From: Sen. Hutchison
Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Leader must be in place for May 15 return to flight, Chairman says
WASHINGTON - Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space, today called for the swift confirmation of Dr. Michael D. Griffin to be NASA Administrator by the end of this week. Sen. Hutchison stressed the quick vote so that Dr. Griffin can be in place by May 15 when NASA returns to flight.
"I am working with Senate leadership to achieve Dr. Griffin's confirmation by the end of the week," Sen. Hutchison said. "NASA needs its leader in place for the countdown to May 15 when the shuttle is returned to flight. NASA, with proper guidance from the top, has a bold and bright future."
The following is Sen. Hutchison's opening statement, followed by her questions to Dr. Griffin and his answers:
SEN. HUTCHISON'S OPENING STATEMENT:
SEN. HUTCHISON: "As chairman of the NASA and Science Subcommittee I just want to say how pleased I am with the nomination of Dr. Michael Griffin because I think having his leadership, his expertise, his knowledge at this time when we are trying to get the return to flight and set NASA on its mission for the next 50 years. I think having a leader such as Michael Griffin will enable us to get a clear focus of where we want NASA to go and so I am very supportive of his nomination. We are going to have several hearings in our committee to talk about the importance of the shuttle, the space station, and I will have questions later for Dr. Griffin regarding some of those issues. But I do want to ask the chairman and the ranking member to consider trying to get Dr. Griffin's nomination out of the Senate this week. We know that return to flight is on a time schedule and having the designated leader of NASA on board by Monday would help accomplish the return to fight on that time table. So Mr. Chairman, I hope that we can expedite his votes from the committee and further have this on the Senate floor before we leave this week. That would be my request."
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): Mr. Chairman, I want to support Sen. Hutchison's comment. NASA needs a leader as we are coming back to flight and, if you can honor Sen. Hutchison's request to expedite this nomination to the floor so that he could be in place the beginning of next week, I think it would serve the nation well."
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
SEN. HUTCHISON: Mr. Chairman , I have been trying to work on the priorities of the subcommittee and one of the priorities was the question that was just asked by Sen. Nelson. It has, as I have discussed with Dr. Griffin, been of great concern to me that we would have a five-year hiatus on the books in which we would be able to put our own people in space and I appreciate that that is also a concern of yours. I think it is in addition to a potential problem in stopping the science that's done at the space station. I think it it's a security issue for our country when we are seeing, as you pointed out, other countries going into space so I will be looking and we will be holding hearings and certainly when I will am able to hold our subcommittee hearings I will have you back and we'll be able to discuss these things more fully. Of the priorities I have after return to flight, the five-year hiatus is the biggest. We have a commitment to international partners in the space station -- you said something in your opening statement that you support the space station -- but we have to make sure that putting people in space is for a mission worthy of the risk and I agree with you of course that going to Mars should be the next vision. But I want to make sure that we also have the commitment to our international partners to finish the space station and that we look for the ways to enhance the science so that it is worthy of the efforts that we are making both in the medical research which we are now doing and potentially with geophysical research from what we might get on the moon. And then, maybe, into the long-term future of Mars, and I just wanted to ask you if you are committed to finishing the ST and if you have other ideas about the kinds of science that we can do that would be worthy of the risk of manned space flight.
DR. GRIFFIN: Senator, let me assure you first that your priority to as I just said in response to SN? Your priority to reduce any gap in excess to space by our nation after the shuttle retirement is also my priority we are of like mind it remains to find ways and means but we are of like mind on that. With regard to the space station - yes, the president has pledged and I as his nominee have pledged to confirm to bring the space station to a level of completion consistent to our obligations to our international partners. The faith and credence of the US in meeting its obligations means something to me - means quite a lot to me. We have undergone a trauma in our space program as you know all too well and we are still recovering from that and there has been damage to the program and there have been delays to the program but we are committed to meeting our obligations to our partners. With regard to the science that can be done on the station. As I know that you are aware. It consists of course first and foremost. Life science research in connection with the effect zero gravity on the human body in preparation for longer voyages. It also can serve as a test bed for engineering development hardware before that hardware is subjected to long journeys far from home. It can possibly serve as an observation or other type of scientific platform. The utilization of it remains yet to be fully fleshed out. But certainly having built it, it will be my commitment use it for whatever makes sense to use.
SEN. HUTCHISON: So you can foresee that there could be equipment testing as perhaps we go back and forth to the moon that could also eventually help us in knowing what it would take to go to mars?
DR. GRIFFIN: I have often thought that the most valuable application of any space station would be simply a place to check out hardware that is in nascent stages of development, not fully understood, it provides a lot more opportunity for interaction with that hardware than aerospace engineers usually get. Most of the time we design it, build it, launch it, and hope we did it right.
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