WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation announces the following Science and Space Subcommittee hearing on Challenges and Opportunities in the NASA FY 2011 Budget Proposal.
Individuals with disabilities who require an auxiliary aid or service, including closed captioning service for webcast hearings, should contact Tyler Roth at 202-224-0411 at least three business days in advance of the hearing date.
Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Thank you again to all of today’s witnesses for their participation. I know this is Administrator Bolden’s first time testifying before the committee since his confirmation and I look forward to his testimony.
This afternoon’s topic is the President’s FY 2011 budget proposal for NASA. At a time when many agencies are seeing their budgets decrease, the President is proposing an additional $300 million for NASA next year, building into an increase of $6 billion over the next five years.
Significant investments in science, technology, aeronautics, and education are enormously important. They are a foundation for our future. However, I am going to be looking at this proposal very carefully and will expect strong leadership and financial accountability from the Administrator, the Chief Financial Officer, and NASA’s Inspector General.
I have been critical of NASA’s financial and program management in the past. And, in these extremely tough budget times, this proposed budget increase requires even more diligence and certainly, more oversight.
In addition to outlining the administration’s plans for the entire budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, this proposal also provides a long-awaited response to the options presented by the Augustine Commission for human space exploration.
To say that there has been some “interest” in this decision is an understatement. As the sole authorizing committee for NASA in the Senate, we will be paying very close attention to that discussion as we move forward with NASA’s authorization this year.
I am pleased to see an increase in the requested funding for aeronautics research, especially at a time when jobs are this nation’s top priority. The aerospace industry is one of the few remaining manufacturing industries that continue to be a major U.S. exporter.
However, I am troubled by the significant decrease in funding for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCOR). EPSCOR helps states establish academic research efforts to contribute to economic development. That is why Congress went above and beyond the President’s request last fiscal year, to make absolutely clear just how important this program is. At a time when jobs have never been more important, it seems like a bad idea to cut funding for a program that supports quality, high-tech jobs.
I realize that this budget proposal represents a significant change in direction for the agency. And I am encouraged by certain elements, including the agency’s rededication to science missions.
But I also know that there is a lot of unease, particularly when it comes to the proposed plans for human spaceflight. I firmly believe this is a turning point, an incredible opportunity for Congress and the general public to reexamine what we want out of this agency. And that is exactly what I intend to do as the Commerce Committee moves forward with a reauthorization.
Senator Kay Bailey HutchisonU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Statement by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison
Before the Science and Space Subcommittee
Hearing on Challenges and Opportunities in the NASA Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Proposal
February 24, 2009
Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Vitter, I appreciate your Subcommittee holding this very important hearing on NASA’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 Budget Request. I join you in welcoming General Charles Bolden, NASA's new Administrator, and the excellent panel of witnesses who will follow him:
- Captain Robert "Hoot" Gibson, whose distinguished career at NASA as a space shuttle pilot and commander included commanding STS-61C, the mission that included as crew members both General Bolden, as the Pilot, and the Subcommittee Chairman as a Payload Specialist in January of 1986;
- Mr. Miles O'Brien, who for many years was CNN's eyes and ears on the space program, and I understand was eager to be the first Journalist in Space--once Walter Cronkite became ineligible to fly;
- Mr. Tom Young, whose distinguished first career included management of a major aerospace corporation, and his second "career" in so-called retirement has included serving on the Space Studies Board as well as leading or participating in a great many independent space-related study panels and advisory groups; and
- Mr. Michael Snyder, a constituent of mine in Houston, and a fine example of the highly skilled and dedicated workforce that functions as the real backbone of our nation's space endeavors. I am especially grateful that Mr. Snyder has chosen to come today at his own personal expense to give us insights into the workforce and the potential impacts of the Budget Request from the perspective of the "troops in the trenches," whom we rarely have the opportunity to hear from.
This hearing begins the Commerce Committee’s consideration of the President's FY 2011 Budget Request, as we undertake our responsibility to establish the policies and authorize the funds necessary to ensure the United States maintains its leadership in space exploration. Our work is particularly vital this year, as it is critical that the Congress examine closely the very underpinnings of the proposed NASA budget request, which I believe, if accepted and supported by the Congress in its present form, would spell the end of our nation’s leadership in space exploration. That would certainly be the case in the area of human spaceflight capability.
Since the release of the FY 2010 Budget Request last year, the future of human space flight programs has been in question. As part of that request, the Administration announced it would establish an independent review panel, chaired by my good friend Mr. Norman Augustine, to review U.S. Human Space Flight Plans and provide options for how those programs should proceed in the future.
The Augustine Panel completed its review in late August of last year, and released its Summary Report in September. Shortly thereafter, this Subcommittee held a hearing on the report with Mr. Augustine appearing as the sole witness. Since the release of the full report in September, we have all been waiting for the Administration’s response.
The Augustine Panel provided a total of seven approaches that could be taken to ensure America's continued leadership in space--to establish a space program "worthy of a great nation," as suggested by the title of their final report. None of those options leapt out as the obvious, consensus answer to the mix of vehicle development options and strategies necessary to meet the challenges of the next generation of human spaceflight. There was, however, a clear consensus on two important points.
