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House Cash Would Bring NASA Down to Earth

Space program critics often complain that spending money on space doesn't benefit people stuck within the confines of this planet. But in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Congress is not buying that logic. As part of the stimulus package, a House of Representatives panel proposed yesterday to give a $250 million boost to the space agency's efforts to understand changes in the planet's climate. That money would go to a variety of specific instruments, from a sensor to measure the impact of solar irradiance to a thermal infrared sensor that can be used to manage water resources. The funding would also go to restarting a new set of climate missions, an idea backed last year by a National Research Council study. That study harshly criticized the Bush Administration for letting Earth science projects play second fiddle to space science. And the money would provide 2,600 jobs, the House report notes. An additional $150 million would go to NASA's aeronautics research program (adding 1,000 jobs), which the Bush Administration has cut severely in recent years. Another $50 million would go to fixing NASA facilities damaged during a series of ferocious hurricanes which struck space agency centers in the last 2 years. That work, NASA says, will also create 440 jobs.