Summary of Hearings on NASA Programs (10-4-06)

  • September 28, 2006: House Committee on Science, Hearing on "Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration: Development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle"
  • September 26, 2006: House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, Hearing on "The National Academy of Sciences' Decadal Plan for Aeronautics: NASA's Response"
  • July 18, 2006: House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics hearing in "Redefining Civil Aeronautics R & D at NASA."
  • June 13, 2006: House Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Hearing on "The NASA Workforce: Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It Will Need?"
  • June 7, 2006: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science and Space Hearing on "NASA Budget and Programs: Outside Perspectives"
  • June 28, 2005: House Committee on Science Hearing on "The Future of NASA"
  • May 18, 2005: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Science and Space Hearing on "Human Spaceflight: The Space Shuttle and Beyond"

House Committee on Science
Hearing on "Implementing the Vision for Space Exploration: Development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle"

September 28, 2006

Witnesses
Dr. Scott J. Horowitz, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate
Mr. Allen Li, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, US Government Accountability Office

On January 14, 2004, President Bush announced a new direction for the US space program. The President's "Vision for Space Exploration" would focus on manned missions to the Moon and Mars. In compliance with the vision, NASA presented a plan to build a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), called Orion, which would be able to carry four crew members, land anywhere on the Moon and stay for as long as a week before returning to Earth. NASA contracted a private industry partner, Lockheed Martin, for development and production of Orion. Despite recommendations from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to avoid signing a long-term contract which it said might risk "cost overruns, schedule delays, and performance shortfalls," NASA and Lockheed Martin have begun the program with a long-term agreement, estimated to cost $8.1 billion. However, NASA has amended its initial contract based on GAO recommendations to address some of their concerns.

On September 28, 2006, the House Committee on Science met to discuss Congress' role in the building of Orion. Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-NY) supports the President's vision, but made clear his "determination that NASA not become a single-mission agency." Boehlert asserted, "Human space flight can't succeed at the expense of earth science, space science and aeronautics." He commended modifications to the NASA-Lockheed Martin contract based on GAO recommendations, but noted that because NASA still does not have a design or cost estimate for Orion, strict congressional oversight was necessary.

Ranking Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) said that not enough had been done to address the spiraling budget deficit projected and that NASA may not be able to get the budget increases necessary to complete the program. "I think we have the best available, but we can't put 5000 pounds in a 500 pound box," Gordon said.

Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-MI) called the project "the usual story of Congress asking for more than we want to pay for." He was concerned with the lack of funding and the current trend of making great predictions for something that is not very far along.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, conveyed a more positive attitude towards the program, crediting NASA with a more advanced state of knowledge than the agency has had during earlier operations. Calvert called for maintenance of a tight design and schedule to ensure completion of Orion within the allocated budget. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) agreed with Calvert. He added to the proverb on the wall of the committee room which reads, "Where this is no vision, the people perish," and said, "Where there is no prioritization, there is failure." He hoped this hearing would set a precedent to assigning well-thought out priorities and regiments.

Dr. Scott Horowitz, associate administrator for Exploration Systems Mission Directorate for NASA, assured the committee that NASA was working diligently to put Orion in operation shortly after the 2010 Space Shuttle retirement. He reported that Orion was utilizing "current, proven technologies that will lead to a safer, more reliable and affordable solution." A launch escape system on Orion will allow the crew to abort in the event of a launch failure and a launch vehicle, called Ares I, will assist Orion in its launch.

In regard to the Lockheed Martin contract, Horowitz assured members that NASA needed to work with industry partners to upgrade Orion's design. Taking GAO recommendations into consideration, NASA added Schedule B and C to the contract. These options include price ceilings for the vehicles and allow NASA to end the contract if goals are not met.

Horowitz noted that NASA invested over $140 million into the formulation phase of this plan. "As a four-time space flyer, personal aircraft builder and flyer, and holder of a PhD in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, I am confident in the design we have chosen," he stated.

Allen Li, director of Acquisition and Sourcing Management at the GAO, testified that the "sustainability of the program remains questionable." In the next two decades, NASA plans to spend $230 billion, over $31 billion within the next five years on the vision. "Orion is only one piece of the pie," Li said referring to the larger exploration plan.

