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Apollo Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan Testify

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2011

WASHINGTON - The House Science, Space and Technology Committee today held a hearing titled NASA Human Spaceflight Past, Present, and Future: Where Do We Go From Here?, to examine the many questions around the benefits and constraints of returning humans beyond low earth orbit in the post-shuttle era. Witnesses included Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, Apollo 17 Commander Eugene Cernan, Dr. Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and former NASA Administrator Dr. Michael Griffin of the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The witnesses agreed that a robust human spaceflight effort is vital to the strength of our nation now and in the future. Human spaceflight serves a number of important purposes, including building a strong economy, supporting a high-skilled workforce, ensuring our national security and inspiring the nation. A national commitment to this effort, led by the President and Congress, is essential, particularly in an era of budget austerity. The witnesses further agreed that NASA's recent announcement that it had selected a design for the Space Launch System (SLS) is an important step forward.

Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Acting Ranking Member Jerry Costello (D-IL) noted that at a hearing with Mr. Armstrong and Captain Cernan last year, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Chairwoman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee at the time, voiced concern about the viability of the Administration's proposal and the need for budgets that matched the tasks to be undertaken. In her words, you can't do meaningful exploration "on the cheap." She emphasized the need to keep safety paramount while ensuring that the U.S. not cede its leadership in space and retain an inspiring vision for exploration.

Costello emphasized that in moving forward, Congress will need to examine how the SLS program will be implemented, including the objectives and destinations for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit. Furthermore, while noting that the inspirational value of human space exploration cannot be underestimated, he expressed interest in hearing witnesses' views on potential objectives and destinations for human space exploration "that would best maximize the use of the MPCV and SLS while continuing to inspire our nation."

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