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Cruz, Nelson: Future of ISS Should be Determined by Emergence of a Viable and Proven Commercial Alternative and Needs of Our National Space Program

Press Release From: United States Senate
Posted: Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Last week, U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competiveness, and the ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, sent the following oversight letters to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot Jr. In the letters, the Senators expressed their concerns with the President's FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA, which proposes ending direct U.S. Government funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025.

The letter notes that Congress enacted and the President signed the bipartisan NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (P.L. 115-10), which required NASA, ISS partners, the scientific user community, and the commercial space sector to develop an ISS transition plan which includes exploring the feasibility of extending the operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030. The transition plan was required by federal law to be submitted to Congress as a report no later than December 1, 2017. Congress has still not received the administration's report.

"The International Space Station is the largest and most complex habitable space-based research facility ever constructed by humanity," the Senators wrote. "It's a marvel of engineering, and critically important to our nation's space program. For over 17 years, the ISS has provided the United States with continuous access to low Earth orbit, which has been paramount to the success of NASA, our commercial partners, scientific research, and human space exploration. That's why it is concerning that the President's FY 2019 Budget Request for NASA proposes 'to end direct U.S. Government funding for the space station [ISS] by 2025 and provides $150 million to begin a program that would encourage commercial development of capabilities that NASA can use in its place.' While we have been strong proponents of the U.S. commercial space sector, prematurely ending direct U.S. Government funding of ISS could have disastrous consequences. The future of ISS should be determined by the emergence of a viable and proven commercial alternative and the needs of our national space program."

The Senators continued, "In fact, Congress specifically required that the transition plan include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030, and an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility. P.L. 115-10 specifically required the NASA Administrator to deliver a report to Congress no later than December 1, 2017. As of today, that report has not been delivered to Congress as required by federal statute."

Read the full letter to Director Mulvaney here. Read the full letter to Acting Administrator Lightfoot here.

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