He cautioned that NASA's "go as you can afford to pay" approach jeopardizes long-term sustainability. Preliminary projections show multi-billion dollar shortfalls, with a deficit of over $18 billion by 2025. NASA plans to confront shortfalls in the near-term by redirecting funds from other exploratory programs where there is surplus funding.

Li advised that NASA incorporate sound project management and oversight into their policy so that projects are evaluated before implementation. Evaluation will ensure that key technologies have been developed completely, designs are stable and projects can be manufactured within cost and schedule.

To view the written testimony of this hearing, click here.

-RB

House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
Hearing on "The National Academy of Sciences' Decadal Plan for Aeronautics: NASA's Response"
September 26, 2006

 

Witnesses
Dr. Lisa Porter, Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Major General William Hoover (Re.), Co-chair, Committee on Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, National Academy of Sciences' Steering Committee

The Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee convened on September 26, 2006 to discuss NASA's response to recommendations from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics by the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) on how NASA should run its research and development (R&D) program on civil aeronautics.

Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) explained that this hearing provided a follow-up to a previous hearing held on July 18 in which representatives from industry, academia and NAS testified on how NASA's R&D program compared to two recent reports by the NRC. Calvert called the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics "an excellent report" and indicated that witnesses from the July 18 hearing agreed with the report's recommendations. The witnesses suggested that NASA needed to increase its aeronautics budget. Calvert stressed the need for the capability for "state-of-the-art aircraft that are safe, efficient, and environmentally benign" as well as the ability to compete with foreign-manufactured models.

Ranking member Mark Udall (D-CO) echoed Calvert's concerns. He stated that NASA's civil aeronautics program must protect the environment, retain leadership of the United States Air Force, and contribute to national homeland security. "If these are the goals, NASA has a lot of work to do before they can be achieved," Udall said. He pointed to a significant decline in R&D funding with a budget of $1.8 billion in 1994 shrinking to a mere $724 million in the fiscal year 2007 budget request, 2.5 times less than thirteen years ago, and $200 million less than in 2006.

Major General William Hoover, co-chair on the National Academy on Sciences' Steering Committee testified on the specifics of the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics. The survey asserted that the next decade of US civil aeronautics research and technology (R&T) should achieve four key objectives - increased capacity, improved safety and reliability, increased efficiency and performance, and reduced energy consumption and environmental impact. Lower-priority objectives included synergies with national and homeland security, and support for the space program. The NRC identified 89 R&T challenges, 51 of high-priority, which impeded the potential for NASA to achieve the six above objectives. Furthermore, the NRC recommended a more balanced split in allocations between in-house research and external research. NASA's January 2006 budget plan allocated 93% of research funding for in-house use.

Dr. Lisa Porter, associate administrator for Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) testified, "During the past year, NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate has undergone a comprehensive restructuring… that enables us to pursue long-term, cutting-edge research for the benefit of the broad aeronautics community."

Her statement highlighted partnerships with academia, industry, and government which play an integral part in the creation of the ARMD's ten aeronautics projects in four aeronautics programs - the fundamental aeronautics, aviation safety, airspace systems, and aeronautics test programs. The process involved government partners such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Joint Planning and Development Office, and a Request for Information from industry which led to 230 responses from over 100 organizations.

Porter acknowledged that the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics' 51 high priority technical challenges and five common themes were closely aligned with ARMD's restructured research portfolio. She stated that ARMD was addressing 47 of the 51 challenges.

Porter also addressed the $200 million decline in ARMD's budget, explaining that NASA made a change in overhead costs which previously were paid for by separate projects, but will now be paid for with a single rate for nine federal centers. Therefore, the $200 million which has always gone to paying the overhead costs will now be shared by all mission directorates. "This is a budge-neutral change," she assured the subcommittee. "The amount of funding going to each research center is unchanged; the amount of funding for direct program and project activity is unchanged; the total amount of funding for overhead is unchanged; as is the total NASA budget."

Though Rep. Michael M. Honda (D-CA) and other members pressed Porter for priorities if the Directorate were to receive increased funding, Porter asserted that the program provides "core principles that are budget independent."

