Status Report

Statement by Mark Udall: Hearing on NASA at 50: Past Accomplishments and Future Opportunities and Challenges

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

Good morning. I am very pleased that we are holding today’s hearing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA is one of the crown jewels of the nation’s research enterprise, and it has a positive “brand” that is known throughout the world. As Chairman Gordon has noted, this week marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958–the legislation that established NASA, so it is quite appropriate that we hold this hearing now. I also want to welcome the very distinguished panel of witnesses that is appearing before us today. We appreciate your service.

The world is in many ways a far different place than it was a half century ago. Many of the technologies and capabilities that we take for granted today would have been considered to be in the realm of science fiction back in 1958. Moreover, I have little doubt that fifty years from now, many of today’s technologies and accomplishments and scientific knowledge will be considered quaint at best. That is the dynamic reality of scientific and technological advance. And that advance can lead us to a brighter future, if we take the steps necessary to ensure that we harness the fruits of those advances in science and engineering for the benefit of society.

One of the significant engines of scientific and technological progress in America over the past fifty years has been NASA. Indeed, investments made in NASA since 1958 have produced achievements that have profoundly affected our daily lives, whether through the practical benefits of NASA’s meteorological satellite R&D and its remote sensing satellites or by means of the innumerable improvements NASA has made to our civil and military aircraft technologies–improvements that have made them safer, faster, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly.

Yet NASA’s impact has been even more profound, leading to extraordinary advances in our understanding of the universe–witness the amazing discoveries enabled by the Hubble Space Telescope–and of our Earth, especially in understanding the complex factors involved in climate change. NASA’s human space missions have also fundamentally changed our worldview, as people around the world saw Earth for the first time as a bluish-white globe suspended in the inky blackness of space while humans walked for the first time on the surface of another world nearly forty years ago. That change in worldview has also been one of the fruits of the International Space Station project–a project involving some 16 nations in a complex and challenging cooperative mission. And it is a perspective that will produce benefits in the future as America leads cooperative efforts to explore our solar system with humans and robots.

As I note the amazing impact of NASA on our nation over the past fifty years, I am of course aware of the times when NASA’s missions have not gone as planned, when missions have ended in tragedy, and when cost growth and technical problems have led to outcomes less successful than we would have liked. As Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, I recognize those problems and have worked to help prevent their recurrence. That is the proper role of congressional oversight, and I take that responsibility seriously.

Yet, that said, I think that as we look back at all NASA has accomplished over the past half century as well as what NASA is seeking to achieve even as we speak, I think we owe a debt of appreciation to all the men and women of NASA, its contractors, and the universities and research institutions that have made it all possible. So in conclusion, I would just like to say “Happy birthday, NASA–we look forward to many more years of accomplishments from you”.

SpaceRef staff editor.