Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would slash what National Aeronautics and Space Administration spends on earth sciences, including funds that go toward researching global warming.
Texas Rep. Lamar Smith and fellow Republicans on the House Science Committee passed a bill that would cut funding for earth science at NASA while increasing funding for space exploration. Republicans have heavily criticized NASA for focusing too much on global warming while neglecting the reason it was created: to explore space.
“For more than 50 years, the U.S. has led the world in space exploration,” Smith said in a statement. “We must restore balance to NASA’s budget if we want to ensure the U.S. continues to lead in space for the next 50 years. And we must continue to invest in NASA as the only government agency responsible for space exploration.”
Smith’s bill directs funding towards developing NASA’s ability to access the International Space Station and launching “American astronauts on American rockets from American soil.” The bill also directs funding at manned deep space exploration missions to places like Mars.
Democrats, however, said the bill cuts Earth sciences funding at a time when global warming is getting worse and needs more attention.
“Despite the fact that in January NASA announced 2014 was likely the warmest year since 1880, it should come as no surprise that the majority wants to cut funding for climate science,” wrote Texas Rep. Eddie Johnson, the ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee.
“Of course, NASA’s earth science program is much, much more than just climate science,” she wrote. “Basically, NASA’s earth science program provides critical measurements and research on planet Earth as a system and how it is changing over time.”
Some science associations have come out against the Republican bill, saying it cuts much needed funding to study the natural world. Other science groups, mainly focusing on space, praised the bill. The commercial space flight lobby was one such group that supported the bill.
House Republicans aren’t the only ones who have called into question NASA’s priorities in recent months. In March, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz chastised NASA for focusing too much on global warming and not enough on space exploration.
“Since the end of the last administration, we have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated to the Earth sciences program at the expense of programs that support space exploration,” the Republican presidential candidate said during a March hearing.
“Almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space,” Cruz said. “That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country… and you know that I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission.”
Republicans say the Obama administration has cut funding for human space exploration while increasing funding for Earth sciences by 63 percent.
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