Chairman Rockefeller's Statement on Options from the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee

September 16, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I want to thank Mr. Augustine for testifying before the Subcommittee today and I want to express my gratitude to him and the other 9 members of the Human Space Flight Plans Committee for their service.  
The task of examining NASA's human space flight plans in a mere 90 days is not an easy one.  As the committee states in its Summary Report, it is in fact rocket science. Thank you for your commitment to the process and its smooth progress. 
I am concerned, however, that the committee seems to have largely accepted the value of human space exploration as an underlying assumption without ever fully discussing it.
In this difficult budget environment where the federal deficit sets new records with each passing month, our country does not necessarily have the resources to do everything that we want to do. The economy has not yet recovered, we are fighting two major wars, and we can't even manage to find a solution to provide healthcare for all Americans. 
The review committee recommends increasing NASA's budget by an additional $3 billion by FY2014, then increasing it at an inflationary rate of 2.4%.   We must ask, quite simply, what are the specific benefits to the nation of making NASA a $22 billion agency?  
Let me be clear, I am not advocating that we abandon space exploration. The case, however, has not yet been made. And I think now would be an appropriate time to ask those tough questions and carefully evaluate the responses. 
This is no longer the era of Apollo and the Cold War where the payoffs for advancing the space and Moon agenda are entirely clear.   
The president, I am sure, will continue to struggle with these same questions as he reviews the committee’s findings and options. I am committed to making sure that together we can get the answers right.
Again, I want to thank Mr. Augustine for his service and testimony today. I look forward to the committee’s final report.