"Do you consider yourself an advocate for additional funding?" asked Ranking Member Udall.

"I consider myself an advocate for a strong aeronautics program and I believe that's what we have," Porter answered firmly.

To view the written testimony submitted for this hearing, click here.

-RB

House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
"Redefining Civil Aeronautics R & D at NASA."

July 18, 2006

Witnesses:
Panel I
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D - OH)
Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R - VA)

Panel II
Dr. Paul Kaminski, Chair, Committee on Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics, National Research Council, National Academies
Dr. Steve Merrill, Executive Director, Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy, Policy and Global Affairs Division, National Academies
Dr. Michael Romanowski, Vice President of Civil Aviation, Aerospace Industries Association of America
Dr. Parviz Moin, Franklin and Caroline Johnson Professor in the School of Engineering, Stanford University

On July 18, 2006, the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics met to review the findings from two recently-issued National Research Council (NRC) reports on NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate's (ARMD) goals and strategies. The first of the reports, Aeronautics Innovation: NASA's Challenges and Opportunities, was published in May of 2006 by the National Academies' Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP). The report supported a congressional mandate to create and implement a national aeronautics policy that would provide stable, adequate funding and would be created and continuously reviewed in partnership with government, industry and academic stakeholders. The second study, the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics: Foundation for the Future, was released on June 5, 2006 by the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) and details 51 research challenges in five broad areas for NASA to pursue. The five areas are aerodynamics and aeroacoustics; propulsion and power; materials and structures; dynamics, navigation control and avionics; and intelligent and autonomous systems.

Chairman Ken Calvert (R - CA) invited the witnesses to share their opinions about the current efforts at ARMD and about the findings of the two NRC reports. The Chairman emphasized the importance of the aeronautics industry to the U.S. economy and competitiveness. He also pointed out the difficulty that NASA's aeronautics program has faced in the past several years with funding shortfalls and repeated changes in leadership that have resulted in a disjointed and ineffective research program.

Congressman Mark Udall (D - CO) objected to addressing the issue of aeronautic R & D as strictly a matter of competitiveness and economics. He suggested that basic research will lead us to cleaner, safer aircraft, a greater capacity to accommodate increased civilian air traffic, and new methods for protecting the nation. Basic research, he argued, is essential, but not sufficient: NASA must be able to fund more advanced projects that fully develop new technologies.

Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R - VA) informed the committee that between 1994 and 2007, NASA's budget was cut in half, from $1.54 billion in FY1994 to $724.4 million as requested for FY2007. At the same time, the European Union has dramatically increased investment in aeronautic R & D in pursuance of an explicit objective, laid out in their "Aeronautics 2020" program, to become the world's leading supplier of aeronautics technology and services. The congresswoman advised that the failure of the U.S. to maintain its status in the aeronautic industry will have a dire effect on the economy. She expressed concern that NASA apparently wishes to drop all of its programs not directly related to space exploration despite the understanding that, "aeronautics research is critical to our national security."

Dr. Kaminski described the findings of the Decadal Survey and outlined four main research priorities: increasing the capacity of air travel; improving the safety and reliability of aircraft; improving the efficiency and performance of aircraft; and reducing harmful emissions. He outlined a general concept for the budget, which emphasized stability of funding levels, balance between internal and external expenditures and balance between basic research and prototype-level demonstrations of new technology. He estimated that NASA's aeronautics program would need twice its current budget to adequately address the priorities described in the study.

Dr. Merrill described the findings of the Aeronautics Innovation study. He focused particularly on the growing discrepancy between the needs meant to be served by NASA's aeronautics program and the funding it receives. As the budget has been cut over the past decade, the program has ineffectively attempted to spread its scarce resources over a wide range of programs. Instead, Dr. Merrill argued, NASA needs to prioritize and fully fund a smaller number of projects. The portfolio of projects selected should reflect stakeholder needs and the core competencies of NASA research facilities and should include the pursuit of "common good" objectives such as safer and cleaner aircraft technologies.

