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House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Examines Mars Flyby Mission

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014

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The Science, Space, and Technology Committee today held a hearing to explore the potential for a human mission in 2021 to fly by the planets Mars and Venus.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): "Mankind's first steps on the Moon are a distant memory. There's a sense that America is falling behind, with our best days behind us.  Today, America's finest spaceships and largest rockets are found in museums rather than on launch pads. Great nations do great things. We must rekindle within NASA the fire that blazed that trail to the Moon. The future of this nation's exploration efforts lead to Mars.  The first flag to fly on another planet in our Solar System should be that of the United States."

Witnesses today discussed the merits and challenges of a Mars Flyby mission. One advantage would be the potential for NASA to utilize architecture that is already under development, including the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle.  The proposed mission would take advantage of a unique alignment between Earth and Mars in 2021 that minimizes the time and energy necessary for a flyby. Under the proposal, a trip to Mars would take roughly a year and a half instead of two to three years.

Following the hearing, Chairman Smith along with Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), Chairman of the House Appropriations' Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science, sent a letter to NASA requesting that the agency examine the Mars Flyby 2021 proposal and other missions for deep space exploration.  The full letter can be found HERE.

President Obama cancelled NASA's flagship Constellation program in 2010.  The primary goal of Constellation was a return mission to the Moon with a long-term goal of a human mission to Mars.  By contrast, the primary human spaceflight goal under the Obama administration is a mission to an asteroid instead of the Moon.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): "This Committee has been consistent in its commitment to human exploration. Yet, over the last decade, the human exploration program at NASA has been plagued with instability from constantly changing requirements, budgets, and missions. As other space-faring nations expand their programs and look to destinations such as the Moon and Mars, I consider American leadership in space as a matter of national pride but also national security."

The following witnesses testified today before the Committee: Dr. Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute, George Washington University General Lester Lyles (Ret.), Independent Aerospace Consultant and former Chairman of the National Research Council Committee on the Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions and former NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Dr. Sandy Magnus, Executive Director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

For additional information about today's hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.

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