Texas lawmakers to Obama: Divert some stimulus funds to NASA

Twenty-eight members of Texas' congressional delegation are now petitioning the Obama administration to divert about $3 billion in stimulus cash to NASA.

Their request stems from a recent interdepartmental review of the space agency, which concluded that further space exploration would be constrained unless the federal government increased its NASA funding by at least $3 billion next year.

"Boldness does not come cheaply, and in a venture that is inherently risky, we have an obligation to provide the adequate resources to make these worthy goals safe, attainable, and sustainable over time," the 28 lawmakers wrote in a letter to the president on Monday.

"Since the stated purpose of the stimulus package was to secure good jobs and stabilize our economy, there is no better investment that could be made than the addition of up to $3 billion to NASA in FY2010...," they added.

It is hardly a coincidence that so many Texas Democrats and Republicans agree on a NASA hike: The Johnson Space Center, which trains astronauts, is located in Houston, and it employs thousands of local residents. An increase in funding would be a major coup for those lawmakers, some of whom have long criticized the federal stimulus yet clamored for additional NASA dollars.

"President Obama said we needed to pass the trillion dollar stimulus bill to save or create at least 3 million jobs and keep unemployment at 8 percent or less," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), one of the letter's sponsors. "With the stimulus money that has already been spent clearly not working, it is my hope that the Administration will use a portion of the remaining, authorized, unspent stimulus dollars to safeguard our nation’s space program."

Whether they obtain that money, however, is another story. The recovery act granted NASA about $420 million in additional funds, only about $27 million of which has been paid out, according to the White House. That's a far cry from $3 billion, but it remains to be seen whether that much money will even be left over once the federal government finishes paying out -- and federal agencies and states finish spending -- their allocations.

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