Cantwell, Commerce Leaders Introduce NASA Reauthorization

Legislation will support efforts to return to the moon, prepare for journeys to Mars; Space industry contributes over 6,200 jobs, $1.78 billion in economic activity to Washington state economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, joined other leaders of the committee in introducing the NASA Authorization Act of 2019. The bill provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the clear direction needed to advance our nation’s space and science initiatives and investments and assert the United States’ global leadership in the final frontier. 

Washington state has played an important part in American space exploration since NASA was first founded. The state is home to more than three dozen space-related companies and over 1,400 aerospace companies. The space industry employs more than 6,200 workers in Washington and generates $1.78 billion in economic activity throughout the state. Because of the state’s leadership, Forbes in 2016 called Seattle a “silicon valley for space.” 

“Washington state has been a leader in the space program for over 50 years, and with this legislation our state is poised to be a key part of NASA’s return to the moon,” said Cantwell. “This time, women will be included at every level of the lunar exploration program—something that is long overdue. This bill also expands NASA’s important role in inspiring and educating the next generation of the nation’s STEM workforce so that America has the people necessary to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation.” 

Specifically, the legislation would: 

  • Support NASA’s human spaceflight and exploration efforts to return American astronauts to the moon and prepare for future journeys to Mars, while also stating that human exploration programs should include and represent all people of the United States, including women and minorities. 
  • Extend authorization for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 and direct NASA to take steps to grow the “space economy.” 
  • Require the United States to maintain a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit through and beyond the useful life of the ISS. 
  • Support NASA’s leadership in coordinating the development of next generation spacesuits and require the spacesuits be designed to accommodate a diverse astronaut corps. 
  • Leverage private sector investment to bolster human space exploration. 
  • Reaffirm the importance of NASA’s space science programs and require NASA to follow the guidance of the National Academy of Sciences’ decadal surveys. 
  • Support vital life and physical science research to ensure that humans can live in deep space safely. 
  • Authorize new research partnerships with the nation’s colleges and universities. 
  • Direct NASA to improve upon its planetary defense measures in order to protect Earth from asteroids and other near-Earth objects. 
  • Affirm NASA’s commitment to aeronautics research by supporting a robust X-plane program, as well as work on energy efficient propulsion concepts and advanced composites. 
  • Support NASA’s STEM education efforts and authorize a new program to provide outreach to students interested in skilled technical careers. 

In addition to Cantwell, the legislation is also sponsored by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space; Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the ranking member of the subcommittee; and Roger Wicker (R-MS), chairman of the Commerce Committee. 

The full text of the bill is available HERE.