Status Report

Legislative Action Memo From the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB)

By SpaceRef Editor
July 11, 2006
Filed under ,

TO: Members of ASGSB (and recent past members)

FROM: Paul Todd, President

Below is a note from Paul Carliner, one of the main architects of the Senate NASA appropriations bill (ranking member staffer), regarding the details of the Mikulski-Hutchison amendment, which will be offered during the Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up of the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill on Thursday, July 13th. Let’s all work to ensure this amendment gets adopted.


This is an extremely important opportunity that could be lost if we do not act. I have attached a letter of support to be printed on letterhead stationery, modified as you may see fit, and faxed to committee members by the close of business, Wednesday July 12. A list of “talking points” (for cutting and pasting) is also attached, should you choose to include them in your message.

Please fax the letters to:

  • Thad Cochrane 202-224-9450
  • Robert Byrd 202-228-0002
  • Richard Shelby 202-224-3416
  • Barbara Mikulski 202-224-8858

Remember: Doing nothing will get us nothing.

If you want to learn more details about the Mikulski-Hutchison appropriations amendment, information from the Senate staffers is included below.

The ASGSB Executive Committee thanks you for your dedication and your participation.



At the full Committee mark-up on Thursday, Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Hutchison will offer their amendment to pay back NASA for the costs of returning the Space Shuttle to flight. NASA has estimated the return to flight costs at just over $2 billion so far. Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Hutchison are committed to providing the $2 billion but will do so over two years, instead of one year.

The amendment they will offer in Committee will provide $1 billion to the NASA Administrator to pay-back the costs of returning the Shuttle to flight and restore cuts to science, aeronautics and exploration programs that were cut in order to pay for the return to flight. The $1 billion will be declared an emergency under the terms of the budget act and budget resolution. The amendment will not specify how much goes to each program. Rather, it gives the entire amount to the Administrator to be used at his discretion with authority to transfer funding to other programs. The report language will make it clear that in allocating the funding, the Administrator shall give priority to programs that were cut in order to pay for the return to flight. The Administrator will present his allocation plan to the Committee as part of the agency’s annual operating plan which is subject to approval by the Committee. In addition, the amendment will also provide $40 million to the Stennis Space Center and the Michoud Assemby Facility to complete repairs resulting from damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and the other hurricanes of 2005.

The goal is that by stretching the $2 billion out over two years, the Senators are hoping that it will be an incentive for the Administration to include the extra funding in their 08 budget. If the FY 08 budget does not include the additional $1 billion, then Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Hutchison will offer another amendment next year in Committee to fully reimburse the agency.

Jeff Bingham and I thank you for interest and assistance in getting this amendment adopted. If you have any questions, feel free to contact either one of us.

Send by Paul Carliner 10 July 2006

Talking Points Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment

1. The Columbia accident, like the Challenger accident in 1986, was a national tragedy, which cost the lives of true heroes of exploration. In both cases, every possible effort was made to find the problem, fix it and move forward to meet the vital challenge of human exploration of space.

2. Recovering from the Columbia accident has cost NASA $2.3 billion through FY 2006, and will cost almost another billion dollars over the next two years.

3. Not only has NASA had to deal with the aftermath of the Columbia accident, it has also been hard hit by the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which caused significant damage to important NASA infrastructure and facilities in the Gulf Coast region. NASA has received some supplemental funding to address Hurricane-related damage, but has had to absorb almost $200 million in additional costs.

4. The Columbia accident and Hurricane Katrina were incidents that not only affected NASA, but the nation as a whole. Yet, for the most part, NASA has been left to deal with their consequences within the scope of its own resources. This would be a major setback to the ongoing program structure of NASA even in ordinary times.

5. However, these are not “ordinary” times for NASA. The agency is in the midst of the most major re-orientation of its focus and activities since the end of the Apollo era and the transition to the Shuttle-Station realm of human spaceflight activity. Since January 2004, NASA has been undertaking the initial steps in fulfilling a new Vision for Exploration, which entails returning to the Moon and eventually making manned expeditions to Mars, and possibly beyond. To accomplish the mission will require replacement crew and cargo launch and spaceflight systems, which will replace the Space Shuttle as a crew and cargo-carrying vehicle.

