Congress debating funding priorities for NASA

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An aerial view of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Pasadena, California and the surrounding San Gabriel Mountains.

It’s appropriation season - the time of year that Congress decides how and where the federal government will spend its money. One California Congressman is torn about funding priorities for the national space agency.

The president’s already made it clear that he thinks NASA should shift its resources away from rockets to the moon toward earth science projects and research.

Democrat Adam Schiff sits on the appropriations subcommittee that monitors NASA’s budget. His district includes Caltech – the launch pad for a lot of the scientists who work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Schiff says he's a "big fan of the robotic program which is important to JPL. That budget does very well in the president’s estimate."

"But I’m also concerned that we also maintain our leadership in manned spaceflight. Having really no heavy lift capability, being reliant on the Russians gives me great pause."

Schiff says he’d hate to give up America’s preeminence in human space flight. The challenge, he says, is deciding whether to emphasize research and development of new ways to travel into space, or to rely on existing technologies.

Congress is expected to vote on NASA’s budget in coming weeks.

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