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Letter From USRA President David Black Regarding Senate Amendment on NASA FY 2007 Budget

Status Report From: Universities Space Research Association
Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006

July 13, 2007

The Honorable Thad Cochran, Chairman
The Honorable Robert C. Byrd, Ranking Member
United States Senate
Committee on Appropriations
S128 Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Richard Shelby, Chairman
The Honorable Barbara Mikulski, Ranking Member
United States Senate
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science
Committee on Appropriations
S146A Capitol
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Byrd and Chairman Shelby and Ranking Member Mikulski:

As President of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA), I am writing in strong support of the amendment offered by Senator Barbara Mikulski and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to the 2007 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill.

The Mikulski-Hutchison amendment provides $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2007 emergency funding to reimburse NASA for costs associated with returning the space shuttle to flight following the tragic loss of Columbia and her crew. The amendment also repays NASA for the costs of repairing the Stennis Space Center and the Michoud Assembly Facility in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Though NASA estimates the costs of returning the shuttle to flight are more than $2 billion, the amendment seeks to restore this funding loss over a period of two years.

As a result of these unforeseen expenses, NASA was forced to dramatically reduce long-planned funding to science, aeronautics, and exploration programs. Though the Agency has worked earnestly to mitigate the budgetary impact to other NASA programs of returning the shuttle to flight, the costs have been greater than the Agency can absorb. In some areas, the cuts have been so drastic that the continued existence of the associated research communities is threatened.

Without this emergency funding, the future availability of university resources that support the civilian space program will be jeopardized. Researchers at universities across the country have devoted their careers to space-related science and technology disciplines. Graduate students answering the call to participate in our nation's space program have elected to base their thesis work on the science or engineering of a particular space mission with a given timeline. The Mikulski-Hutchison amendment will ensure the continued vitality of all aspects of the U.S. space program, and it will help to preserve important investments in our nation's universities and NASA centers. I respectfully urge you to support this important amendment.

Sincerely,

David C. Black
President and CEO

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