Press Release

Opening Statement by Rep. Mark Udall at House Science Committee Hearing on The Future of NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
June 28, 2005
Filed under , ,

Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
U.S. House Committee on Science

Hearing: “The Future of NASA”

June 28, 2005

Good morning and welcome, Dr. Griffin. I look forward to working with you in the months ahead, and I wish you all the best as you shoulder your new responsibilities.

While it can sound like a bit of a cliché to say that NASA is at a crossroads, I think it nonetheless is an accurate description of the current situation.

The President has given NASA a new long-term vision for its human space flight program—one that I support. At the same time, it’s not at all clear that the President’s aspirations fit the budget that has been provided to NASA.

And one result of that mismatch is that the highly productive balance that has existed between NASA’s space science, Earth science, aeronautics, and human space flight activities is at risk of being seriously damaged.

The evidence of the stresses on NASA’s non-exploration programs is all around us.

At a recent hearing before the space subcommittee, there was unanimity among all of the non-government witnesses that NASA’s aeronautics programs have been negatively impacted by the budget cuts of recent years and that the President’s proposed five-year budget for aeronautics will significantly worsen the situation.

That is one of the reasons I and a bipartisan group of cosponsors introduced H.R. 2358, the Aeronautics R&D Revitalization Act, which I would like to see incorporated into the NASA Authorization.

The situation facing NASA’s Earth-Sun Systems program is no better. The Science Committee heard compelling testimony from a panel of respected experts that bluntly concluded that the nation’s Earth observations program is at risk. And we have heard about productive missions being threatened with termination due to budgetary shortfalls.

In addition, although we have not yet had a Space Station oversight hearing, I and my staff have been hearing from the fundamental biology and microgravity research community, as well as from commercial organizations.

Their message is the same.

For more than 15 years, NASA has been telling them that there would be a place for their research on the ISS. Now however, it appears that the budgetary demands of the exploration initiative are going to cause NASA to break those long-standing commitments.

While all of this has been going on, the unfortunate fact is that 18 months after the President first announced his exploration initiative, specifics on NASA’s plans are still hard to come by. That concerns me, especially given the fact that the specifics we do have from NASA concern cuts to NASA’s non-exploration programs.

I hope that Dr. Griffin will be able to shed some light on what NASA’s plans are for both exploration and for NASA’s other core missions, as well as for its workforce. We will need that information if we are to do our oversight jobs properly, and I think enough time has passed for us to be justified in asking for specifics.

Finally, before I close, I would just like to express my appreciation to Dr. Griffin for his willingness to start preparing for a Shuttle mission to service the Hubble space telescope, contingent of course on a successful return-to-flight of the Space Shuttle.

As you know, Hubble is one of the most significant space observatories ever launched, and I believe that we should continue to utilize it to its fullest as long as it remains scientifically productive.

Mr. Chairman, today’s hearing is an important one for this Committee, and I look forward to hearing from our witness. Thank you.

SpaceRef staff editor.