Committee on Science and Technology
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Press Releases :: November 19, 2009

Subcommittee Examines Opportunities, Risks in the Growth of Global Space Capabilities

 (WASHINGTON) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held a hearing on the growth of global space capabilities. Members and witnesses discussed how the growth of global space capabilities may affect the future of the U.S. space program, including opportunities to partner with other nations to share costs and expertise, and the risks of losing the U.S. leadership in space.

"At a time when some in the United States seem to be questioning whether we should sustain a strong commitment to investing in our space program, the rest of the world has not hesitated to embrace the promise that the exploration and utilization of outer space can offer to them,” said Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).  “Those other nations recognize that space activities can spur innovation, help improve the quality of life of our citizens, promote national security and economic competitiveness, and advance geopolitical objectives.  That recognition echoes the aspirations of our congressional predecessors when they established NASA and undertook other related actions some fifty years ago.”
 
The U.S. and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) dominated the first fifty years of the space age as the only nations capable of launching humans into space.  Recently, however, other countries have entered the space arena or are quickly displaying increasing technical capabilities for space activities.  China launched a human into space in 2003 and performed a space walk in 2008.  China and India have successfully launched their first lunar probes, India has announced plans for a human space program, and numerous countries around the world have established space agencies.  A number of foreign nations have acquired the capability to develop satellites and instruments and to deploy them with independent launch systems. Others have purchased space assets such as communications satellites on the commercial market and operate them as part of their national infrastructure.
 
As more nations pursue an active presence in outer space, the global space landscape is becoming increasingly interdependent and competitive economically and geopolitically.  There is also a growing drive to finding global solutions to some of the most pressing societal challenges.
 
“We can just look at the myriad ways that our space investments have transformed our economy, our defense, and our quality of life over the last fifty years to realize the space has become woven into the very fabric of our daily life,” said Giffords.  “So it’s no surprise that other nations, seeing the benefits that space investments have delivered to our nation want to share in those benefits.  I, for one, see that as a positive development and not one to fear.  While we must always be vigilant against those who would use space capabilities to threaten others, we should not turn away from opportunities for constructive engagement in peaceful space cooperation.”
 
“Yet if we are to harness global space capabilities in cooperative ventures, the United States needs to make clear to the rest of the world that we are not wavering in our owncommitment to space exploration and to the path we have started down,” concluded Giffords.
 
For more information on the Committee’s work on NASA or space, please visit our website.
 
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