Jun 28 2007

Spending bill funds many area projects Senate committee vote today on science, security measure

Huntsville Times

By Shelby Spires

A key spending bill that would pay for several Huntsville-area projects has cleared a Senate subcommittee and is scheduled for a vote today by the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to Sen. Richard Shelby's office.

Included in the fiscal 2008 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill are $1.2 billion for the Marshall Space Flight Center-managed Ares 1 rocket, $278.2 million for a Marshall lunar probe office and $35 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to build a National Center for Explosives Training and Research on Redstone Arsenal.

"Our bill strikes an important balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, terrorism, research and strengthening U.S. competitiveness through investment in science," Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said in a statement.

The bill cleared the Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee on Monday and could be voted on today by the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Laura Henderson, Shelby's spokeswoman.

Shelby is the ranking member of this committee, which also manages NASA's budget. The bill will still have to be agreed upon by the House and Senate and signed by the president before becoming law. The federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Almost $5 million is included for science and research programs at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and Alabama A&M.

The bill also pays for several smaller Marshall projects related to advanced space propulsion and science, including $2.1 million for nuclear space power and $2 million for an autonomous rendezvous and docking system that would allow spacecraft to safely dock with the International Space Station.

Shelby said the nuclear power systems are key to future NASA missions in space, on the moon and Mars.

"In order to effectively and efficiently achieve these missions, affordable and abundant power will be required," he said. "Nuclear power technology is the most promising source to accomplish this goal and space nuclear power systems will help NASA's development of these resources."