House approves two space bills

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On December 16, a law was introduced by the House of Representatives to preserve Apollo-era resources on the moon as well as rename another NASA center after the first individual to land on the moon. A voice vote S. 1964 was voted on by the Assembly, “the One Small Step to Protect Human Heritage in Space Act.” The legislation was drafted in last year’s Senate by Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) as well as Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in which it did pass it by unanimous approval around the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission in 2019 July.

The aim of the bill is to preserve hardware as well as other objects left behind by the moon landings of Apollo as well as other lunar descents of the United States government by placing legal support behind a series of NASA informal recommendations released in 2011 on best practices for protecting such sites.  During the Google Lunar X Prize competition, the NASA agency issued those instructions as numerous teams were considering lunar landing ventures which would theoretically reach Apollo sites.

“No new legislative power is provided by the bill,” said Rep. Brian Babin, ranking member of the subcommittee on space, in his comments on the bill.” Alternatively, rather than a stick, the bill presents a carrot. If the private industry wishes to exploit the immense expertise and services provided by NASA, it clearly needs to conform with NASA’s own internal policies.

The reform is sponsored by one business community, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF).  Audrey Powers, the CSF board chairperson, said during a letter to the management of the House Science Committee on December 16 that the group approved the amended version passed by the House. “We support this move and promise to collaborate with NASA agency to secure the first measures taken by humanity towards another world, even as we allow so many explorers, researchers and investors to stepped foot on the Earth’s Moon,” she said. The amendments mean that the bill will have to be approved again by the senate. Horn noted that after House had approved it, the Senate was willing to do so.

A voice vote S was also voted on by the Assembly. 2472, ‘Neil A.’ Armstrong Research Facility Act.’ The bill reinvents the Neil A. Armstrong Test Facility as NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio. It was proposed by Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown in the Senate in September 2019 and passed unanimously in June by unanimous consensus. Owned by NASA’s Glenn Research Center, Plum Brook Station is best known for its thermal vacuum chambers as well as other equipment used to check and launch satellites, such as the Orion spacecraft. Members believed that naming the center after Armstrong, an Ohio resident made sense. “A world-class aviation research center in the state of Ohio is a key policy to be known for a native son is one of the most experienced and committed pilots in the world,” Horn said.

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