First, the Panel found that, without a significant increase in the total amount of funding made available to NASA, none of the options presented could be expected to succeed--including the current plans and programs for developing the Ares 1 and Ares V launch vehicles and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. Second, the Panel recommended that a decision be made to formally extend U.S. plans to operate and utilize the International Space Station (ISS) through at least the year 2020.
The Panel’s key conclusions underscored what we in the authorizing committees have been saying for the past five years, and which formed the basis for the funding levels and directives that we authorized in both our 2005 and 2008 NASA Authorization Acts. Our directives would have led to a more timely and successful level of development for the vehicles to replace the space shuttle systems, and would have ensured that NASA allow operations of ISS through at least 2020.
I remind my colleagues that we imposed these requirements because up to that point, NASA's internal planning--and budget guidance from the Office of Management and Budget--was to cease operations aboard the space station in 2015, just five years after its assembly and outfitting would finally be completed by the remaining space shuttle flights.
Unfortunately, the FY 2011 Budget Request does not provide the means to ensure that the extension and full utilization of the space station can be realized. We are already planning to fly 10 fewer missions in completing the space station than had been planned in 2005. As a result, 10 flights' worth of flight-ready payloads--averaging between 40,000 to 50,000 pounds per flight--were essentially relegated to storage warehouses where most of them remain today, ready to fly, ready to use, but with no guaranteed "ticket to ride" to be of any use to the station. What is most important to remember, is that the decisions about which instruments and equipment to swap into the remaining flights were based on the internal assumption of the need to support the ISS through 2015--not through 2020.
The result of this is that we do not know how many, or which, of those "grounded payload" items might actually be needed in order to ensure the station can be supported and maintained safely and reliably until 2020. Not only that, we do not know which, or how many, of these payloads are simply too large or too heavy to be carried to orbit by any existing vehicle other than the space shuttle. And finally, we do not know what additional items might need to be ordered, manufactured and delivered in the future, or what launch vehicle capacity will be needed to deliver them to the station. This is simply not the way a great nation should conduct its civil space program. This is not the way to ensure that a decision and pronouncement to continue operations through 2020 will not become an empty gesture due to the deterioration, damage, or failure of equipment and systems vital to providing the oxygen, water, power to make the ISS habitable and to support scientific research.
I am also deeply troubled about the Administration’s proposal to simply cancel the Constellation programs of Ares 1, the low-earth orbit crew launch vehicle, the Ares V Heavy Lift vehicle for enabling flights beyond low-Earth orbit, and the Orion Crew Exploration capsule to carry the crews for both of those missions. The proposed budget request offers a completely different approach, which is essentially to place all of this country's human spaceflight capability in the hands of commercially-developed crew launch systems, which are not yet defined and for which no real design requirements, development milestones, or even approximate cost estimates are provided.
There also appears to have been little thought given to how we might leverage the $9 billion dollars already spent on the Constellation vehicles in developing an alternative government-operated space transportation system to ensure we have the ability to take personnel into space, should those commercial efforts not succeed, or in case they are delayed. I believe that is irresponsible and unworthy of this nation's historical leadership in space.
I have been, and continue to be a supporter of the current COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems) activities being pursued with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation for cargo delivery services for the Space Station. But, until those efforts are proven to be successful, we have no business investing large amounts of taxpayers' dollars to begin active development of crew-carrying commercial vehicles, especially when we have no assurance that the government will not end up being the only customer for those launch services.
Instead of sending up a white flag for our nation’s premiere science agency, we should embrace efforts to close the gap in U.S. human space flight. If not, we must face the reality that we will be totally dependent on Russia, far from our strongest ally, for access to space until the next generation of vehicle is developed. Not only would we be turning our backs on 40 years of American space superiority, we would be giving up vital national security and economic interests to other nations that are eager to exploit this situation. I am simply not prepared to allow the United States to lose its edge in this critical area. That is why I have drafted, and will introduce, a comprehensive bill to address America’s human space flight programs. My bill would allow us to reach full utilization of the space station, provide for the shuttle to continue operations if necessary to bring essential equipment to the station to reach a 2020 service date, and mitigate the need for our nation to rely on others to provide access to space for our astronauts corps and researchers.
I do want to acknowledge some good news in the FY 2011 Budget Request, which is that the Obama Administration agrees with the need to continue supporting the space station to at least 2020, and to expand and increase its utilization for research. That is very welcome news. But my earlier concerns are very significant examples of how Obama Administration appears to have ignored the recommendations of the Augustine Panel. Therefore, I am pleased that we will begin examining these issues today, and I commend the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee for their leadership. I look forward to the testimony of the witnesses and the discussions with the Subcommittee.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Charles F. Bolden Jr.AdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Robert “Hoot” GibsonAstronaut (Ret.)
Mr. Michael J. SnyderAerospace Engineer
Mr. Miles O’BrienJournalist and Host“This Week in Space”
Mr. A. Thomas YoungLockheed Martin Corporation (Ret.)