Press Release

House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Examines the Status of the International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
April 25, 2008
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House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Examines the Status of the International Space Station

(Washington, DC) – Today, House Science and Technology Committee’s Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held an oversight hearing to examine the status of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) International Space Station (ISS) program. Committee Members discussed the challenges facing the program and questioned witnesses regarding how it should be operated, managed, and utilized.

“While ISS has had a long, and at times controversial and frustrating development path, I am impressed with the progress that has been made in assembling and operating this incredibly complex international space-based science and technology facility,” said Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO). As the most complex international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken, ISS incorporates innovative ideas and technologies from the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 10 member states of the European Space Agency. ISS has been continuously crewed for over six years. Once its assembly is completed it will have a pressurized volume of more than 33,000 cubic feet and a mass of more than 925,000 pounds.

The ISS is intended to support NASA’s exploration initiative and to serve as a National Laboratory for space-based research. Currently, the Space Shuttle is scheduled for retirement in 2010, which will cause the U.S. to rely on partners such as Russia to provide routine transportation and emergency crew return from the ISS and to seek commercial resupply services.

“Although NASA talks about providing research opportunities on the ISS, we cannot forget that the funding cuts NASA has made to its microgravity research programs in recent years–whether willingly or not–have largely decimated that research community,” stated Udall. “I think the onus has to be on NASA to prove that it means what it says by taking meaningful steps both to make the ISS a productive venue for research and to start to rebuild that research community. Yet, it won’t be possible to have a productive ISS unless the facility can be sustained after the Shuttle is retired.”

NASA’s FY 09 budget allocates $2.06 billon – an increase of $247 million from the FY 2008 appropriated amount – to the ISS program, which funds ISS operations and ISS Crew and Cargo Services. NASA’s out-year projections for ISS in the President’s FY 09 budget request show minor funding level changes through 2013, which has caused the program significant challenges, including low levels of program reserves, uncertain status of the two “contingency” shuttle logistics flights, and low levels of research funding.

“It is no secret that we are currently living with the adverse impacts of the Administration’s shortsighted decision four years ago to accept a four-year gap in U.S. crew launch capabilities after the Shuttle is retired. I hope we learn from that experience and not let the future of the ISS be determined by equally shortsighted measures,” added Udall. “Thus, if we are to realize a meaningful return on the nation’s investment in the ISS, we need to ensure that the ISS’s post-Shuttle logistics resupply needs are adequately funded. It is also clear that it is time for the Administration to commit to flying the two ‘contingency’ Shuttle flights that will deliver critical spares and logistics to the Station before the Shuttle is retired.”

“Finally, we need to ensure that any decision on the service life of this international facility is based on sound policy considerations and thorough consultations with our international partners–and not simply be a date based on the current Administration’s desire to make it conform to their own underfunded budget plan for NASA,” noted Udall.

For more information on this hearing or to access witness testimony, visit the Committee’s website.

SpaceRef staff editor.