Spaceflight Insider is reporting that Rep. Bill Posey, R-Florida has introduced a bill that would “To direct the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to plan to return to the moon and develop a sustained human presence on the Moon.” The bill, which is also cosponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, and Rep Brian Babin, R-Texas has been referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The committee is also considering a NASA authorization bill that directs the space agency toward Mars, reaffirming the Obama-era Journey to Mars program.

The legislation is being offered against a background of tremendous changes that are in store for NASA thanks to the new Trump administration. A consensus is growing for reinvigorating the space agency by forging a partnership with the commercial sector and starting a return to the moon, with an orbital mission to take place as early as 2020, at the end of the current president’s first term.

Mars would remain as a long-term goal.

One of the key parts of the new strategy is to integrate the Orion and Space Launch System programs with the commercial sector. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation has already endorsed this approach, the theory being that the capabilities of the NASA deep space systems, along with commercial spacecraft, will propel NASA beyond low Earth orbit, sending astronauts back to the moon for the first time in 45 years.

The move has proven to be controversial among some commercial space advocates who believe that the SLS heavy lift rocket is too expensive and thus is an impediment to human beings ever venturing back to the moon or any place else. However, a rapprochement between commercial space and NASA avoids a bloody fight with supporters of the Orion/Space Launch System, especially in Congress, should an attempt be made to cancel the system.

However, given that NASA will persist in building and use their in-house rockets, it will be incumbent on the administration and Congress to provide the space agency with adequate funding. At the same time, NASA is undertaking to cut costs for operating the big rocket. It can be hoped and, indeed, expected that, at last, American would have a space exploration program that actually explores as a result.

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