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Sen. Hutchison Statement at Hearing Highlighting Research, Discovery aboard the International Space Station

Press Release From: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Posted: Wednesday, July 25, 2012

image Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation, today made the following statement at the opening of the committee hearing on The International Space Station: A Platform for Research, Collaboration and Discovery:

"I wanted to open today's hearing because we have lost a space pioneer. Sally Ride did so much to promote space and even though she tried to get out of the spotlight, she just attracted so much attention because she was interesting, she was committed to physics and science, and she was committed to getting girls to taking the STEM courses.

"And when I wrote a book in 2004, I did chapters on the women pioneers in different fields. So, I did education, politics, government, sports, and aviation. And then I interviewed women who were still breaking barriers in the same field. So, my aviation chapter was Amelia Earhart and Jackie Cochran. And my interview was Sally Ride. What could be more perfect than the first women to actually fly the long distances and prove women could be great pilots than the first woman in space?

"In my interview I asked questions about what was the most important trait for her success and she said it was the ability to work with other people, which she found very helpful as the first woman astronaut. And I said, oh gosh, that's interesting. I would have thought you said perseverance and she said, well, that's a close second.

"And then I asked her what was her most helpful childhood memory and she said, you know, it's funny. It was actually an issue in school and I got discouraged by something, I don't remember what, but I came home and I was very down and my father basically said, 'well, you've just got to reach for the stars.' She said that's ridiculous to think about right now and she said, but it did happen. So, I think we all owe her a great debt of gratitude and I just wanted to start this hearing by recognizing how much she gave.

"I just want to thank both the Chairman and the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for being here because Sen. Nelson and I have done so much to keep the emphasis and the importance of NASA in the forefront. I am a budget cutter. I am a person who wants to set the top line of a budget, but then it's so important that we set the priorities for what goes into that budget and Sen. Nelson and I, and many others, have tried to assure that we don't eat our seed corn. We continue to reach for the stars, to go beyond where we are now.

"And NASA is the agency that can do that. And there have been people who have tried to abolish NASA, frankly. And I think going forward, I will certainly be very comfortable with the Ranking Member, John Boozman, who has done a great job of learning the issues and where we are. He has always hit the ground running and I'm so appreciative for Sen. Boozman and his interest.

"Let me say establishing our part of the Space Station as a national American laboratory was a great accomplishment in that it opened the research from outside entities and it can be private companies, it can be universities, it can be opened to anyone who is going to do research that can only be done is space. We all know you can only do experiments in space because of the microgravity conditions. You can't duplicate that on Earth.

"So, finding out what is out there is so important for our future. We've seen what exploring space has done for us and national security, being able to put satellites up there and do satellite surveillance, satellite guided missiles has helped our national security so much.

"But now we have this laboratory and one of the issues of this hearing is going to be what we're doing there and certainly are we going to extend it further than 2020 or is 2020 its life and what are we going to do to fully utilize it.

"I was at Johnson Space Center a few months ago and I saw the hits on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. One of the almost-casualties of the budget cutting without establishing priorities was that we were told that there wouldn't be room for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to be taken into space by a former NASA administrator and many of us fought back. Dr. Sam Ting fought back, the Nobel Laureate at MIT, who felt that we had to have that up there to get the cosmic rays and try to see if there is dark matter and what effect it will have on the expansion of the universe. I'm sitting in the Johnson Space Center, I'm looking at the hits on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and it is so far 18 billion hits of cosmic rays. More than even Sam Ting thought we would get in this time span.

"And so, this is a very basic science that we're doing there, that could lead to any number of things in the determination of what the universe is and also if there is dark energy; is it something that can be harnessed. No telling. He doesn't even know everything and as Dr. Ting so aptly points out, almost all of the major research that we have done since we've set NASA up, everything we went into do, to research, was for a purpose that is not what we got, but what we got was even more important. And that's why continuing the priority of NASA and space exploration is so important for our European partners, for our own quality of life and capabilities to expand.

"So, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for holding this hearing. I did request this hearing because I want to know what we're doing up there. And so, I am looking forward to hearing from all of you, from your different perspectives but I do hope as I am going out the exit door that we are able to excite the American people as we have in the past on what the future is and I thank you all for being here."

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