The Subcommittee hearing will address issues related to the retirement of the Space Shuttle, its remaining missions, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) plans to compensate should they not fulfill all mission requirements on schedule, and other issues facing NASA when the Space Shuttle is retired.
Bill NelsonSenatorGood morning and welcome to this hearing on NASA’s plans for retiring the Space Shuttle and operating the International Space Station after 2010.The President’s Vision for Space Exploration and the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 lay out a plan for NASA to complete construction of the International Space Station before retiring the Space Shuttle and transitioning to our nation’s next generation launch vehicle. Today we examine NASA’s plans for implementing these requirements and the implications for the International Space Station and the NASA workforce after the shuttle is retired.I have three areas of concern regarding the transition that I would like to hear addressed today. First, I am concerned that NASA is improperly planning to retire the space shuttle on an arbitrary date in 2010, rather than completing the current manifest as required by both the President’s Vision document and the authorization act.Second, NASA’s plan for cargo and human transportation to the ISS is woefully inadequate. NASA’s baseline plan to purchase services from commercial providers is predicated on the wildly optimistic assumption that two small, start-up companies will successfully develop, launch, and test cargo- and human-rated rockets and space vehicles in the next 34 months. While I enthusiastically support the COTS program, it should only be an adjunct to a more reliable, proven approach. The current plan B is to purchase additional launch services from the Russians. NASA should not assume that Congress will authorize additional expenditures to Russia. Nor will this senator support any plan that would allow Vladimir Putin to hold hostage a $60 billion U.S. national asset. NASA needs a better plan.Third, to fulfill our oversight responsibility, this committee must understand the effects of the upcoming changes on NASA’s workforce, both civil servants and contractors. All of the information we have received to date has been limited to generalities and platitudes. We need to see the numbers.We are all aware that NASA is being asked to do much with too little. The President has not provided the funding necessary to implement his own Vision for Space Exploration. However, we must plan responsibly for the future, protecting and utilizing our current assets while developing new capabilities for the next generation of explorers.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Michael D. GriffinAdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Mr. William H. GerstenmaierAssociate Administrator, Space Operations Mission DirectorateNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Dr. Richard GilbrechAssociate Adminstrator, Exploration Systems Mission DirectorateNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)