Dr. Romanowski testified that the U.S. aeronautics industry is not satisfied with the direction of NASA's aeronautics research. That industry is crucial to the U.S. economy: it provided a $40 billion trade surplus in 2005 and spent more than $50 billion on R&D in the past 15 years. As other nations invest more heavily in aeronautics, the preeminence of the U.S. aeronautics industry is being threatened, to the detriment of the economy and national security. As a representative of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), Dr. Romanowski requested that FY2007 funding for NASA's aeronautics research be raised to $912.3 million and that funding be restored for transitional research, which prepares new technology to be adopted by private industry, and for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS), which is intended to revitalize and expand air traffic capacity and safety.

Dr. Moin emphasized the importance of a highly-skilled workforce at NASA and pointed out that the agency is no longer an employer of choice for top graduates. Given that half of the engineering graduates of U.S. universities are foreign-born, an effort should be made to take advantage of this resource, providing employment opportunities at NASA and other aeronautics facilities and breaking down barriers to citizenship.

The panelists agreed that the 51 priorities outlined in the Decadal Survey were appropriate and stressed the importance of maintaining unique, high-cost facilities such as wind-tunnels, which would be difficult for industry to replace. The panelists disagreed about the level of research that ARMD should undertake: Dr. Moin believes that in the current funding climate all that can be done successfully is basic research, while Drs. Kaminski, Merrill and Romanowski believe that some basic research should be sacrificed to follow particular technologies to advance to the transitional or demonstration stage.

-CTD

House Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
"The NASA Workforce: Does NASA Have the Right Strategy and Policies to Retain and Build the Workforce It Will Need?"

June 13, 2006

Witnesses:
Dr. David Black, President, Universities Space Research Association, Co-Chair, Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, National Research Council (NRC)
Toni Dawsey, Assistant Administrator, Human Capital Management, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
John W. Douglass, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aerospace Industries Association of America
Dr. Lee Stone, Legislative Representative, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, and employee at NASA Ames Research Center

The Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics of the House Committee on Science convened on June 13, 2006 to hear testimony regarding the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) current workforce strategy. Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) began the hearing by expressing concern over NASA's strategy to retain and build the workforce it needs in order to face a number of future challenges. Major NASA undertakings include the development of the Crew Exploration Vehicle and the Crew Launch Vehicle, and the return to the Moon by 2020 - however, in order to secure this new funding, the Space Shuttle program is being retired in 2010, and the budgets for International Space Station and physical science research programs are being reduced. "There are hard fiscal realities facing NASA, but just as important and disconcerting are the hard technical realities of which the agency will be reliant on its workforce to manage," Calvert said.

Ranking Member Mark Udall (D-CO) echoed Calvert's concerns. "Ensuring that NASA has the right workforce for the future is going to be no small task and we owe it both to the highly talented NASA employees as well as to the broader aerospace community to make sure NASA and Congress 'get it right' in attempting to shape NASA's future workforce." Issues currently facing NASA's workforce include its skill and age distribution, and the shrinking percentage of development work being completed "in house."

John W. Douglass, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Aerospace Industries Association of America, reported in his testimony that the aerospace industry "faces a significant shortage of younger, technically-skilled professionals." The average age of American aerospace manufacturing employees and engineers is 51 and 54, respectively, and almost 30% of the workforce is projected to retire within the next two years.

In order to address this problem, Dr. David Black, President of the Universities Space Research Association and Co-Chair of the Committee on Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration, suggested that NASA focus on "training in-house staff and establishing an environment that encourages the brightest young students to seek employment." Black is worried that the negative publicity that NASA receives regarding delayed or cancelled projects is discouraging the emerging generation of scientists and engineers from working for the agency. "NASA needs to provide a 'sense of hope and promise' to potential future members of the agency's workforce," he said.

Due to cancellations of earlier projects and incomplete work reassignments, NASA estimates that it has about 1000 employees without sufficient tasks. Because layoffs are forbidden until March 2007, employees are being "re-skilled, or trained to do new tasks," said Toni Dawsey, Assistant Administrator of Human Capital Management at NASA. Presently, NASA is faced with the challenge of both "recruiting new talent and leveraging the talent of the current workforce," she said.

