Cantwell-Sponsored Bipartisan NASA Authorization Bill Unanimously Passes Senate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, passed the Senate by unanimous consent. The NASA Authorization Act of 2020 provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the clear direction needed to advance the nation’s space initiatives and investments and assert American global leadership in the final frontier.

The State of Washington has played a key role in American space exploration since NASA was first founded. The Lunar Rover—the first and only crewed surface transportation system designed to operate on the Moon—was designed and built in Kent, WA. Three of the Kent-built Lunar Rovers remain on the Moon today. And earlier this month, NASA announced that two women from Washington—Kayla Barron and Anne McClain—were among the 18 astronauts chosen for its Artemis mission, which seeks to return humans to the Moon for the first time since 1972.

Washington state is home to more than three dozen space-related companies and over 1,400 aerospace companies. The space industry employs more than 6,200 workers in Washington and generates $1.78 billion in economic activity throughout the state. Because of the state’s leadership, Forbes in 2016 called Seattle a “silicon valley for space.”

“Congress just took a big step forward in authorizing the Artemis Program, which will send women to lead our next mission to the Moon,” Senator Cantwell said. “It also includes authorizations for continued space exploration and growing the space economy, including extending the International Space Station and supporting the lunar lander system. For more than 50 years, the State of Washington has been a leader in the space program, and with this legislation our state is poised to be a key part of NASA’s return to the Moon—maybe even with a woman from Washington taking that historic first step.”

The NASA Authorization Act of 2020 would:

  • Support NASA’s human spaceflight and exploration efforts to return American astronauts to the Moon and prepare for future journeys to Mars;
  • Leverage private sector investment to bolster human space exploration with the Artemis Program and NASA’s Human Landing System, which Blue Origin is building in Kent, WA;
  • Extend authorization for the International Space Station (ISS) through 2030 and direct NASA to take steps to grow the space economy;
  • Require the United States to maintain a continuous human presence in low-Earth orbit through and beyond the useful life of the ISS;
  • Support NASA’s leadership in coordinating the development of next generation spacesuits;
  • Support vital life and physical science research to ensure that humans can live in deep space safely;
  • Supports a robust space science program and directs NASA to continue developing the WFIRST astronomy mission, which NASA is developing in partnership with the University of Washington
  • Direct NASA to improve upon its planetary defense measures in order to protect Earth from asteroids and other near-Earth objects;
  • Affirm NASA’s commitment to aeronautics research by supporting a robust X-plane program as well as work on efficient propulsion concepts and advanced composites; and
  • Support NASA’s STEM education and workforce efforts, including authorization of NASA’s Space Grant program which provides education and training opportunities to thousands of Washington students through partnership with the University of Washington.

In addition to Cantwell, the legislation is also sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the chairman and ranking member of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space.

The full text of the bill is available HERE.