Washington, DC - The Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics today held a hearing to examine the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Fiscal Year 2008 budget request and plans for the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs.
"NASA faces many challenges, both now and in the future," said Subcommittee Ranking Member Tom Feeney (R-FL). "Chief among them is to safely maintain the International Space Station and Shuttle, support its research agenda, and ensure the safety of the crews, while transitioning to the new Orion spacecraft and Ares launch vehicles."
Feeney continued, "I remain vigilant about the temptation to backslide into pre-Columbia behavior - burdening NASA to do too much with too little. Demands on NASA must be tempered. Furthermore, this Administration and Congress must deliver the resources needed to complete what has been assigned. That means adequate budgets in FY08 and beyond. I'm concerned about this year's appropriations. The $18 million reduction from NASA's request for ISS reserves and the $85 million reduction in needed replacements for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System represent a fiddling at the margins that cumulatively invites more serious consequences."
NASA plans to complete assembly of the ISS by 2010 and retire the shuttle. On the research front, NASA has recently shifted its focus away from basic research in biological and physical sciences, instead placing increased emphasis on supporting future exploration goals. One of today's witnesses, Dr. G. Paul Neitzel, Professor of Fluid Mechanics at Georgia Institute of Technology, cautioned that the external research community has been damaged by recent cutbacks and, "the reestablishment of an external research community will take years, if it can be accomplished at all."
Nonetheless, Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA, expressed optimism about the future of NASA's space programs, saying, "With each new assembly and logistics flight, with each additional year of continuous habitation, the ISS continues to grow in both size and capability...Our state of preparedness for the upcoming missions is also very high, with the ground-based teams exercised and fully engaged as a result of the recently completed orbital assembly operations."
Gerstenmaier concluded, "There are challenges in front of us, to be sure, and we will have to be ready to respond to the unexpected. But no one is more prepared to confront and overcome these challenges than the international team of engineers and technicians that are flying the ISS and the Space Shuttle today."
Echoing the importance of maintaining a skilled NASA and contractor workforce, Feeney added, "We can't repeat past mistakes - like the Apollo to Shuttle transition - where America frittered away hard-earned spacefaring skills."
Also testifying at today's hearing were: Mr. Tommy Holloway, Chairman, ISS Independent Safety Task Force; and Ms. Christina Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, Government Accountability Office.