The Republican-controlled House Science Committee Thursday voted down a plan to send a manned mission to an asteroid, issuing a blow to a major piece of President Barack Obama's human space-exploration program.
The committee, however, did approve a $16.8 billion NASA spending measure, although it was more than $1 billion less than the president and the Senate had called for, The Wall Street Journal reported.
"Instead of backing the White House's initiative to send a robotic mission to a small asteroid by 2016, tugging it into a new orbit and eventually sending a manned mission to bring home samples, the bill establishes priorities for returning astronauts to the moon, perhaps as soon as 2020, and ultimately sending them on to Mars," the Journal reported.
The partisan breakdown of the 22-17 vote was not a surprise, although it did mark a departure from the traditional bipartisan support given to NASA in the past by lawmakers eager to keep jobs connected to the space industry in their districts.
Officials at the space agency did not comment on the vote, but a NASA spokesman said earlier this week that they were "deeply concerned" about the cuts being proposed by Republican lawmakers, saying the spending reductions "would challenge America's pre-eminence in space."
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