Tomorrow marks just one month since the President signed into law the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, but it’s apparently not too soon for Congress to see how the agency is implementing it. The full Senate Commerce Committee has planned a hearing next Thursday morning titled “Transition and Implementation: The NASA Authorization Act of 2010?. The listing doesn’t provide any other details about the hearing, but according to a Florida Today report the witnesses will include NASA CFO Beth Robinson, OSTP director John Holdren, and an unidentified official from the Government Accountability Office.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chairs the committee’s space subcommittee, told Florida Today that he will ask Robinson in particular how the agency would comply with the new authorization act if the Congress simply funds NASA at FY2010 levels for the new fiscal year. “We want to know: Is she going to follow the law instead of them going off on their own making decisions that are contrary to the law?” he asked. NASA received about $18.7 billion in 2010, but is authorized for $19.0 billion in 2011 under the new authorization act. One potential conflict is that, under the FY2010 appropriations bill (and the current continuing resolution funding NASA into early December), NASA cannot cancel Constellation programs or begin new ones, but the new authorization effectively dismembers Constellation, ending Ares 1 and instead starting development of a new heavy-lift vehicle.