House to Vote on Senate Bill Wednesday

So here it is, finally. After the new House rewrite failed to garner support with the commercial spaceflight advocates, it seems that august body has decided to give up messing with the bill and just vote on the Senate, under a suspension of the rules which limits debate and requires a 2/3 majority vote.

Despite the major backlash against the House’s proposal, Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN)–the one quoted in the above article–does have a point in a few cases. For one, the Senate’s ideas for the upcoming SDHLV does seem rather overly specific, going so far as to describe specific technological elements that should go into the vehicle. For another, if there’s no funding increase for the half-billion-dollar STS-135 launch, that money will have to come from other NASA programs, and then it’s the last ten years all over again.

But he might also be right that a flawed bill is better than no bill at all. It all sounds to me like a last-minute push to garner votes before the November elections, where all 435 House seats will be up for a vote.

But at least it’s a vote, and with an acceptable outcome if it passes. At the very least, passing is more acceptable than not passing, in which case we might be stuck with a continuing resolution, with NASA spending money and time on something it might have to throw away in the end. More or less.

EDIT: To clarify–with information I just recently found–the vote is for an authorization bill, which does not preclude a continuing resolution. The authorization bill merely says “The government has the authority to perform this action”, whereas an appropriations bill says “And here’s where they get the money to do it.” There’s a nice little discussion about it here, although I’m still not sure I entirely understand it.

The State of Things

In journalism, when one writes a regular column, one must have regular updates. In order to prevent boredom, these updates must have new topics, or at least new angles on old topics.

The problem with my “regular” column is that there are neither available to me at the moment–which is why this blog has gone for many weeks without an update. That and my personal life, but that being personal, it will remain off this blog.

So, the state of things. In a word: unchanged. NASA’s still working on the same old stuff it can’t afford anyhow, Congress is still split–even after the House’s new “compromise” bill, which is being summarily rejected by the commercial space advocates. I’m torn as well–take what we can get and at least start moving forward, or hold out for a better situation and risk losing it altogether?

At least I’m less sore now about Mars–or I would be, I suppose, if I was convinced we were actually going to do anything there long-term. Robert Zubrin’s late-90s books–The Case for Mars and Entering Space–have made a convert of me, but only if we actually do what’s important there–starting a full-time colony. A lunar base is a wonderful idea in its own right, of course, and something I think would be a perfect start to the “series of firsts”, but Dr. Zubrin is right: it’s not a place we can settle, not as a species, not the way we have to.

So, in short–something unusual for my posts here, I know–nothing has changed, really, and there’s not much else to say on what’s still there. In light of that, this may once again be the last post for many weeks. I suppose we’ll know by the midterm elections.