Many Democrats, including Michael Honda (D-CA), believe that the root of NASA's problems is in its budget and not its workforce. "This workforce dilemma is a direct result of the Administration's unwillingness to propose a NASA budget level sufficient to fund the additional demands imposed by the President's Exploration Initiative." Ranking member Mark Udall (D-CO) agreed that the Administration's budget request "forces ill-advised cuts to NASA's aeronautics, microgravity, life and physical sciences, and long-term technology development programs, as well as to parts of NASA's space and Earth sciences activities."

For the full text of witness testimony, click here.

-JCR

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Subcommittee on Science and Space
"NASA Budget and Programs: Outside Perspectives"

June 7, 2006

Witnesses:
Major General Charles Bolden, Jr. U.S. Marine Corps (Retired), Former NASA Astronaut, Chief Executive Officer, Jack and Panther, LLC, Houston, TX
Dr. Jim Pawelczyk, Associate Professor of Physiology, Kinesiology and Medicine, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Dr. Roy Torbert, Director, University of New Hampshire Space Science Center, Durham, NH
Dr. Peter Voorhees, Professor, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

The Science and Space Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing on June 7, 2006 to discuss various perspectives on the budget and programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA was recently forced to cut funding on many of its research programs because $1.1 billion was cut from the agency's budget compared to the authorized level in the 2005 NASA Authorization Act (S.1281). The scientific community and some members of Congress have voiced concern over the restructuring of NASA research programs and the reallocation of funds. "The U.S. can afford a high quality space and exploration program," said Subcommittee Chair Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). "Considering the recent doubling of NSF's [the National Science Foundation] budget, it is a shame to cut NASA's funding so drastically. Our government must provide support for basic science research and exploration, and it must fund at the authorized level."

The witness testimony echoed Senator Hutchison's concerns. Dr. Peter Voorhees, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern University, emphasized that a strong physical sciences program is central to fulfilling the President's vision for human spaceflight. "The future of research at NASA is being threatened as never before…[but] it is important to realize that funding physical sciences research will enable, not diminish, NASA's future plans for human exploration." Voorhees cited ongoing microgravity studies that seek to understand how basic phenomena, such as fire, operate in reduced gravity settings. This research is critical to spacecraft and planet habitat safety, but is among many of the programs that have received drastic cuts in funding.

Dr. Jim Pawelczyk, Associate Professor of Physiology, Kinesiology and Medicine at the Pennsylvania State University, reported that most biology-related research programs at NASA have also been cut. Although it is crucial to study the effects and risks of space travel on the human body, "NASA reorganization has caused life sciences research to become unrecognized and un-funded," he said.

Concern was also raised about the effects that cuts in - or indefinite postponement of - NASA research funding have on science education and training programs. Dr. Roy Torbert, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Space Science Center, noted that "a shortage in the trained technical workforce is driving up major mission costs. NASA should preserve programs that train the next generation of space scientists and engineers." Torbert believes that when science funding is cut, student interest in science and engineering decreases due to the lack of future career opportunities. Pawelczyk agreed with Torbert. "It takes about ten years to establish a strong research program in any subfield of science," he said. "Cutting science funding means that the U.S. is put decades behind other countries, as programs cannot be immediately reestablished."

Major General Charles Bolden, a former NASA astronaut, emphasized that government funding of scientific research is critical to U.S. competitiveness. "Space exploration is risky, expensive and unpredictable...[but] cuts in funding for NASA will ultimately result in continued public disinterest in science, math and engineering." He added, "NASA should not be forced to make the choice between scientific and technological research and human exploration, thus decreasing the chances of successfully pursuing either."

For the full text of witness testimony, click here.
To read more about FY 2007 NASA Appropriations, click here.

-JCR

House Committee on Science
"The Future of NASA"

June 28, 2005

Witnesses:
Dr. Michael Griffin, Administrator to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

On June 28, 2005, NASA administrator, Dr. Michael Griffin, spoke before the full House Science Committee on "The Future of NASA." In his opening remarks, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) compared the new administrator to Don Quixote, stating that "lost in his books, Mike does not realize that idealism has dimmed, and he suits up and wanders about NASA, righting old wrongs, questioning old verities and rescuing programs in distress." Griffin commented, "I am currently in the process of restructuring the programs at NASA and I have made significant changes." However, Boehlert is still frustrated by the fact that almost 2 years after the President unveiled his Vision for Space Exploration, NASA is still unable to definitively answer fundamental questions like: "What kind of aeronautics research will NASA pursue and at what facilities? Will NASA continue to have a robust earth science program?"

