U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing titled “Examining the Future of the International Space Station: Administration Perspectives,” at 2:30 p.m. on May 16, 2018. The first in a series of two hearings to examine the role of the International Space Station (ISS), this hearing will provide an opportunity to discuss the value of the ISS to our national space program and the future of human space exploration.
- Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- The Honorable Paul K. Martin, Inspector General, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
*Witness list subject to change.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Ted Cruz
The International Space Station is the largest and most complex habitable space-based research facility ever constructed by humanity. It’s a marvel of engineering, and it’s critically important to our national space program.
For over 17 years, the ISS has provided the United States with continuous access to low Earth orbit which has been paramount to the success of NASA, our commercial partners, scientific research, and to human space exploration.
It’s due to the significance of the ISS as a key component of our national space program that this subcommittee led the effort that extended the operation of ISS to 2024 by enacting the bipartisan U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act in 2015, which Senator Nelson and I worked on hand in hand, and which was signed into law by President Obama.
We then followed up on that effort by once again working in a bipartisan manner, me working closely once again with Senator Nelson, in enacting the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 which was signed into law by President Trump and established the ISS Transition Principles. The purpose of the ISS Transition Principles was to create a step-wise approach to eventually transition from ISS once there is the emergence of a proven and reliable commercial alternative.
Congress decided to take a step-wise approach due to the long history at NASA in which major programs like Constellation and the Space Shuttle have been eliminated prematurely. These decisions have had long-term repercussions at NASA, its workforce, the local communities surrounding NASA Centers, and American taxpayers who face increased replacement costs for lost capabilities. Not only was it concerning when NASA failed to deliver the ISS Transition Report to Congress before December 1, 2017 as required by federal law, but it was deeply troubling when reports leaked that some were pushing a proposal to end all federal funding of ISS in 2025.
Congress was explicitly clear in making its long-term interest in ISS known in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017. Federal statute required the transition plan to include cost estimates for extending operations of the ISS to 2024, 2028, and 2030.
It also required an evaluation of the feasible and preferred service life of the ISS through at least 2028 as a unique scientific, commercial, and space exploration related facility.
Nowhere in federal statue is there a request from Congress seeking a hard deadline to end federal support for ISS, to cross our fingers and hope for the best. We’ve seen that act play out too many times in our national space program and it’s time we learn the lessons of history.
Prematurely canceling a program for political reasons costs jobs and wastes billions of dollars. We cannot afford to continue to pursue policies that have the consequence of creating gaps in capability, that send $3.5 billion in taxpayer money to the Russian government or create a leadership vacuum in low Earth orbit that provides a window of opportunity for the Chinese to capitalize upon.
Let me be clear, as long as I am the chairman of the Space subcommittee, the ISS will continue to have strong support and strong bipartisan support in the United States Congress.
And as long as Article I of the Constitution remains intact, it will be Congress that is the final arbiter of how long the ISS receives federal funding.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Last year this subcommittee held a series of hearings on reopening the American frontier. We heard about the incredible new technologies and businesses that will extend human existence beyond Earth to Mars and into the solar system. Our toehold to that frontier is the International Space Station. Abandoning this incredible orbiting laboratory right when we are on the cusp of a new era of space exploration would be irresponsible at best, and possibly disastrous.
It’s pretty clear that the proposal to end funding for the ISS by 2025 was not a NASA decision - it was a political decision. As far as this committee is concerned, that proposal is dead on arrival. Democrats, Republicans, industry, academia and even NASA – everyone except the White House has agreed that focusing on a random date is the wrong way to approach a transition from the ISS.
I look forward to the day when low Earth orbit is filled with commercial space stations and other platforms used by NASA, but also by non-government customers. And I think we will get there.
But it’s not fair to NASA or to industry to force a transition based on an arbitrary date. That decision should be based on factors like NASA’s research requirements and the readiness of industry to take the lead. We need to listen to our scientists and the experts at NASA. They have made it clear that NASA will continue to need access to low Earth orbit for astronaut training, technology development and research.
Today we have skilled people at Kennedy Space Center, and at Johnson Space Center in Texas, Mr. Chairman, working on the ISS and on commercial crew and cargo. These are some of the only people in the world who know how to keep people alive in space. If this plan to prematurely end the current ISS program moves forward, I fear that NASA’s expertise in these critical areas – expertise that we’ll need to get to Mars – will be lost.
The good news is that NASA’s ISS transition report indicates that the space station has plenty of operational life left – through the end of 2028 and probably even beyond. We have time to continue the critical research taking place on station. We have time to keep training astronauts to live and work in space as they prepare for long duration missions. And we have time to develop a robust commercial market in low Earth orbit.
NASA should be focused like a laser on getting commercial crew up and running so that American astronauts are once again launching to station from Cape Canaveral.
Once Boeing and SpaceX are regularly transporting crew, the ISS will enter a golden era and we will see just how valuable this research platform is.
It makes good business sense to take full advantage of our investment in the ISS, just as it’s commonsense to maintain our nation’s leadership in ambitious space endeavors. The ISS is an unprecedented accomplishment that continues to serve humanity and maintain the United States’ global leadership in space. I appreciate your commitment to this issue Mr. Chairman and I look forward to this discussion. Thank you.
Witness Panel 1
Mr. William GerstenmaierAssociate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Hon. Paul K MartinInspector GeneralNational Aeronautics and Space Administration