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Opening Statement by Rep. Ralph Hall an House Science Committee Hearings on NASA's Mars Mission Plans

Press Release From: Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Democratic Caucus
Posted: Wednesday, April 12, 2000

Opening Statement
The Honorable Ralph M. Hall
Ranking Democratic Member
Committee on Science
April 12,2000

Good morning. I would like to join the Chairman in welcoming the witnesses to today's hearing. You both have impressive credentials, and I look forward to hearing your testimony.

At the same time, I know that neither one of you has a particularly pleasant story to tell this Committee. After a promising start with the Pathfinder and Mars Global Surveyor missions, NASA has suffered a series of failures that are all the more painful because they seem to have been avoidable.

Now I'll be the first to admit that what NASA does really is "rocket science", and that space exploration is a tough and risky business. But your reports seem to be saying that NASA made things even more difficult for itself by ignoring a lot of basic rules of good project management. That troubles me.

Your reports also seem to be saying that five years after the NASA Administrator started telling people to do things "Faster, Better, and Cheaper", no two people could agree on what exactly that meant in practice. And so good people wound up taking unnecessary risks in carrying out the Mars missions-simply because they didn't realize the nature of the risks they were taking-And that troubles me, too.

NASA has got to do better than that, and we are looking to you folks today for some recommendations on how to proceed.

You know, I've said before that I had some problems supporting some of NASA's space missions in the 1980s and 1990s when ordinary people were having a difficult time making ends meet-and when this government was having a difficult time getting its own books to balance. Now we are running a surplus, and we can afford to fund these NASA missions. But NASA has to do its part, too. It can't "cut corners" just to meet a schedule. And it can't allow itself to get sloppy in carrying out its programs.

I believe that you and your review teams have provided a valuable service to NASA and to the nation. I hope that NASA heeds your "wake-up" call.

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