Griffin stated that he has set his priorities in accordance with the President's Vision for Space Exploration, which involves "exploring the solar system and beyond, returning humans to the Moon, and sending robots and ultimately humans to Mars and other destinations." With a tight budget to fund all of NASA's proposed programs, Griffin stated that NASA has adopted a "go-as-you-can-pay" approach to space exploration, meaning that "several NASA missions and activities will need to be deferred or accomplished in other ways in order to ensure adequate funding for the priorities of the President and the Congress in FY 2005." From his testimony, Griffin revealed that, "given the choice, I generally favor eliminating lower-priority programs rather than reducing all programs in the face of budget difficulties, because this allows for the more efficient execution of the programs which remain. Thus, we must set clear priorities to remain within the budget which has been allocated." In his written testimony, Griffin outlined accomplishments made by NASA, and fielded questions on the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, robotic exploration and aeronautics.

Griffin stated that the Space Shuttle will return to flight no later than July 13th. Over a dozen changes have been made to the external tank (ET) design, reducing the amount of shedding of foam and ice debris during ascent. Also, Griffin noted that NASA will be unable to fly the remaining 28 flights needed to assemble the international space station (ISS). So, NASA must redesign the ISS program. The number of missions that the remaining shuttle fleet can execute will be presented in a report due out later this summer. Griffin guaranteed that the Space Shuttle will be retired by 2010, with NASA's top priority being to make each flight safer than the last.

When asked by the chairman when he will have a research agenda for the ISS, Griffin responded that it is difficult to answer because U.S. research programs at the ISS will be limited by other priorities, such as human space flight, and the outcome of the Iran Nonproliferation Treaty. Griffin stated that NASA recognizes that the ISS and other space exploration goals are dependent upon effective cooperation with Russian operations. However, according to the Congressional Research Service, the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 (INA) “prohibits the U.S. Government from making payments in connection with ISS to the Russian space agency, organizations or entities under its control, or any other element of the Russian government … unless the President makes a determination that Russia’s policy is to oppose proliferation to Iran." If the treaty isn't amended, astronauts that operate through NASA (including European, Canadian and Japanese spacefarers) would not be able to be trasported to and from the Space Station on a Russian soyuz spacecraft. In order to resolve this issue, NASA has been a member of an interagency effort to develop an amendment to the INA that would allow the U.S. to sustain the core of the act's non-proliferation objectives while continuing NASA-Russian space operations. A day after the hearing, Griffin sent a letter specifying the objectives of such an amendment to the House Science Committee. The letter was also signed by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.

The new crew exploration vehicle (CEV) was another hot topic at the hearing. President Bush requested that the CEV be able to transport crews on exploration missions as well as ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. NASA has followed the President's request and is in the process of accelerating the development of CEV for an earlier launch in 2010 rather than the previously planned launches starting in 2014. According to Griffin, the CEV will be used as the President has requested but also as the "first core element of a new exploration architecture" to explore the Moon and other destinations by no later than 2014.

NASA also hopes to continue to increase robotic exploration of the solar system by traveling to the Moon and Mars, and eventually completing robotic missions to Mercury, Saturn, Pluto, comets and asteroids. As part of the President's request, robotic exploration would receive a 5% increase in funding from FY2005, giving robotic exploration funding a total of 38% of NASA's total budget.

In January 2004, NASA made the decision to stop servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. Griffin stated that "I am reassessing this earlier decision after return to flight, based on the relative risks to the Space Shuttle as well as the costs and benefits to our Nation's astronomy program." After the shuttle has completed two successful missions, Griffin will make a decision regarding a servicing mission for Hubble. Also, Griffin mentioned that NASA will continue to develop the James Webb Space Telescope, with hopes to launch the telescope by 2011.

