WASHINGTON — Congress passed the first NASA Permits Act in more than five years, formally extending operations of the International Space Station and supporting NASA’s Artemis exploration efforts.
The House of Representatives passed the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act on July 28 by a vote of 243 to 187, a day after the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 64 to 33. President Biden has said he supports the law and will enact it.
The bill was primarily a means of supporting domestic semiconductor manufacturing, but part of the bill involved NASA approval legislation. This part, released last week, extends NASA’s authorization to operate the ISS from 2024 to 2030. It also officially authorizes a “Moon to Mars program” that includes the Artemis campaign of lunar missions and eventual manned missions to Mars.
The bill will become the first NASA authorization act since the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 in March 2017. This, in turn, was the first NASA authorization act enacted since 2010. In the last five years there have been several attempts at new NASA approval bills, including versions that passed one branch of Congress but not both.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who served as a senator on several NASA permitting bills, welcomed the new law. “This law demonstrates continued bipartisan support for NASA’s many missions, including our Moon-to-Mars approach, as well as extending U.S. participation in the International Space Station through 2030,” he said in a statement.
Industry associations also supported the bill. “It is encouraging to see Congress prioritize improving NASA technology, infrastructure and manpower in this legislation while approving key programs including Artemis, ISS expansion, X-Plane sustainable aviation demonstrators, nuclear space systems and a wide range of scientific missions,” said Eric Fanning, president and chief executive officer of the Aerospace Industries Association, in a statement July 27 after the Senate passed the bill.
“I am very pleased to have helped create and secure NASA’s first permit in five years,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Outer Space Affairs, in a statement, after the House of Representatives passed the law. “This law is a major win for space policy, the US space program and NASA.”
In his statement, Nelson thanked several members of Congress from both parties for their work on the NASA portion of the CHIPS and Science Act. However, some of the Republicans he thanked voted against the final bill.
Among them was Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), senior member of the House Science Committee. In comments on the House floor, he said he was voting against the bill because of efforts by Senate Democrats, who were only announced after the Senate passed the bill, to push a separate bill through the budget voting process.
“For better or for worse – and it’s clearly for the worse – the CHIPS and Science Act was irrevocably coupled with a massive tax hike and spending spree for reconciliation,” he said in his speech, announcing his intention to vote against the law , but added that his decision “in no way reflects my feelings about the transformative research policy in this bill.”
In the House of Representatives, 24 Republicans voted in favor of the CHIPS and Science Act, joining all House Democrats except one who voted present.