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Science, Space, and Technology Committee Hearing Examines NASA's Astrobiology Portfolio

Press Release From: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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Washington, D.C. – Today Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) convened a hearing to provide an overview of NASA’s astrobiology programs and NASA’s new Nexus for Exoplanet System Science.

Chairman Lamar Smith: “The United States pioneered the field of astrobiology and continues to lead the world in this type of research. Since the space program began, NASA has explored the cosmos for life beyond Earth and has conducted scientific research that investigates this possibility. NASA’s astrobiology program continues these scientific endeavors to improve our understanding of biological, planetary, and cosmic phenomena. Just yesterday, NASA announced that it identified flowing briny water on Mars.”

NASA’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Ellen Stofan, testified at today’s hearing. She made headlines this past April when she predicted that “we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence within the next 20 to 30 years.” At today’s hearing, she also emphasized the importance of astrobiology research that could be performed by a human mission to Mars.

Currently, NASA is working on several Mars missions, including a robotic mission known as InSight and a human mission that will use the Space Launch System and Orion crew vehicle. Chairman Smith has long been an advocate for these systems that will make human deep-space missions possible.

The following witnesses testified today:

· Dr. Ellen Stofan, Chief Scientist, NASA [statement]

· Dr. Jonathan Lunine, David D. Duncan Professor in the Physical Sciences, Cornell University;
Director, Center for Radiophysics and Space Research, Cornell University [statement]

· Dr. Jacob Bean, Assistant Professor, Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago [statement]

· Dr. Andrew Siemion, Director, Berkeley SETI Research Center [statement]

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