Griffin indicated that aeronautical research at NASA has already become "more focused and results-oriented," aiming to enhance the public good. In the future, NASA hopes to employ research programs that could appreciably transform civil aeronautics for use by the government and industry. According to Griffin, "NASA is working closely with industry consortia and other government agencies to develop advanced aircraft demonstrations, such as those that would expand the capabilities of high-altitude, long-endurance, unmanned aerial vehicles, which could have numerous commercial, scientific, and homeland security applications."

Overall, Griffin plans to continue the restructuring and transformation of NASA's space and science programs to accommodate the President's request. In closing, Griffin stated, "For America to continue to be preeminent among nations, it is necessary for us to be the preeminent spacefaring nation. It is equally true that great nations need allies and partners in this journey. That is what the Vision for Space Exploration is about."

For Griffin's prepared testimony, click here.

To read the opening remarks, go to the House Science Committee website.

-AMS

Senate Committee in Commerce, Science and Transportation
Subcommittee on Science and Space
"Human Spaceflight: The Space Shuttle and Beyond"

May 18, 2005

Witnesses:
Michael Griffin, Administrator to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Michael McCulley, president/CEO, United Space Alliance (USA)
Joan Johnson-Freese, chairman, Department of National Security Studies, Naval War College
Scott Horowitz, director of space transportation and exploration, ATK Thiokol
Allen Li, director of acquisition and sourcing management, Government Accountability Office (GAO)

On May 18, 2005, the Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space held a brief hearing to better understand NASA's plans for future human spaceflight. In her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), stated that the intentions of the hearing were not to cover the near-term issues or preparation steps for a return to flight, but rather to "review the role of the Space Shuttle as representing an essential U.S. capability to fly humans and cargo into space and back to the Earth." In particular, the committee set out to address three major issues of the space program: plans for the space shuttle after a successful return to flight; the need to ensure that the United States continues space flight into the future without any significant gaps in our exploration efforts; and the steps that NASA is taking to ensure that the transition from the space shuttle to the new crew exploration vehicle (CEV) is completed smoothly.

NASA's newly appointed Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin began his testimony by stating that he would address each of Hutchison's space program issues. First, Griffin explained that NASA's decision to delay the next shuttle flight was made to ensure a sound planning process for the first return to flight mission after the Columbia shuttle disaster. Griffin stressed the importance of successfully completing the Vision for Space Exploration and assembling the International Space Station, which depends on a safe return to flight. To make sure there will be no gap in space exploration when the shuttle is retired in 2010, NASA has developed an Exploration Systems Architecture Study team that will accelerate the completion of the new CEV. Also, NASA has asked the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to help with the transition from the shuttle program to the programs involved in the Vision for Space Exploration. Griffin testified that ultimately, NASA's main priority will be to maintain an experienced workforce that will ensure the safety of the proposed missions and avoid the tragedies of the Apollo program.

On the second panel, Michael McCulley, President of the United Space Alliance (USA), offered the USA's support of a seamless transition in the space shuttle program. The USA intends to provide a high level of safety for the crew and general support for NASA as they undertake "a journey of space exploration over the next several decades as outlined in the President's Vision for Space Exploration." Joan Johnson-Freese, Chairman of the Department of National Security Studies at the Naval War College, further articulated the strategic implementation of the space program, which, in her words, "offers the United States a viable way forward toward maintaining U.S. leadership while generating significant soft power globally, soft power necessary toward such strategic goals as effectively fighting the Global War on Terrorism."

On the more technical side, Scott Horowitz of ATK Thiokol, a major space systems supplier for NASA, briefly outlined a proposal that ATK believes would safely transition the space shuttle program to the Vision for Space Exploration. Finally, Allen Li with the Government Accountability Office addressed the steps NASA should take to sustain a skilled workforce as NASA closes the Space Shuttle program and transitions to new spaceflight missions.

Following witnesses' testimony, the hearing had to be cut short due to votes on the Senate floor.

-AMS

Sources: Hearing testimony, NASA Watch

Contributed by Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff; Amanda Schneck, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Jessica Rowland, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; Carrie Donnelly, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Last updated on October 4, 2006.