NBC News (1/17, Barbree) reports that the latest spending bill signed into law by President Obama puts money in the budget for the Space Launch System. “The legislation includes funding for the agency’s major space and science initiatives, including a crewed mission to Mars by the 2030s. That mission would be sent out on the Space Launch System.” The French Tribune (1/18, Girard) quotes David Weaver, NASA's associate administrator for communications as saying that the spending bill keeps NASA’s deep-space exploration program on track.
SpaceNews (1/15, Foust) noted that a number of observers were surprised that NASA did so well in the FY 2014 bill, with an overall appropriation of $17.65 B that essentially gave the agency what it wanted. The article quotes Sen. Bill Nelson (D, Fla) as a major force in getting the $700M necessary for both the commercial crew programs and the Space Launch System. There remain critics to SLS. An article in Space Review (1/13, Strickland) outlines the main issue - SLS is expendable like the old Saturn V. The article quotes a Former NASA Deputy Administrator as saying that the program was dictated by congress, consuming $3B of NASA’s $17B budget each year. The article unfavorably compares SLS to a speculative large Falcon rocket.