John D. Rockefeller, IVSenator
Good afternoon, and welcome to our witness, Acting Administrator, Mr. Christopher Scolese. Thank you for taking the time to join us and participate in our discussion. I look forward to your testimony. I would also like to express my sincere regret for not being in attendance for this important hearing.
Our topic this afternoon is the fiscal year 2010 budget request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA has made its mark in history by inspiring a generation with some of the nation’s most exciting scientific feats.
Unfortunately, the inspiration of the past has been stuck in the present mire of budget and program mismanagement.
It is my hope that with the new Obama Administration and diligent oversight from this Committee we will be able to fulfill the promise of NASA in a responsible and balanced way.
I have spent many years as a member and Chair of the Aviation Subcommittee on this Committee and I applaud NASA’s work in this area. NASA Aeronautics research is innovative and greatly contributes to making air travel increasing safer, quieter, and more environmentally friendly.
Climate change research is also of vital importance to this Committee and we are grateful to NASA for providing Earth observation satellites that give scientists the data they need to develop models of pollution, carbon sinks, ice melt, temperature, and much more.
I am very happy to see that both Aeronautics and Earth Science are receiving increases in funding in this budget.
However, even as we applaud what is improving we must keep an eye toward the future health of NASA’s budget and program management and do all we can to ensure that NASA continues to break barriers and lead us through the 21st century.
Mr. Scolese, you have been doing an excellent job. We all appreciate you taking on the huge role and responsibility of Acting Administrator. I l
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
I want to welcome you to this hearing on NASA’s FY 2010 Budget Request, and thank you for your service as Acting NASA Administrator. In such a time of transition, it cannot be an easy or comfortable place to be, but you have exhibited great competence, ability and dedication in filling that role.
I also want to take note of the outstanding work just completed by the STS-125 crew, who are scheduled to land tomorrow at the Kennedy Space Center, in not only restoring the Hubble to full service, but increasing its capability. What a tremendous example of the marriage of space science, astronomy and human spaceflight in completing a task that offers such a huge potential scientific reward. You have my thanks and congratulations for that, as well.
As we review the proposed FY 2010 Budget for NASA, we see an agency that is indeed at a crossroads. It is a crossroads we have foreseen, but it is, I’m afraid, one for which we have not adequately prepared.
We face the prospects of an extended gap in the ability to fly US astronauts on US-owned launch vehicles to work on the US segment of the US-led International Space Station. At the moment, the only real, operational alternative we have to fill that gap is through the purchase of launch services aboard Russian Soyuz vehicles.
I don’t know many who are especially happy with this circumstance. Certainly it is something we have been concerned about since this “transition plan” was first announced back in January of 2004.
Since then, this subcommittee has made every effort and authorized sufficient funds and established policy guidance that could have made this situation less lengthy and less disruptive of our workforce and spaceflight industry. But the funds were not requested, and the funds were not appropriated, and now here we are.
As a result, the budget-makers have been driving our nation’s space program, rather than the policy-makers, in either the White House or the Congress. In my opinion, that is wrong and needs to be change. Policy should not simply be a consequence of budgets. That’s not how this nation gained its leadership position in space, and it’s not how we can maintain it.
Hopefully, we will see a change in that practice. We have heard encouraging words from the President and from his Science Advisor, Dr. Holdren, and we have seen the initiation of an independent review by someone many of us know well and admire deeply, Mr. Norman Augustine.
I applaud the review of human spaceflight he will lead. It would have been better to have been started sooner, but we are where we are.
I hope that the Review effort can be freely and openly conducted and that the review team will be able to look at what the Nation really needs to do in the Human Space Flight arena, and not be limited by what the Office of Management and Budget wants to make available.
The Congress, working with the President, need to be given an honest appraisal of the options, a clear understanding of their respective costs, and then, together, decide what is in the national interest. Knowing Norm Augustine as I do, I believe he will provide us with that honest assessment.
I will have questions later, and for the record, regarding specific areas of concern and interest in the NASA budget.
Thank you again for your service, Mr. Scolese, and I look forward to your testimony.
Witness Panel 1
Christopher ScoleseActing AdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration