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[i]Congress gave NASA a funding level just shy of the White House's request of $17.72 billion, but the appropriation pads the space agency's deep space exploration programs, setting the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle's budget at $1.2 billion and the Space Launch System's funding line at $1.6 billion, more than $200 million more than NASA said it needed to meet a 2017 launch date for an unmanned test flight.
In a legislative report accompanying the budget, Congress refused to commit to NASA's proposed asteroid redirect mission to retrieve a 500-ton rock from solar orbit, guide it around the moon with a robotic spacecraft, then send astronauts to visit it aboard Orion crew capsules. Lawmakers wrote that [b]NASA needs to justify the asteroid initiative and provide detailed cost estimates before winning congressional support[/b].[/i]
[i]While the ARM is still an emerging concept, NASA has not provided Congress with satisfactory justification materials such as detailed cost estimates or impacts to ongoing missions. The completion of significant preliminary activities is needed to appropriately lay the groundwork for the ARM prior to NASA and Congress making a long-term commitment to this mission concept.[/i]
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