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Key Quotes from Today's Hearing on Realizing NASA's Potential: Programmatic Challenges in the 21st Century

Press Release From: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011

image WASHINGTON, D.C.--The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a full committee hearing today titled Realizing NASA's Potential: Programmatic Challenges in the 21st Century.

Witness List:

Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., Associate Administrator, Mission Support Directorate, NASA
Mr. Douglas R. Cooke, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA
Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA
Mr. Leland D. Melvin, Associate Administrator, Education, NASA
Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA
Dr. Edward J. Weiler, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA

Key Quotations from Today's Hearing:

"NASA continues to be an agency in transition. There is a great anticipation about what's next for NASA after the shuttle program comes to a close. For the scientific promise of future exploration, we need to get NASA's transition right. Exploration, however, can take many forms and there is one area of the President's FY 2012 budget request for NASA that particularly concerns me. That's the funding requested for NASA's education programs. The FY 2012 request is $138 million, which is nearly $42 million less than what was enacted for FY 2010. Teaching our students science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has never been more important to innovating and competing in this global economy."

Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

"I believe NASA has the talent, experience and ingenuity to carry out its mission to explore, despite the many challenges facing our nation and the space agency itself right now. We don't have a choice but to remain a world leader in science and technology through a robust space program."

Senator Bill Nelson, Chairman, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Science and Space

"With a cut of that magnitude coming halfway through the fiscal year, we estimate that it would require us to reduce about 4,500 contractor jobs across the agency. That's about half of our on-site contractor work."

Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., Associate Administrator, Mission Support Directorate, NASA in response to a question about the estimated impact of implementing House proposed NASA budget cuts

"We can incrementally be able to go to numerous destinations of high interest. We could stage missions to Mars vicinity. We could go to the Moon with additional capability. We could go to the moons of Mars...Every time we explore, as great nations do, we discover things. The opportunities are incredible. The heavy lift vehicle and the crew vehicle are the critical first two steps to getting to any of these destinations."

Mr. Douglas R. Cooke, Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, NASA in response to a question of potential destinations that are enabled by a new heavy lift capability and what the nation stands to gain from such exploration

"Unless we get a pretty dramatic budget cut, we plan to go execute that mission. We see that mission as extremely critical to us. What that mission provides for us is it gives some margin that if commercial providers are a little bit late and they don't fly in late 2011 and 2012 as they have been planning, then we've got some time through 2012 that we'll have enough supplies pre-positioned on the Space Station that we can continue to do quality research and we can continue to keep our crew size at six aboard the Station through that period until 2013. If we don't have that shuttle flight then it is absolutely mandatory that the commercial cargo providers come online this year and early into 2012. I don't think that's a prudent strategy. We need some margin."

Mr. William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate, NASA in response for comment on whether the STS-135 will fly this year and the benefits of the mission

"We reached about 155,000 students and teachers. Some of the projects were with kids helping build wind tunnels, some Native American students were actually making food pods, and we had middle school students actually helping program spheres through the Massachusetts space grant. These spheres are actually up on the space station, so they could have a hands-on, experiential activity that's actually being inspired by space. We reached 22,000 students that had 30 hours of hands-on instruction with at least 7 hours of NASA content."

Mr. Leland D. Melvin, Associate Administrator, Education, NASA in response to a request to describe some of the accomplishments of the Summer of Innovation pilot program in 2010

"The aviation industry is one of the few industrial sectors that still has a trade surplus. In 2008, the aviation industry brought almost $57 billion of trade surplus to the country. So, we must stay in the leadership position. And I think NASA aeronautics is positioned to do that."

Dr. Jaiwon Shin, Associate Administrator, Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate, NASA in response to a question about what NASA is doing to target R&D spending to make sure it is consistent with both the industry needs as well as our national needs for new technologies

"James Webb will enable us to see the universe when the lights first came on. The first stars, the first galaxies going all the way back to maybe 100-200 million years after the Big Bang. That's what we know James Webb will do. As we learned from Hubble, I can sit here and expound on all the things we expect James Webb to do. It's going to look for extraterrestrial planets. It's going to study star formation, galaxy evolution."

Dr. Edward J. Weiler, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA in response to a request to justify the importance of the James Webb telescope

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