08:08 AM

USRA Supports Introduction of NASA Authorization Bill by Congressman Udall

Representative Mark Udall of Colorado introduced in the House this past week the NASA Authorization Act of 2008. Representative Udall, who chairs the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee of the Committee on Science and Technology, was joined by Representative Bart Gordon of Tennessee, Representative Ralph Hall of Texas, and Representative Tom Feeney of Florida. The bill authorizes funding to NASA of $19.2 billion for fiscal year 2009, above the President's budget request of $17.6 billion. The previous NASA authorization bill was enacted in 2005. USRA supports this important legislation and commends Chairman Udall for introducing the bill this year.

The bill contains several groundbreaking provisions including making NASA a part of America's innovation agenda, along with other agencies that were included in the 'America COMPETES Act' last year, and the bill includes support of small university-led missions that enable hands-on training for undergraduate and graduate students. In March of this year, USRA member universities unanimously adopted a resolution at their annual meeting urging that at least 1% of NASA's total budget be devoted to funding competitive opportunities for university-led hands-on training provided by missions on sounding rockets, high altitude balloons, remotely piloted vehicles, emerging commercial suborbital flights, and university class space flight missions. Today, there are fewer opportunities at our nation's research universities for the next-generation of scientists and engineers to gain the hands-on training they will need to succeed in aerospace fields. In fact, the number of flight opportunities through which university students can build hardware and analyze related space data has declined steadily over the last two decades. Since 1970, suborbital experimental launches have decreased eighty percent – from 270 launches per year to less 50 planned launches this year. This bill will reverse this decades-long decline.

The full text of the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 as introduced in the House is available for download.

The Universities Space Research Association, established in 1969 by the National Academy of Sciences, is a private, nonprofit consortium of 102 universities offering advanced degrees in space- and aeronautics-related disciplines. USRA's mission is to conduct leading-edge research, develop innovative technologies, promote education and policy across the breadth of space science, and operate premier science and technology facilities by involving universities, private industry and government.