Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Assessing Commercial Space Capabilities

March 18, 2010

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.—Last month, the Obama Administration proposed a new path forward for NASA that refocuses the agency’s overall direction. That new direction includes significant funds – $812 million in FY 2011 and $6 billion over five years – to stimulate the development of the commercial space market.

Congress is examining the budget closely, and as this Committee begins to move on NASA’s reauthorization, this hearing will start to explore both the promise and the risk of relying on commercial companies for space access.

Investments in technology innovation always carry tremendous potential. We know space exploration has produced many technologies of great value to people’s everyday lives. 

Yet, exploration is still expensive and risky. It is clear that using the commercial market to bring down costs and allow NASA to focus on its greater mission could be an effective strategy.

Still, NASA and the administration have not yet provided key details about how this investment will be executed. To support a domestic commercial market, NASA will need to transition to a new way of doing business. New requirements and regulations will need to be developed in coordination with the FAA and implemented to ensure crew safety.

The space program is still at a critical juncture. With any new proposal or substantial investment we can never forget to ask that simple critically important question: does it work for our country – will it help our people?

I know today’s witnesses can begin to help us answer that vital question. Thank you very much for your perspective and expertise.