U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled, “NASA Missions and Programs: Update and Future Plans,” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. This hearing will focus on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) progress on major missions, including the Artemis Program. The hearing will also provide an opportunity to discuss mission challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and how the agency is adapting to meet those challenges.
- The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
*Witness list subject to change
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Full Committee Hearing
This hearing will take place in the Russell Senate Office Building 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
In order to maintain physical distancing as advised by the Office of the Attending Physician, seating for credentialed press will be limited throughout the course of the hearing. Due to current limited access to the Capitol complex, the general public is encouraged to view this hearing via the live stream.
Chairman Roger Wicker
2020 has been a year of challenge and triumph for America’s national space agency. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted planning and day-to-day operations, but NASA and its commercial partners have achieved many successful outcomes. These include:
- Launching American astronauts to the International Space Station and returning them safely to Earth and returning that launch vehicle safely to Earth;
- Launching a Perseverance rover to Mars; and
- Preparing the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion crew capsule for the first Artemis deep space exploration program mission next year.
I am pleased that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is here to provide us with an update on NASA’s missions and programs and the agency’s plans for the future.
Further progress on the Artemis program is critical to achieving the goals of landing the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and establishing a sustainable presence on or around the lunar surface by 2028. Congress has given clear support for many key components of Artemis – notably the SLS rocket, the Orion crew capsule, Human Lander System competition, and various rovers and instruments to study the lunar surface.
Last week, Administrator Bridenstine announced a detailed plan for the Artemis program that projects a total cost of $28 billion between Fiscal Years 2021 and 2025. Continuing bipartisan support for Artemis is essential, but members need confidence in NASA’s long-term plan. I hope the Administrator will lay out the detailed cost and schedule for Artemis to help give us that confidence.
The Artemis program receives a justifiably large amount of attention, but we should also recognize the tremendous success of the Commercial Crew program. On May 30, the NASA-SpaceX team launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil for the first time since 2011. Commercial Crew represents a true public-private partnership where the government buys services from space companies. It would be helpful if the Administrator could highlight how NASA is implementing lessons learned from Commercial Crew development.
In November of last year, this Committee passed the NASA Authorization Act, demonstrating strong support for Artemis and Commercial Crew. The legislation also strongly supported NASA’s key science priorities, aeronautics research, planetary exploration, STEM education, and other initiatives. Today Administrator Bridenstine can provide an update on these missions and describe any major impacts on cost, schedule, or operations caused by the pandemic.
NASA plays an important role in America’s whole-of-government approach to securing the space domain for exploration, science, and commerce. Great-power competition in space is a reality: China’s space ambitions are well-known, and the Chinese Communist Party has devoted enormous resources to military and civil space programs. NASA recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the newly-created U.S. Space Force to bolster collaboration on standards and best practices for space operations, scientific research, and planetary defense. Administrator Bridenstine may want to comment on the Memorandum of Understanding and where he sees opportunities for collaboration with the Space Force.
Even with this year’s successes, program vulnerabilities remain. As the Artemis program progresses, we should remain vigilant to protect and strengthen international partnerships, particularly those built around the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit research. We should ensure that groundbreaking initiatives, such as robotic Mars missions and planetary observatories, continue making progress. Maintaining focus on Artemis and other missions will require continued support and funding from Congress.
So, I look forward to today’s conversation with the Administrator, and I now turn to my dear friend and colleague, the Ranking Member, for her remarks.
Ranking Member Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
Opening Statement at Senate Commerce Committee Hearing titled “NASA Missions and Programs: Update and Future Plans”
Witness: The Honorable Jim Bridenstine, Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
September 30, 2020
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for the bipartisan leadership on the NASA reauthorization bill. I was pleased to join you and Senator Cruz and Sinema to author the NASA Authorization Act of 2019. Among other things, this legislation would provide authorization for NASA's human exploration programs, including the Lunar Lander needed to return humans to the Moon. There is agreement between the bill sponsors about how to proceed on the authorization I hope you will consider this important bill this year.
NASA’s recent economic impact analysis shows that in 2019, the agency generated more than 64 billion [dollars] in economic output, supported more than 312,000 jobs nationwide, and NASA and the space industry, particularly important in the state of Washington for space activities, account for 1.8 billion [dollars] of our state's economy with companies like Blue Origin, Space X, and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Thousands of Washington jobs are dependent on this growing space industry. I always say there's a reason we have the Space Needle.
So, 2020 was a significant year for NASA. For the first time in nine years, NASA astronauts launched to space from the US soil. And for the first time ever, those astronauts launched on a commercial spacecraft, marking the dawn of a new era for NASA. 2021 promises to be an even bigger year for the agency. Two commercial providers will begin regularly carrying astronauts to the International Space Station. 2021 will also see the first launch of NASA's Space Launch System, which will return astronauts deep space in a few years. I am looking forward to watching Americans exit the Lunar Lander, which will be built in the state of Washington, and step onto the surface of the Moon for the first time in more than 40 years.
And I am very enthusiastic about the Artemis program, which will put the first woman on the Moon. Now, we need more than just that women's first step. We need women and minorities to be represented at every level of the NASA and space programs. So I look forward to working with you and the Chairman on how we increase the diversity in all our aerospace industry.
Given the many new rockets and spacecraft NASA astronauts will fly over the next decade, it's imperative the agency remain committed to safety. Safety must always be the top priority and in order for that to happen, NASA engineers and program managers must have insight into the design and testing of new spacecraft. A major safety issue for NASA is the threat of orbital debris. Just last week, the space station was forced to maneuver away from a piece of space debris. In February, the committee held a hearing on threats to space and I called for increased investment in mapping of space debris and improve space situational awareness. So Mr. Chairman, I know you are also committed to addressing this threat and I look forward to working with you on that issue.
While NASA's human spaceflight program are often in the spotlight, the agency's other missions and research are also critical to the country. As I said, in Washington and many Western states, we face an unbelievable threat from devastating wildfires. NASA satellites provide data that enables disaster management teams to measure the intensity and development of fires as they burn.
And I also want to highlight NASA Space Grant program. Again, a consortium at the University of Washington is doing tremendous work to engage high school students and undergraduates in these areas of research and study, which I think just helps us get the next generation of workforce.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many NASA programs as well as the people who support them, whether they are employees or contractors or researchers, so I look forward to hearing how this committee might work with NASA to keep the program on track while keeping people safely employed. This is a challenge, but obviously, we want to keep moving ahead, so we'll look forward to your comments and testimony, Administrator Bridenstine. Thank you for being here today and again, Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Jim BridenstineAdministratorNational Aeronautics and Space Administration