6. At the same time, NASA has not yet completed the nation’s commitment to the assembly and operation of the International Space Station, in which the nation has invested over $20 billion to date in development and operations costs, and another $20-plus billion in costs for launch, assembly, and operations. In order to complete and equip the space station, NASA must continue to fly the space shuttle, the only vehicle capable of carrying the remaining station modules and major hardware to orbit.

7. NASA has not received the increased funding to implement the Vision for Exploration, as had been projected in the FY 2005 Budget request. Thus, in order to absorb the costs of recovery from the Columbia accident, continue the development of the replacement systems required for the Vision, and to return the space shuttle to flight operations to continue the space station, NASA has been forced to reduce the level of funding previously planned for a number of key NASA programs and activities that are not directly involved in the Vision for Exploration. These areas of activity include the Life and Microgravity Sciences, Space Sciences, Earth Sciences, , and Aeronautics.

8. The continued support of NASA’s traditional external partner communities, whether scientific or corporate, is essential for pursuit and eventual success of the President’s Vision for Exploration. Yet, the cuts that have been made as the result of the twin problem of being forced to absorb Return to Flight costs and not receiving the expected direct levels of funding for the Vision, have begun to undermine that traditional base of support.

9. After the Challenger accident in 1986, the Congress provided nearly $3 billion to NASA for the construction of a replacement orbiter (Endeavour) and to meet other costs associated with redesign of the shuttle solid rocket motors and other requirements. In today’s dollars that amount would be close to between $5 and $6 billion. The relatively small amount of funds, by comparison, provided by this amendment and proposed to be provided in subsequent Administration requests, is certainly within the capability of the nation to provide.

10. If support is lost for the Vision for Exploration and the space shuttle and station programs are not carried through to completion of their mission, it is primarily the United States that will be the loser.

11. Other nations, most notably the People’s Republic of China, are pursuing human spaceflight capabilities and have set their sights on lunar and Martian exploration.

12. If the United States fails to continue its commitment to the International Space Station, its international partners will assume control of the space station and be the primary beneficiaries of the scientific research that can be accomplished there–and the US will lose a national laboratory asset of unmatched promise and potential.

13. The Mikulksi-Hutchison amendment establishes the means and the initial impetus for ensuring continued US leadership in space exploration and the historically important role of NASA in broad-based scientific research and development.


The Honorable Thad Cochran, Chairman	        The Honorable Robert Byrd
Senate Appropriations Committee		        Senate Appropriations Committee
S-128 Capitol Building				S-125A Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20510 				Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Shelby, Chairman  	The Honorable Barbara Mikulski, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee 		Senate Appropriations Subcommittee 
on Commerce, Justice and Science 		on Commerce, Justice and Science
S-146A The Capitol Building			144 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510 				Washington, DC 20510

Senators Cochran, Byrd, Shelby and Mikulski,

As a space life scientist and member of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology I thanks you for your continued interest and due diligence in our Nation’s space program and the Vision for Space Exploration. As part of a science community that supports exploration in Low Earth Orbit and beyond, we urge the Senate Appropriations Committee to take the critical next step by supporting the Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment that would compensate NASA for expenses incurred during Hurricane Katrina and the costs to implement the recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.

This important amendment enables NASA to execute its range of science and exploration programs by relieving the burden of the unanticipated expenses. Without this emergency supplemental, NASA’s science, exploration and aeronautics programs will be severely delayed or curtailed, thus placing at serious risk the nation’s space technology leadership and all that it contributes to U.S. national security as well as our educational, scientific, and economic advancement.

The Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment has precedent; Congress provided NASA emergency funding to build another Shuttle following the Challenger accident in 1987. Similarly, we should not expect NASA to absorb the unforeseen and unbudgeted costs of Hurricane Katrina and the Columbia accident.

The safe and successful return to space of the Space Shuttle Discovery is a testament to the ability of NASA and its Science and Industry partners to work together and carry out the Vision for Space Exploration in its entirety. We applaud your recognition of the value of a strong US space program and urge you to support the Mikulski-Hutchison Amendment.


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