WASHINGTON – Senate budget writers proposed adding $1 billion in “emergency” spending for NASA Thursday to pay for the space shuttle’s return to flight without slashing other NASA programs.

The proposed 6 percent increase in NASA’s budget request, which the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted on an unrecorded voice vote, came after years of mounting frustration in Congress that NASA aeronautics and science programs were being sacrificed to finance President Bush’s plan to fly to the moon.

But some conservative committee members vowed to fight the measure when NASA’s bill reaches the floor and observers predicted opposition in the House.

Instead of cutting other programs to pay for the extra NASA money, the committee simply declared the space shuttle funding an emergency that would be exempted from congressional spending limits.

The chief sponsor of the bipartisan funding measure, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said the extra money is critical because NASA needs $2 billion to get the space shuttle back in operation.

“NASA has paid a significant price in other programs in order to get the shuttle back up there,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. “To call it an emergency is a very big stretch of the word.”

Bush’s budget for NASA for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 calls for increasing funding for space programs by about 30 percent from current levels, while cutting aeronautics research by 18 percent.

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