For the first time in five years, Congress has voted to authorize the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) operations with the passage of the NASA Authorization Act of 2022.
The legislation, which was included in the CHIPS Act, will extend NASA’s ability to operate the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030. It also formally permits a “Moon to Mars Program,” which includes the Artemis campaign of lunar missions and eventual human missions to Mars.
Senator Roger Wicker, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, touted the passage of the NASA Authorization Act.
“Congress just took a significant step to bolster our national security by passing the CHIPS Act of 2022,” Wicker said. “The NASA provisions in this legislation will propel America into a deeper exploration of space and ensure a strong competition against China on the final frontier.”
The NASA Authorization Act includes several provisions that support NASA projects in Mississippi, including the Stennis Space Center. The package will:
- Ensure the continued navigability of the Pearl River and Little Lake channels in Mississippi to support NASA barge operations surrounding the Stennis Space Center and the Michoud Assembly Facility.
- Authorize NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement and require that it continues to coordinate NASA STEM educational activities, including the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), and the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.
- Extend NASA’s enhanced use leasing (EUL) authority for 10 years. This program allows for NASA facilities, including the Stennis Space Center, to continue to lease underutilized, federally-owned properties.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson also released a statement on the passage of the legislation:
“I am incredibly pleased Congress has passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2022 – the first authorization for our agency in five years. This act shows continued bipartisan support of NASA’s many missions, including our Moon to Mars approach, as well extension of U.S. participation in the International Space Station to 2030.”