House passes bill to promote space exploration
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The House passed legislation on Thursday aimed at promoting investments in the commercial space industry.

Passed 284-133, the bill would direct multiple federal agencies — including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Transportation and the Government Accountability Office — to report to Congress about commercial space practices.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) warned that the U.S. is losing its edge in space exploration.

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"In space, we are losing our ability to lead. We once stood up to the challenge of the Soviets' Sputnik and made it to the moon, but today, our astronauts use Russian rockets and other nations are working to put people on Mars and beyond," said McCarthy, the bill's sponsor.

“But we must go beyond. We must face the great unknown with that American spirit of adventure and hope. To paraphrase President Kennedy, we must lead mankind into space not because it is easy, but because it is hard and because that goal brings out the very best of our nation," McCarthy added.

The bill, among other provisions, would reauthorize risk-sharing insurance programs for commercial space launches for a decade. It would also direct NASA to report to Congress on how the government and international governments regulate space traffic and orbital debris.

It would further extend the "learning period" that restricts the Federal Aviation Administration's regulation of spacecraft for 10 years.

Democrats said the measure would cater too much to the space industry at the expense of regulations meant to preserve safety.

"H.R. 2262 puts policy in place that favors industry over policy that ensures balanced consideration for those people the industry will serve," said Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

The Obama administration said it does not oppose passage of the legislation but still has "serious concerns with certain provisions," including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) learning period extension.

"FAA rulemaking activity prior to 2025 may promote, rather than hinder, the development of the commercial spaceflight industry, depending on the pace at which the market for private spaceflight services grows," the White House said in a Statement of Administration Policy.

House GOP leaders used this week to promote messaging bills about investing in science research and American global competitiveness. On Wednesday, the House passed legislation to reauthorize $33 billion in funding for federal scientific research programs.