Status Report

Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Direction, Strategy & Progress of NASA’s Human Space Exploration

By SpaceRef Editor
November 17, 2011
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Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Direction, Strategy & Progress of NASA’s Human Space Exploration

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Yesterday, we honored John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin with the Congressional Gold Medal–four men who changed the course of space exploration; four men who walked into the unknown and fueled America’s quest to advance scientific discovery; and four men who showed us, and the world, that anything is possible.

The accomplishments of these men are just as important today as they were decades ago. The success of the Apollo missions inspired generations of students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics–fields critical to the Nation’s long-term economic strength. But today, that economic strength is lagging–no longer are we the world leader in technological competitiveness. But what these men remind us is what Americans can accomplish when we put our minds to it. The sky is not the limit.

Starting with the earliest astronauts more than 50 years ago, space is now a $270 billion industry and is a driving force of national innovation, prestige, and security. Space exploration and NASA, in particular, have a track record of producing technologies that enable and create new industries in everything from health and medicine to transportation and public safety.

These benefits are just a few examples of why Americans care about exploration and scientific discovery, and that is the topic of our hearing today. Let me remind you that the space program isn’t just about NASA as an agency. This is our Nation’s space program–and involved in our Nation’s program are many different voices–Congress, the Administration, industry, universities, students, scientists, and U.S. citizens, all the way to a 4th grader I met at Piedmont Elementary in Charleston, West Virginia earlier this year who was too busy to chat with a Senator because she was working on her space station project.

In a national program of any kind, you hear all of these voices and, at times, conflicting opinions about what that program should be. We have certainly heard many of those voices over the past few years. But there is a time for debate and there is a time for a decision. NASA has made several key decisions this year about the path forward, and we have invited you here today to talk about that path. For the future John Glenns, Neil Armstongs, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrins out there who are waiting to be the next “firsts”–we look forward to hearing about NASA’s plans for exploration, and I look forward to your testimony.

SpaceRef staff editor.