Status Report

Letter from Sen. Hutchison to President Bush Regarding Funding for the International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
January 24, 2006
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Letter from Sen. Hutchison to President Bush Regarding Funding for the International Space Station

Editor’s note: Today, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, sent President Bush the following letter on the future of the ISS and budget constraints by OMB. The letter follows:

January 24, 2006

  The President
The White House
Washington, DC  20500

Dear Mr. President,

Three years ago, you lifted our nation beyond the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia and her crew with the announcement of your bold, new Vision for Exploration; not a vision just for NASA, but one for America and, indeed, the world.

A great deal has been accomplished in pursuit of that vision.  NASA has developed and refined its implementation strategy, and it has begun to design the specific missions and the necessary vehicles and systems to carry it out.

At the end of last month, you signed into law S.1281, the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.  That legislation represents the most comprehensive endorsement by the Congress of the key elements of your vision, and it was adopted overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress. In addition, it establishes the underlying policy framework the Congress believes is necessary for your vision to succeed.

Long-term support for the nation’s space program can only be sustained with the continued enthusiasm of the public for those activities. That support is seen in the faces of youngsters inspired by the thrill of exploration to pursue careers in science and engineering. It is felt when the life of a friend or family member is saved or improved by medical techniques or devices developed as a direct result of research in space that cannot be duplicated or done as efficiently on Earth. It comes when researchers and scientists share their new discoveries and rewrite textbooks, and find applications for their discoveries in the development of entire new industries.

These are just a few of the elements that combine to provide the underlying support for the continued exploration of space – the kind of support that is absolutely essential for your vision to succeed. Yet, faced with budget constraints imposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NASA has been forced to reduce the level of science planned for the International Space Station and to eliminate funding for much fundamental and basic life sciences research. Space station research budgets have been cut almost in half as a result of those limitations. With those reductions, the nation stands to lose important scientific projects while the space program — and the vision — stand to lose many of their most vigorous advocates.   

The funding projections by the OMB do not provide adequate resources for the number of shuttle missions necessary to complete and outfit the International Space Station.  This poses a direct threat to the billions of taxpayers’ dollars invested in the development of that important laboratory facility – one that has now, by virtue of your signature, been designated as a national laboratory, an important national asset with enormous potential for providing benefits to all of us. In addition, such limitations on shuttle flights would undermine the transition to the shuttle-derived replacement systems – the Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Crew Launch Vehicle.

Mr. President, it is imperative that these issues and concerns be addressed.  I stand ready to work with you and help in any way that I can. 


Kay Bailey Hutchison

SpaceRef staff editor.