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“When we ask these tough questions today, know that they're so we can really argue the case of NASA,” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) told Richard Truly, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, on May 8 as she opened a succinct and generally friendly hearing on NASA's budget. The gentle tone of Mikulski and most of the subcommittee on VA, HUD, and Independent Agencies that she chairs was in striking contrast to the contentious reception Truly and Space Station Freedom got the previous week from a House committee.

Evidently prepared for another possible confrontation, the NASA head brought along enough of his top staff to fill the first two rows of the hearing room, but he faced mostly supportive senators. Mikulski pledged to be “a very strong advocate for the NASA core.” Ranking minority member Jake Garn (R-Utah) was also positive about NASA, while calling upon President Bush to lobby personally for his generous NASA request.