Committee Discusses New Accomplishments in the Exploration of the Solar System

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democrats
Posted: Tuesday, July 28, 2015

(Washington, DC) Today the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing entitled "The Exploration of Our Solar System: From Mercury to Pluto and Beyond," to review recent planetary scientific discoveries in the exploration of our solar system and to assess missions under development, including a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Testifying before the Committee were Dr. John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator, New Horizons Mission, Southwest Research Institute; Dr. Christopher Russell, Principal Investigator, Dawn Mission; Professor of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, University of California Los Angeles; Dr. Robert Pappalardo, Study Scientist, Europa Mission Concept, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA; and Dr. Robert Braun, David and Andrew Lewis Professor of Space Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology.

Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD) said, "We live in extraordinary times. The successful flyby of Pluto just two weeks ago and the announcement last week that an Earth-like planet had been discovered in the 'habitable zone' of another star's solar system are just the most recent examples of the tremendous accomplishments that have been made in planetary science and space exploration in recent years. And it's notable that all of the solar system exploration missions that NASA has undertaken over the past half-century have raised as many exciting new research questions as they have answered. That is the nature of space exploration, and why it is so important for this nation to continue to support it."

Witnesses discussed the importance of these missions in inspiring students to pursue STEM studies. Dr. Braun said, "Planetary science is one of America's crown jewels. A unique symbol of our country's technological leadership and pioneering spirit, this endeavor has consistently demonstrated that the United States is a bold and curious nation interested in discovering and exploring the richness of worlds beyond our own for the betterment of all. In addition to informing our worldview, these missions are inspirational beacons, pulling young people into educational and career paths aligned with science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the foundation of continued U.S. economic competitiveness and global leadership in a world that is becoming more technologically advanced with each passing year."

In her statement for the record, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), said, "It is not an overstatement to say that NASA's planetary science program has been extraordinarily successful, and that fact is a tribute to the hard work and perseverance of NASA, its contractors, and the space research community. Yet, Congress also has a role to play in keeping NASA's solar system exploration program robustnamely, we need to do our part by making sure NASA receives adequate and timely funding to support the development and operation of those challenging missions. And we need to make sure we are also providing the funding needed to develop the advanced technologies that will enable the future missions that will continue to rewrite the science textbooks."

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