President Trump signed a bipartisan bill Tuesday that funds NASA programs and maps out a plan to send a manned mission to Mars.
The NASA Transition Authorization Act, which was co-authored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., distributes $19.5 billion for the space agency’s 2018 fiscal year (beginning Oct. 1). The bill also calls for NASA to draft a plan for a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s. The bill closely aligns with Trump’s $19.1 billion budget proposal for the agency.
Money will be delegated for deep space exploration, refining the International Space Station, commercial partnerships, and planning for the mission to Mars. The bill also “authorizes a space technology program” the White House said in a statement.
“It is the first time in seven years we’ve had a NASA authorization bill,” Sen. Cruz said, joking with President Trump that he could now “send Congress to space.”
“We could. What a great idea that could be,” Trump responded.
“This means a great deal for the nation’s space exploration, and it means a great deal for the state of Texas, and it continues America’s leadership in space,” Cruz added.
The president said NASA would continue to focus on space exploration while also working on transitioning more space activities to private companies.
“It’s been a long time since a bill like this has been signed, reaffirming our national commitment to the core mission of NASA, human space exploration, space science and technology,” the president said. “With this legislation, we support NASA’s scientists, engineers and astronauts and their pursuit of discovery.”
The bill appears to move the space agency back to its core duties. Former President Obama famously turned NASA into an agency that prioritized climate change, along with reaching out to the Islamic world. (For more from the author of “Shoot for Mars! Trump Signs Cruz-Rubio $19.5 Billion NASA Bill” please click HERE)