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Press Releases :: February 25, 2010

Committee Expresses Caution Over Proposed Changes to NASA’s Human Space Flight Program

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing to discuss the Administration’s FY 2011 budget request for NASA with Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr.

Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) highlighted his support for a number of features in the president’s budget request:  an overall increase of $ 6 billion in NASA’s funding over the next five years compared to last year’s outyear funding plan; a focus on NASA’s Earth science program and climate research; an increase in aeronautics R&D investments in long-term technology development for both aeronautics and space; and extending the operations of the International Space Station beyond 2015.
 
“There are many positive features of this budget that I think could garner bipartisan support on this Committee and in the House at large—they are certainly consistent with last year’s NASA Authorization Act,” said Gordon.  “In particular, I’m pleased with the increases for the Aeronautics program and the Earth science program.  It is hard to think of another NASA program that has had more of an impact on our economic competitiveness, national security, and quality of life than Aeronautics.  And I’m glad to see the Administration recognizes the critical role that NASA’s Earth science program and climate research play in increasing our understanding of climate change and other phenomena that impact our society.”
 
“There is good news for NASA in the president’s budget request. The boost to science and aeronautics funding is welcome and consistent with the president’s commitment to investment in science and technology,” said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ)
 
However, significant caution was expressed by Members of the Committee on a bipartisan basis about the Administration’s proposed changes to the nation’s human space flight plans.  The Administration proposes to cancel the Constellation Program, the architecture established to deliver Americans to low Earth orbit and later to the Moon and other destinations in the solar system following the retirement of the Space Shuttle.  In place of Constellation program, the president’s request focuses on supporting the development of commercial capabilities to deliver crew to the ISS and on developing advanced technologies, among other proposed activities.
 
“This budget proposal represents a radical change from the approach to human space flight and exploration that has been authorized and funded by successive congresses over the past five years,” said Gordon.  “This new approach is not clearly traceable to either past legislation or past policy directives, and it has raised as many questions as it has answered.” 
 
“What is most striking about the budget is the lack of an overall vision,” said Giffords. “Our space program is one of the crown jewels of our nation, and we must proceed carefully to maintain it.” 
 
Chairman Gordon, Chairwoman Giffords, and other Members expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed changes on the highly-skilled workforce, U.S. leadership in space, and overall competitiveness.  A number of Members also expressed support for the existing Constellation program, urging that more attention be given to determining what would be required to continue to make progress on it.  Members were skeptical of the proposed plan to make U.S. access to space for its astronauts solely dependent on commercial crew transportation services that do not yet exist, potentially making the taxpayers responsible for keeping the companies financially viable if sufficient non-NASA markets do not emerge.  Chairman Gordon asked Administrator Bolden to be open to changes that may be required to this plan to achieve a durable consensus in Congress.
 
For more information, please visit the Committee’s website.
 
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