Review of NASA’s Exploration Program in Transition: Issues for Congress and Industry

 Review of NASA’s Exploration Program in Transition: Issues for Congress and Industry

Space and Aeronautics | 2318 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515 | Mar 30, 2011 2:00pm – 4:00pm

Opening Statements

U.S. Congressman Jerry Costello

Acting Ranking Member

 A Review of NASA’s Exploration Program in Transition:

Issues for Congress and Industry

 Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s hearing to review the current status and the future of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) exploration program.

I would like to start by saying a few words about Congresswoman Giffords, my good friend and a true champion of our nation’s space program.  Ms. Giffords worked tirelessly during the 111th Congress to ensure NASA’s human space exploration program remained the most innovative in the world.  I am honored to serve as Acting Ranking Member today as this Subcommittee continues her work.

Through the 111th and 112th Congresses, this Committee has held several hearings to discuss the future of NASA’s exploration program as it faced budget challenges and considered serious changes to its mission.  Despite these ongoing discussions, we still have not received concrete answers on how NASA plans to transition away from the Constellation Program and achieve the goals outlined by Congress in the 2010 Authorization Act.

Following your testimony, it is my hope to receive specific information about four key issues.  First, I would like to know the status of the General Counsel’s review of how existing Constellation contracts can be modified to carry out work on the crew capsule and heavy lift launch vehicles as Congress intended in the 2010 Authorization Act.

Second, NASA has determined a baseline approach to developing a heavy-lift vehicle after completing several studies to select the most efficient and cost-effective design.  I would like to hear an exact timeline and date for when NASA will start work on the new vehicle.

Third, during debate on the 2010 NASA Authorization Act, Congresswoman Giffords expressed serious concerns about NASA’s ability to achieve the stringent exploration goals at the authorized funding levels.  Ms. Giffords is a champion of the human space exploration and she recognizes the importance of moving this program forward in a responsible way.  In view of her concerns, I would like to hear from our witnesses if the heavy-lift vehicle and the multi-purpose crew vehicle have a real future at the current funding levels.

Finally, this Committee needs a clear understanding of NASA’s mission for human exploration and the two new vehicles it will develop under the Authorization.  Without concrete goals and benchmarks we have no means of measuring the program’s success.

I hope that today’s hearing will provide the opportunity for members of the Subcommittee to understand how NASA will achieve its exploration mission and how Congress and the Administration can work together to reach those goals.

I welcome our panel of witnesses and look forward to their testimony.   I yield back the balance of my time.

Witnesses

Mr. Douglas Cooke, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

[ Full text of testimony ]

Dr. Scott Pace, Director, Space Policy Institute, George Washington University

[ Full text of testimony ]

Mr. James Maser, Chairman, Corporate Membership Committee, The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

Full text of testimony ]

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