Press Release

Committee Assures Hearings on Concerns Raised in Report on NASA Astronauts’ Health

By SpaceRef Editor
July 27, 2007
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(Washington, DC) Today, NASA released the findings of a review of NASA’s procedures for overseeing astronauts’ medical and behavioral health, commissioned in the wake of the scandal involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak.

Yesterday, as Aviation Week leaked aspects of the report, U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon made clear that the Committee would be looking for further explanation and details from NASA on the review’s disturbing findings. 

With the review formally released by NASA this afternoon, Chairman Gordon and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) offered the following comments:

Chairman Gordon:  “There’s a lot of attention being given to the reports of alcohol abuse by astronauts prior to flight, and I take this very seriously.  Drinking and driving is never a good idea – least of all when the vehicle involved is a multi-billion dollar Space Shuttle or a high performance jet aircraft.  But it’s not just alcohol abuse; you only have to read the report to know that something clearly seems to be broken in NASA’s system of astronaut oversight.  I hope the agency will take the review team’s seriously, and not just fall back on the tired bromide that the review team’s findings are ‘unproven allegations.’  Reports of drunken astronauts are just a part of the story – the review team’s report contains a number of other findings that are cause for concern.”

Among many alarming findings in the report, the review board found that “astronaut medical and behavioral health care is highly fragmented…”  Also, “many anecdotes were related that involved risky behaviors by astronauts that were well known to the other astronauts and no apparent action was taken.  Peers and staff fear ostracism if they identify their own or others’ problems.”

Chairman Udall:  “The review team’s report should be a real ‘wake up’ call that NASA has problems in its oversight of astronaut health and behavior that need to be addressed.  We need to understand what happened and why, whether anyone is going to be held accountable, and what the agency is going to do to fix these apparently deep-seated problems.  That’s why we will hold a hearing on this matter is soon as the House reconvenes in September.”

The Committee is currently planning an initial hearing on this matter for the first week of September.

The House Committee on Science and Technology, specifically, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics handles issues related to civilian aviation R&D and U.S. civil and commercial space activities.  This includes NASA, commercial space activities within the Department of Transportation and the Department of Commerce and the aviation R&D activities of the FAA. 

SpaceRef staff editor.