Status Report

Statement by Bart Gordon: Hearing on NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges

By SpaceRef Editor
July 30, 2008
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Statement by Bart Gordon: Hearing on  NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges

Opening Statement By Chairman Bart Gordon

Good morning.

I will be brief in my opening remarks, because we have a very distinguished panel of witnesses, and I know that we all want to hear from them. However, I do want to provide some context for today’s hearing.

As many of you know, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Science and Technology Committee.

We were one of Congress’s responses to the Soviet Union’s successful launch of Sputnik 1 in late 1957.

Sputnik led to a national reexamination of America’s educational system, our scientific research infrastructure, and our goals and capabilities for space exploration.

And this committee was given the responsibility of leading congressional oversight of those issues.

1958 also marked the year that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was established.

In fact, yesterday–July 29th–marked the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, the legislation that created NASA.

So it is fitting that we take time to look back at what NASA has accomplished over the past 50 years, as well as look ahead to the opportunities and challenges facing the agency over its next 50 years.

We often forget how much we owe to the men and women of NASA who in many ways have helped create the world in which we live today.

They have dramatically advanced our knowledge of our home planet Earth and of the universe at large through an amazing array of scientific spacecraft over the past five decades.

Indeed, it’s no exaggeration to say that NASA’s accomplishments have helped rewrite the science textbooks more than once.

NASA’s men and women have also helped create the technologies that have made possible the commercial aircraft and the aviation system that contribute so much to our nation’s economic vitality–as well as technologies that have helped enable the military aircraft that defend our freedom.

Finally, NASA’s men and women have led the way in helping humanity to move out into the solar system, including putting the first footprints on the Moon almost 40 years ago.

In doing so, they have inspired successive generations to seek to achieve challenging goals in science and technology.

In short, NASA has accomplished a great deal in its first 50 years.

Of course, the agency has also had its share of tragedies and missteps over that same period, and we will continue to address those issues whenever necessary as part of the Committee’s ongoing oversight of NASA.

At the end of day, however, NASA and its programs are still recognized around the world as a shining symbol of American preeminence in science and technology.

We need to ensure that that continues to be the case.

In that regard, I am pleased that the House of Representatives passed the Committee’s bipartisan NASA Authorization Act by an overwhelming margin, because I believe that bill will help provide positive guidance to the next Administration regarding the importance of investing in our nation’s civil space and aeronautics programs–and investing at a level that is equal to the tasks we have asked the agency to undertake.

I look forward to the Senate completing its work on the bill so that we can send it to the President for his signature before this Congress adjourns.

I also want to express my deep appreciation to the noted physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, for submitting a prerecorded message that we will play during this hearing.

However, before we hear from our witnesses and Professor Hawking, I would like to recognize some special guests we have in the audience today.

I am very pleased that two former chairmen of the Science and Technology Committee, Bob Walker and Sherry Boehlert, were able to join us today.

In addition, I would also like to recognize NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale who has also joined us today.

Welcome to each of you.

SpaceRef staff editor.