Hutchison: Commercial Space Flight Can’t Yet Close U.S. Space Gap

March 18, 2010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing today on commercial space capabilities, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Committee, noted the importance of maintaining American access to space without having to rely on other nations.

“America and our partners have spent billions of dollars building and maintaining the Space Station.  Now that it is complete, the President’s budget plan would ensure that the only access we have to it for at least the next several years is by renting seats aboard Russian space vehicles,” said Senator Hutchison.  “That is unacceptable.  The human space flight gap created by these delays threatens not only our nation’s access to the International Space Station and other areas of space, but also our national security and economic interests.   Under the President’s proposal, America’s decades-long leadership in human spaceflight will end.”

Senator Hutchison recently introduced a bill (S. 3068) to allow the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to extend the shuttle’s service as work continues on the next generation of American space vehicle. Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Suzanne Kosmas (D-Florida) and Bill Posey (R-Florida).  Senator Hutchison’s legislation will make the retirement of the shuttle dependent on the availability of a replacement ship or until NASA determines that the space shuttle's capabilities are not needed to keep the space station viable. The measure will also provide acceleration of the nation's human spaceflight programs to ensure America continues to have future access to space.

“Let me be clear, I support commercial space flight and I continue to be a supporter of the current activities being pursued with SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corporation,” Senator Hutchison said.  “But until those efforts are proven successful and certain required capabilities are met, we have no business making a large investment of taxpayers' dollars in the active development of crew-carrying commercial vehicles.  There is simply no assurance that commercial space capabilities are sufficiently advanced in their development to reduce the space flight gap or meet the lofty goals the President has set for the industry.”  

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You can watch Senator Hutchison’s statement here.