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Mikulski Calls for Balanced Space Program, Increased Support for NASA

Press Release From: Sen. Mikulski
Posted: Wednesday, April 26, 2006

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"If we are going to have a balanced and robust space program, we need more leadership from this administration."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, today called on the Bush Administration to increase funding for NASA in the federal budget, which cuts billions from science programs. Senator Mikulski also called on NASA to develop a more balanced space program between their science, exploration and aeronautics elements. This morning, NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin testified before committee members on Capitol Hill.

"NASA's role in promoting science has been ignored by this administration. NASA is absolutely crucial to the innovation economy and the innovation society. It is time for the administration to recognize both the cost and the benefits of a balanced space program," said Senator Mikulski. "A balanced space program is what made our nation the leader in space – it pushed the envelope of science and discovery, while spurring innovation."

Senator Mikulski's opening statement, as prepared, is below:

"It has been a busy and very successful year for NASA. We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first shuttle flight and we continue to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishments in science.

"We've witnessed many accomplishments in science –the Cassini probe giving us the best pictures from Saturn and its largest moon. We launched the mission to Pluto built by our team at Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), and have seen the continued success of the Mars Rovers and of course our own Hubble Telescope. We are truly living in the golden age of astronomy. There have been more discoveries in the past 10 years than in the previous 200 years.

"Despite these successes, it has been a difficult year for NASA. The cost of returning the Space Shuttle to flight has increased. Hurricane Katrina caused millions in damage to two NASA centers, and years of flat budgets have put unbearable pressure on all of NASA's major programs.

"And we are facing new challenges from China. China plans to go to the Moon and I welcome international participation in space. But I want to make sure that China is not the only country on the Moon. We can not abdicate our leadership in space exploration.

"The challenge from China can not be ignored. In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers and the U.S. graduated 70,000. In 2003, only three American companies ranked among the top 10 recipients of patents, and America spends less than 1 percent of its GDP on research and development. We need an innovation agenda led by our great federal science agencies – like NASA – to spur our economy and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.

"If we are going to meet the challenge from China, India and others, we must invest at home. America needs clear national goals, including promoting innovation and discovery, stimulating a culture of innovation, rewarding those who want to pursue science by transferring our ideas into products and services, and protecting our intellectual property.

"The new technologies that will be developed could transform many sectors of our economy and inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.

"Unfortunately, NASA's role in promoting science has been ignored by this administration. The President's budget has cut $2.4 billion from science programs between 2007 and 2010. The President's budget also delays, pushes out and even cancels several science missions.

"The Mars program is cut by $240 million. Solar System research is cut by $95 million. Aeronautics research is cut by $100 million, and the list goes on.

"We need a robust science program and a robust human exploration program – not one over the other. NASA must have a bigger budget to maintain a balanced space program. The President's budget provides no real increase for NASA. NASA has too few dollars and too many obligations. If NASA wants to improve the bottom line, we have to change the top line.

"That's why I have been working on a bipartisan basis to get a higher allocation for this subcommittee and I have been working with the White House to get more money for NASA.

"But this subcommittee doesn't just fund NASA. We have national obligations to other critical priorities like the War on Terror, the fight against drugs, saving lives, science and innovation, and competitiveness.

"We can't cut these other vital programs. The bottom line is that the President must increase funding for NASA in his budget. If we are going to have a balanced and robust space program, we need more leadership from this administration.

"I believe in a balanced space program – science, exploration and aeronautics – just what Norm Augustine called for over a decade ago. Unfortunately, the President's budget is unbalanced, unrealistic and unworkable.

"NASA is absolutely crucial to the innovation economy and the innovation society. It is time for the administration to recognize both the cost and the benefits of a balanced space program. I want to get the Shuttle flying again – safely and reliably. I want to fix Hubble. I believe we can and should go back to the Moon and stay there – but we should also have a healthy and robust science program and a healthy and robust aeronautics program. A balanced space program is what made our nation the leader in space – it pushed the envelope of science and discovery while spurring innovation.

"The way to help NASA's bottom line is to increase its top line. A healthy and robust science program is exploration and discovery. NASA's science programs inspire young people into science and engineering unlike any other agency or organization. The best budget for NASA is a balanced budget.

"I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, to see how we can help NASA's top line so we can try to rebalance this budget."

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