Bernie Sanders wants to stop NASA funding for Blue Origin
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders added to the debate on NASA’s Artemis program on Monday.
The independent and two-time presidential candidate did so by submitting an amendment to the Endless Borders Act, which is currently being considered by the entire Senate. Sanders’ amendment, No. 1925, has a simple goal: “Eliminate the multi-billion dollar Bezos bailout.”
The “bailout” in question refers to an earlier amendment tabled to the Endless Borders Act at a committee meeting earlier this month. Overall, the Endless Frontier Act is primarily aimed at advancing US science and research efforts, but it has become hampered by changes by US senators. Sanders seeks to remove language from an amendment that has already been successfully attached to the Scientific Act.
This earlier amendment, submitted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), modified NASA’s Artemis program. The Cantwell Amendment, in part, called for $ 10.03 billion in additional funding for NASA to carry out the Human Landing System program. This legislation was filed under the Blue Origin name, and Jeff Bezos urged Congress to add $ 10 billion to NASA’s budget – enough money to fully fund the development of a second human landing system. It was passed 11 days ago without any debate by the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Sanders’ laconic amendment seeks to remove Cantwell language that provides additional funding for a human landing system.
In theory, Cantwell tabled her amendment to the bill because she really wanted competition in NASA’s efforts to build a landing system to send astronauts to the moon, starting in 2024. In reality, the The Cantwell Amendment is probably interpreted more accurately as an effort to support Blue Origin, which is based in the state it represents.
NASA really wanted to have a competition for the lunar lander. But it only selected one company – SpaceX – in mid-April, after Congress appropriated only a small amount of money in the 2021 budget. of SpaceX was only $ 2.9 billion, less than half that of its competitors, including the national team led by Blue Origin.
However, the way the Cantwell Amendment was worded would likely have slowed down NASA and its return to the moon. If the Cantwell Amendment were to be enacted, NASA would have to reopen the competition, thus delaying work on the agency’s return to the moon and jeopardizing an already difficult 2024 target. Its amendment also ignored the agency’s own plans. NASA to create both a lunar landing competition and keep the possibility of a 2024 landing on the rails. According to NASA plans, SpaceX would be operating at full speed towards the 2024 landing while a second company would be brought into a fight for subsequent landings.
Sanders has not spoken publicly about his amendment, but his intentions appear transparent. He frequently criticizes billionaires in general and Jeff Bezos – the founder of Amazon and the richest person in the world – in particular. He was particularly upset by Amazon’s efforts to prevent a union from organizing earlier this year in Bessemer, Alabama. Therefore, Sanders’ amendment is best seen as a shot at Bezos.
It’s hard to predict where that leaves NASA and its Artemis program. Even if Sanders’ Amendment fails, the amended Endless Frontier Act must pass through the United States House, where the Cantwell Amendment can be removed. And even if the bill comes into effect this fall or winter, that âauthorizingâ language about funding could still be replaced by the appropriation process.