Texas Senator John Cornyn and Michigan Senator Gary Peters have introduced a new bill aiming to extend the life of (and work on an advanced replacement for) the International Space Station, begin developing next-generation spacesuits to enable exploration beyond low earth orbit, and establish the goal of a permanent human presence beyond Earth as national policy.

The Advancing Human Spaceflight Act's ultimate goal is to help NASA keep American astronauts in space for extended periods of time and lead the world in the exploration of the moon, Mars, and possibly further into our solar system.

“The only way to continue learning about the universe around us is to aim high and dream big,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I’m grateful for the continued work of and input from Houston’s space community as we drafted this bill, which sets the stage for a new era of space exploration and to reassert American leadership in space discovery.”

Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes Last Trip To ISS Under Command Of Astronaut Mark Kelly
Getty Images

Here's a breakdown of what the bill's authors hope to see happen:

International Space Station (ISS) Extension: The bill extends the authorization for the operation of the International Space Station from 2024 to 2030. This will help provide assurance to America’s international partners as well as commercial partners whose research conducted on the ISS routinely yields ground-breaking innovations to help the development of space technology as well as commercially-viable products on Earth. ISS extension means more launches to bring astronauts, experiments, and supplies to the ISS, which in turn means more business opportunities for the booming commercial space sector.

Post-ISS Transition Report: The bill requires NASA to develop a strategy for the retirement of ISS to ensure that there is a smooth transition to an eventual successor platform and submit this report to Congress. This report will help future Congresses make the best determination for how to continue a long-term human presence in space and avoid a lapse in long-term space facilities in low-Earth orbit or beyond.

Advanced Spacesuit Development: The bill directs NASA to develop a next generation spacesuit to enable astronauts in future exploration on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. This spacesuit development would allow NASA to enter into an agreement with one or more commercial space companies in the development of these spacesuits. Future explorers will need spacesuits with more advanced capabilities than what current technology can provide for Lunar or Martian exploration.

NASA Report of Future Facilities: The bill requires a report from NASA on the development of future crewed and unmanned facilities in both low-Earth orbit and beyond. This report would provide Congress information about NASA proposals for the development of future facilities and how NASA can partner with the commercial space industry.

Human Space Settlement: The bill codifies that a permanent human presence beyond Earth in a manner that enables human space settlement and a thriving space economy to be a national policy.

Report on Life-Sustaining Technical Systems: The bill directs NASA to update Congress on its efforts to develop new and innovative technological systems for the self-sufficient sustainment of life in and beyond low-Earth orbit that will be necessary for both space exploration and eventual space settlement.

“Investing in space exploration helps solidify our leadership in the global economy, uncover new discoveries and inspire the next generation of scientists and astronauts,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation would ensure that the servicemen and women of NASA can continue their cutting-edge research and exploration missions, and I look forward to seeing the pioneering solutions that drive the next era of innovation.”

Pardon my nerd moment, but...WOOHOO! I'm always happy to see lawmakers supporting the oldest and most noble of humanity's endeavors: exploration. And while I feel space exploration would thrive the most as a cooperative effort between nations, I do like the idea of the United States remaining the world's leader in the final frontier.

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