U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “Moon to Mars: NASA’s Plans for Deep Space Exploration,” at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, July 17, 2019. This hearing will examine the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) human spaceflight program. Witnesses will discuss NASA’s plans for the Artemis Program and returning U.S. astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. The hearing will also highlight policy, regulatory, or technological challenges the agency faces in their efforts to achieve that goal.
- The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
This hearing will take place in the Hart Senate Office Building 216. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Roger Wicker
Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo-11 mission. The moon landing still unites and inspires Americans like few events in our nation’s history. It is hard to believe that a half-century has passed since the United States won the Space Race.
Although it is fitting to celebrate such past achievements, we are pleased that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is here to discuss the future of American space exploration.
In December of 2017, President Trump outlined a bold vision to reinvigorate America’s space leadership. Space Policy Directive-1 calls for returning humans to the moon for the first time since 1972, but this time it will be for long-term exploration and use and will be followed by manned missions to Mars.
NASA had planned to return to the Moon by 2028, but in a speech to the National Space Council in April Vice President Pence announced a dramatic acceleration of that timeline. Under the Artemis program, the United States will now land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024 and establish a sustained presence on the moon or in lunar orbit by 2028.
I share the administration’s sense of urgency. As I told Administrator Bridenstine during his March appearance before this committee, the United States has entered a New Space Race driven primarily by the expansion of China’s space power ambitions and the explosive potential growth for space commerce.
I support setting clear goals on ambitious time lines to achieve mission success. However, in order to reach these goals, NASA and its commercial and international partners will have to accomplish a great deal of work in a short amount of time. The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew capsule need to be tested and certified for human missions as soon as possible. We also need to build multi-component lunar landing systems and the gateway orbiting lunar outpost that docks the Orion crew capsule and lunar landers needs to be assembled in space. I know that as they continue to pursue these ambitious goals NASA will maintain the highest commitment to safety. Part of that commitment to safety, should include the completion of a full Green Run test of the SLS core stage – and there is no better place to do that than at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The cost is a challenge for NASA. In May, the administration submitted an FY20 budget amendment for $1.6 billion in additional funding related to the accelerated Artemis schedule – an amount that Administrator Bridenstine has called a “down payment”. The Administrator has said the program could cost $20-30 billion over the next five years – by my math, that calls on the Congress to appropriate $4-6 billion in extra funding each year. In turn, Congress needs more details on the funding requirements so we can be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. Concerns have also been raised about NASA moving funding from other important priorities to pay for Artemis. The reprioritization needs to include early and detailed consultation with this committee and with the Congress to ensure critical programs are not undermined.
I look forward to Mr. Bridenstine shedding light on these projected funding needs and what is required to address concerns about different components of Artemis, specifically the gateway orbiter in order to execute the program successfully.
The anniversary of Apollo-11 reminds us all of past progress and untapped potential, but constantly changing mission priorities, unstable funding, and goals set too far in the future have caused America’s space program to suffer. Congress should and will perform its oversight duties, but we also need to provide NASA with the consistent direction, clarity of purpose, and funding it needs for success.
I want you to succeed, Mr. Bridenstine; I am excited about this. I hope this hearing will help provide insight necessary to make good on the legacy of Apollo.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thanks for holding this important NASA hearing today about the plans to return American astronauts to the surface of the moon by 2024. Fifty years ago yesterday, NASA launched the Apollo 11 mission and 5 days later, on July 20th, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first people to walk on the moon. Five subsequent Apollo missions successfully landed 10 more Americans – and I should say 3 lunar rovers built in the state of Washington and we’re very proud of the role that we played.
Just as importantly, the Apollo program inspired an entire generation of engineers and scientists. Some of them went on to space careers, but many of them went on to other careers in other fields of high technology. This generation of dreamers and thinkers firmly established the United States as a global leader in innovation and technology. The space race and NASA’s investment in space also perpetrated a thriving commercial space industry that exists today - and again very proud of those companies that reside in the state of Washington, using the expertise of many Washington scientists and engineers to help us achieve this mission.
The benefits of space exploration are clear. NASA should continue to push the boundaries of space science, exploration, and technology, and I’m pleased that NASA has started to outline a plan deep into space. I also appreciate that NASA’s looking at the non-traditional partnerships that the commercial space community can give in that relationship, and in space exploration. Today NASA has been developing the rocket and spacecraft needed for deep space exploration missions for more than nine years, and NASA’s own estimate is that SLS and Orion won’t be ready to fly crew until 2022 at the earliest. So NASA has just started to study the lunar landers and other critical hardware needed for a moon mission. It’s hard to believe that all these key pieces can fall together in just the next five years.
Furthermore, last week I know you made some changes at the organization – the head of human exploration – and so with that and NASA’s retirement of the space shuttle, the question of where is the leadership within the organization to deliver on this goal will be some of the things I’m going to drill down on in the Q&A part of this hearing this morning. And finally, NASA has yet to deliver a congressional budget for the mission beyond 2020, so it’s difficult for us to approve the mission if we don’t know what the ultimate cost will be to the taxpayers.
While we celebrate this unbelievable accomplishment and the fact that you’re continuing to be pioneers in space, we also need to look at the next chapter of exploration and make sure it’s a successful one. I appreciate the value of ambition and vision, but I also look forward to hearing from you, Administrator Bridenstine, on just exactly we’re going to meet this challenge.
So again, thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and I would like to include for the record the testimony of Dr. Patricia Sanders, the head of NASA’s aerospace safety advisory board, was highlighted some of the challenges I mentioned.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Jim BridenstineAdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration