Hutchison Strongly Supports John Glenn Statement on NASA

First American to Orbit Earth Says Shuttle Retirement Should Be Put on Hold

June 22, 2010

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today said she strongly supports former Ohio Senator and astronaut John Glenn’s statement highlighting the risks of relying only on the Russian Soyuz vehicles for American access to the International Space Station.  Senator Hutchison has consistently stated that any compromise between the Constellation program and the President's budget proposal should include a short-term extension of the shuttle program in order to protect the nation’s $100 billion investment in the space station. She noted that additional shuttle flights would sustain and utilize the space station to conduct ground-breaking research and help maintain the primary justification for continuing America’s human space flight capability.

“Senator Glenn's thoughtful comments come from someone with a deep connection to the space program and a strong understanding of the current political process through which we must find a compromise,” said Senator Hutchison.  “Conversations to date have failed to focus on preserving our capabilities in low Earth orbit with the lowest possible risk of loss to the space station. I strongly agree with Senator Glenn, and the concerns expressed by many others, that the simultaneous cancellation of the Constellation program and the retirement of the space shuttle threatens our access to and use of the space station. The decision to retire the shuttle fleet was made based on a plan to have commercial cargo resupply capabilities available soon after the final shuttle flight, and an expected station service date of 2015.  The simple fact is that since the shuttle retirement decision was made, the service life of the space station has been extended until 2020 and new commercial cargo capabilities have experienced significant delays.”

Earlier this year, Senator Hutchison introduced legislation, S.3068 the Human Space Flight Capability Assurance and Enhancement Act, to close the gap in U.S. human space flight that will occur if the space shuttle is retired before the next generation of space vehicle is developed.  Senator Hutchison’s bill would let NASA extend the shuttle’s service if needed as work continues on a replacement vehicle. This short-term extension would allow a study to be completed to determine the parts and equipment needed to extend the space station’s service life from 2015 to 2020.

“We need time to assess the station's equipment needs from now until commercial cargo capabilities come on line to ensure the station's survivability and full utilization, both in the short run and until 2020,” Senator Hutchison said.   “I have proposed several options to extend the space shuttle, some of which do not require additional flights. Unfortunately, the Administration has given no indication that it understands how the President's proposal changes assumptions and plans regarding the space station, or that it is willing to discuss options to extend the availability of the space shuttle. I hope that Senator Glenn adding his voice to those of other space luminaries like Neil Armstrong, Eugene Cernan, and Jim Lovell will result in a new direction for our discussion and our nation’s vaunted space program.”

                                                       # # #

You can read Senator Glenn’s letter here.