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Prepared Statement by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: "Human Space Flight - The Space Shuttle and Beyond"

Status Report From: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Opening Statement of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Chairman
Subcommittee on Science and Space
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Hearing on "Human Space Flight - The Space Shuttle and Beyond."
May 18, 2005

I am pleased to welcome our witnesses here today for this hearing on Human Space Flight - The Space Shuttle and Beyond. I know you are all very busy people, and the subcommittee appreciates your willingness to be here with is to discuss some very important issues for the future of human space flight.

I am especially pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Griffin here, who is perhaps busier than all of us, as he continues to assume the helm of NASA, assemble his leadership team, and prepare to give the go-ahead for the space shuttle's return to flight.

We begin the focus of today's hearing on the space shuttle, because that is this nation's only human space flight vehicle. The Space Shuttle continues to represent an incredibly valuable national asset. We all share, I'm sure, the great hope that it will return to flight in July as a safer, more capable vehicle than ever before.

This hearing is not intended to delve into the near-term issues or the steps taken to prepare for Return to Flight. Rather, we hope to review the role of the Space Shuttle as representing an essential US capability to fly humans and cargo into space and back to the Earth. We will hear about the current status of our ability to continue flying the Space Shuttle, and plans for its use after a successful Return to Flight. We expect to hear about the need to ensure that the United States has such a capability and can sustain human space flight into the future without a serious gap in our ability to do so. We hope to hear what steps are now being taken and will be taken in the future to develop a successor to the Space Shuttle in a manner that provides a smooth, uninterrupted transition from one US human space flight capability to the next.

With talk—and plans—to retire the Space Shuttle, we must carefully guard against the premature loss of either skilled expertise in the workforce or industrial capacity to support and sustain the Space Shuttle for however much longer it will fly. Members of our second panel will address these and other issues.

It is essential that we learn from the mistakes made in past efforts to develop a new generation of vehicles for US human spaceflight. We do not have the luxury of either time or resources to make another false start as we add the new dimension of the Moon, Mars and beyond to this nation's human spaceflight capability.

This hearing is intended to set the stage for what will be the Subcommittee's ongoing efforts to monitor and ensure the success of US efforts to sustain an effective, uninterrupted national human spaceflight capability.

I look forward to our witnesses' testimony and their response to questions of the Subcommittee.

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