Press Release

Science Democrats Comment on National Academies’ Human Space Exploration Report

By SpaceRef Editor
June 5, 2014
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Science Democrats Comment on National Academies’ Human Space Exploration Report

(Washington, DC) – Today, the National Academies’ National Research Council released a report that provides a number of recommendations and observations on what is needed to implement a sustainable program of human space exploration.  The Council’s study was undertaken in response to direction in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 to perform a human spaceflight study to review “the goals, core capabilities, and direction of human space flight.” 

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Ranking Member, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), said about the report:

“The report released today by a distinguished National Academies panel has provided an important “wake up call” to all of us in Congress and the Administration.  Their report is clear—we are not going to have a human space exploration program worthy of this great nation if we continue down the current path of failing to provide the resources needed to make real progress and failing to embrace a clear goal and a pathway to achieving that goal.  Our Space Launch System and Orion Crew Capsule development programs are making good progress under challenging constraints, but they do not constitute, on their own, a human exploration program. That is why I am pleased to see that the National Academies’ report underscores the key human spaceflight provision in the 2014 NASA Authorization Bill recently passed by the Committee, namely the requirement for NASA to develop a Human Exploration Roadmap. Such a roadmap is needed to define the specific set of intermediate destinations, capabilities, technologies, and risk mitigation approaches that will enable humans to achieve the monumental goal of landing humans on Mars.  I agree with the National Academies panel that our Nation’s human space exploration program can inspire our youth, advance our technological capabilities, and support our geopolitical objectives, if we both provide NASA with the resources necessary to make this happen and require NASA to make the most effective use of those resources. 


The Ranking Member of the Committee’s Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), stated:


“I am heartened by the findings and recommendations of the National Academies’ report, especially the recommendation for NASA to follow a pathway approach capable of defining the sets and sequences of missions to demonstrate the proficiency of capabilities and technologies needed to achieve the goal of landing humans on Mars.  Such an approach mirrors the human space exploration roadmap I have long advocated for and which the Committee included in the 2014 NASA Authorization Bill.  I make no excuses for being a cheerleader for NASA’s human exploration program.  Indeed, while some might worry about the report’s finding that much of the public is “inattentive to space exploration”, I view this particular finding as a challenge worth taking on.  Ever since I was elected to Congress in 2008, I have taken time to visit with students in their classrooms and engage with them on STEM issues and NASA.  When students and I discuss the space program, they are invariably excited about future prospects of going into space.  Their unfettered enthusiasm gives me confidence that the next generation of Americans only needs a spark to ignite the flood of innovation that accompanies the pursuit of a major goal.  The inspiration of a clear pathway for human space exploration will provide that spark.”

Ranking Member Johnson added:

“The report’s final conclusion is particularly worthy of singling out: 

Probably the most significant single factor in allowing progress beyond LEO [low Earth orbit] is the development of a strong national (and international) consensus about the pathway to be undertaken and sustained discipline in not tampering with that plan over many administrations and Congresses. Without that consensus and discipline, it seems all too likely that the potential of SLS will be wasted, human spaceflight to LEO will become increasingly routine (though still with risk to life), and the horizons of human existence will not be expanded, at least not by the United States. With such a consensus, however, and with strict adherence to the pathways approach and principles outlined in this report, the United States could maintain its historic position of leadership in space exploration and embark on a program of human spaceflight beyond LEO that, perhaps for the first time in the more than half-century of human spaceflight, would be sustainable.

I commend the National Academies for their outstanding work, and look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to establish a sustainable and vital human space exploration program.” 

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SpaceRef staff editor.