The Subcommittee will review the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal.
Bill NelsonSenatorGood afternoon and welcome to this hearing on NASA’s 2009 budget request. We welcome NASA’s Administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin as our witness today and wish to extend a special welcome to the crew of STS-120 who are visiting today.Commander Pam Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, and Mission Specialists Scott Parazynski, Doug Wheelock, Stephanie Wilson, and Paolo Nespoli completed a spectacular mission back in November. Pam and her crew carried the Italian built Harmony module to the International Space Station and performed a series of very difficult space walks. Thank you for your part in bringing the Space Station one step closer to completion and for showing us once again how truly resourceful and innovative NASA can be.And before we go on, I would also like to welcome Senator Vitter in his new role as ranking member on the subcommittee. As you know I believe that space exploration is a truly non-partisan endeavor. NASA and its aeronautics and space programs are some of the ‘crown jewels’ of our country and represent the best of what we can all bring forth as a nation. I look forward to working closely with you.Dr. Griffin – I wish to express my gratitude for the difficult job you are doing. So while you are on the spot today the issue before us is not you, but rather the future of our nation’s space program. NASA has had many great achievements over the past year, and I applaud the hard work and dedication of our country’s aerospace team. However I am deeply troubled by the direction our space program is heading. A countdown clock has started, but unfortunately it is not a countdown to launch, rather it is a countdown to crisis.We are fast approaching a time where this country will not have the means to put our astronauts into space nor to access the Space Station that the American people have invested tens of billions of dollars in constructing. With the present planning, and the budgets proposed by the President, we face a gap in our human space flight capability of at least 5 years. And this will occur while other Nations such as China are moving forward in developing their human space capability.The President’s budget requests for NASA have never provided sufficient funds for the challenge our space program faces. And this looming crisis is the direct result of this lack of support. Most American’s don’t realize that NASA receives well less than 1% of the federal budget. And NASA needs far more resources than it receives for all that it has been tasked to do.And so Dr. Griffin, we have invited you here to tell us about the challenges you face implementing all that you have been tasked with in this budget environment. And we also look for your thoughts on how Congress can help NASA meet these challenges. Thank you for your time today, and we look forward to hearing your testimony.
Ted StevensSenatorMR. CHAIRMAN, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR CALLING THIS HEARING TO HEAR FROM DR. GRIFFIN ABOUT THE FY 2009 BUDGET REQUEST FOR NASA.I AM ALSO HAPPY THAT THE CREW OF THE STS-120 SHUTTLE MISSION WERE ABLE TO STOP BY THE HEARING. LED BY COLONEL PAMELA MELROY AS MISSION COMMANDER AND GEORGE ZAMKA AS PILOT, THIS CREW DELIVERED THE KEY MODULE THAT ENABLED ALL THREE MAJOR LABORATORIES OF THE SPACE STATION TO BE ATTACHED AND LINKED TOGETHER. THEY ALL REPRESENT THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST OF OUR COUNTRY, AND THE OTHER COUNTRIES THEY REPRESENT, AS IN THIS CASE, ITALY, WITH PAOLO NESPOLI SERVING AS A MISSION SPECIALIST.OUR NATION’S LEADERSHIP IN SPACE EXPLORATION HAS PROVIDED THIS COUNTRY WITH MANY SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL BENEFITS AND ADVANTAGES IN AN INCREASINGLY COMPETITIVE WORLD, BUT WE CANNOT TAKE THAT LEADERSHIP FOR GRANTED. OTHER NATIONS, SUCH AS RUSSIA, CHINA, AND EVEN INDIA, EITHER HAVE OR ARE DEVELOPING THE CAPABILITY TO EXPLORE SPACE, INCLUDING HUMAN EXPLORATION.I AM CONCERNED THAT WE STILL DO NOT HAVE A CLEAR AND RELIABLE PLAN FOR CONTINUING OUR HUMAN SPACE EXPLORATION WITHOUT AN EXTENDED GAP AFTER THE RETIREMENT OF THE SPACE SHUTTLE.IT IS IMPORTANT TO COMPLETE THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION AND TO HAVE THE STATION AVAILABLE FOR OUR SCIENTISTS AND RESEARCHERS TO WORK THERE—THAT IS WHY WE HAVE MADE THE INVESTMENT OVER THE YEARS TO BUILD IT. BUT WE ALSO NEED TO BE ABLE TO GET TO IT AND USE IT. I AM VERY CONCERNED THAT WE MIGHT BE IN A SITUATION WHERE—FOR AS MANY AS FIVE OR SIX YEARS—THERE IS NO US-OWNED CAPABILITY TO LAUNCH HUMANS INTO SPACE.
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Michael D. GriffinAdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)