authorizes $19.5 billion for the space agency in the fiscal year 2017, which ends Sept. 30.
“It advances space science by maintaining a balanced set of mission and activities to explore our Solar System and the entire universe,” Trump said. “It ensures that through NASA’s astronauts and aeronautics research, the United States will remain a total leader in aviation.”
At the end of the ceremony, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed that the president would be re-establishing the National Space Council. It originally existed between 1989 and 1993 during the George H.W. Bush administration. Before that, between 1958 and 1973, the National Aeronautics and Space Council existed.
According to The Space Review, the council, which was chaired by several executive office secretaries, had four main missions: (1) establish broad goals and objectives for the space program, (2) establish strategies to implement these goals and objectives through a nationwide set of activities, (3) monitor the implementation of these strategies, and (4) resolve disagreements in implementing these strategies.
The council was dissolved in 1993 with its functions being absorbed by the National Science and Technology Council. If a new council is created, Pence said he would chair it, as other vice presidents have done in the past.
“We’re going to be bringing the best and the brightest in NASA and also in the private sector,” Pence said. “We have elected a builder for president and, as he said, America once again is to start building and leading to the stars.”
Video courtesy of the White House
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.