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Space Subcommittee Discusses Progress of SLS-Orion Development and Successful EFT-1 Mission

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Wednesday, December 10, 2014

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Space held a hearing to discuss the progress of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion crew vehicle. The hearing came in the wake of a successful test flight of Orion aboard a Delta IV Heavy rocket last week.

Space Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) said, "The flight subjected Orion and its systems to the rigors of outer space beyond low Earth orbit to test key systems, verify the Orion design, reduce technical risks, and test recoverability operations. This test flight shows Americans that tangible progress is being made on returning humans to exploration beyond our Earth's neighborhood, a goal that this Committee and the Congress as a whole have embraced through multiple NASA Authorization Acts."

Testifying before the Committee were Mr. Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA and Ms. Cristina Chaplain, Director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management at the Government Accountability Office. 

Mr. Gerstenmaier emphasized the need for consistent, adequate funding in order for SLS and Orion to achieve the goals and objectives currently in place. Democratic Members also highlighted the need for robust funding as opposed to the flat funding the projects have been receiving in recent years, as well as for a sustainable strategy. 

In response to a question from Ranking Member Edwards on NASA's preparation of a human exploration strategy, Mr. Gerstenmaier said, "I think both SLS and Orion play a key role in that strategy... SLS is the heavy lift launch vehicle; we need that kind of ability to launch that much mass to go do a Mars class mission. Orion will have to return at velocities similar to what you saw in the flight test, or actually higher from at least lunar return velocities, which most capsules have not.  So those two components are really critical to our Mars strategy." 

Members also discussed the key milestones for SLS and Orion moving forward, as well as how NASA is mitigating the technical risks, meeting cost schedules, and the importance of communicating progress in human space exploration to the public.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said in her statement for the record, "I want to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the next Congress to provide the funding that NASA will need to carry out a robust human exploration program as well as its other important tasks in science, aeronautics, and technology development. It is our choice as to whether we will do so, and I hope we will choose wisely. As I said after last week's successful EFT-1 mission, EFT-1 demonstrates that America's best days in space exploration still lie ahead of us. NASA and its contractor team are working hard to achieve challenging goals – we in Congress need to do the same."

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