From: United States Senate
Posted: Friday, October 5, 2007
DEPARTMENTS OF COMMERCE AND JUSTICE, AND SCIENCE, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (Senate - October 04, 2007)
On page 74, between lines 4 and 5, insert the following:
RETURN TO FLIGHT
For necessary expenses, not otherwise provided for, in carrying out return to flight activities associated with the space shuttle and activities from which funds were transferred to accommodate return to flight activities, $1,000,000,000 to remain available until expended with such sums as determined by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as available for transfer to ``Exploration Capabilities'' and ``Science, Aeronautics, And Exploration'' for restoration of funds previously reallocated to meet return to flight activities: Provided, That the amount provided under this heading is designated as an emergency requirement and necessary to meet emergency needs pursuant to subsections (a) and (b) of section 204 of S. Con. Res. 21 (110th Congress).
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, this amendment has got a rollcall of cosponsors. Of course, it is cosponsored by my very able ranking member, Senator Shelby; Senator Hutchison of Texas, another strong advocate of space and one of the original architects; Senator Landrieu of Louisiana; NELSON and MARTINEZ of Florida--NELSON is an astronaut--SALAZAR of Colorado; LIEBERMAN; and strong bipartisan support from Senators BENNETT and VITTER. Senator Clinton of New York is included, as well as Senator Brown of Ohio.
This amendment will increase funding for NASA. It is unique and historic that we offer this amendment right at this minute. This is the 50th anniversary of Sputnik. Fifty years ago, that 180-pound piece of round metal went into space and changed the destiny of mankind. When Sputnik went up, we didn't know what the intent of the Russians was, but a wonderful Republican President by the name of Eisenhower knew we had to get into the space race. We have been in it ever since. But it has never been for predatory purposes or military purposes. Our NASA has always been to go where no man or woman has ever gone before, to be involved in discovery, to also come up with the science to protect our own planet and to further our national agenda in aeronautics.
Joining us today, as we offer this amendment, in the gallery are the astronauts from the space ship Endeavor. They have spent 14 days in space, continuing the work to assemble the International Space Station, which is our lab in the sky, which will also be a gateway to go back to the Moon and stay there when we do, and then on to Mars; after that, who knows where. We welcome them today to watch this debate because, just as we want to keep space free of politics, we want them to see that here on the Senate floor we can work on a bipartisan basis to put the money in the Federal checkbook to do what NASA needs to do to keep this mission.
What this amendment does is adds $1 billion to NASA's budget. It covers the cost of repairing and upgrading the safety of its space shuttle fleet. It comes in the aftermath of the Space shuttle Columbia accident in 2003. The funding was declared an emergency and they received full funding to return to space.
Our amendment follows the precedent set after the 1986 Space shuttle Challenger accident, when Congress made a special appropriation to get the shuttle flying again. So this amendment follows the precedent set in 1986 after the Challenger accident. A one-time amount of $3 billion was given to NASA to get the shuttle flying again--not only to simply get it flying, but to make sure our astronauts were safe when they did fly.
By contrast, after the Columbia accident in 2003, NASA only received $100 million in special appropriations. Let me be clear, our goal is not to increase the NASA space budget but to restore the funding that was forced to get after the Columbia accident.
This funding is necessary for three reasons: First, since 2003, when that terrible melancholy event occurred, it has cost NASA over $2 billion to comply with the recommendations of Admiral Gehman to fix what it would take for the remaining shuttles and to fly them safely. Admiral Gehman was asked by the Nation to chair a commission to see what it would take to restore the shuttle's ability to fly again, but also to protect those astronauts. It had engineering solutions, technological solutions, and management recommendations. It was a great report and it was expensive, and do you know what. It was worth it. Is the shuttle flying safely today? You bet it is, and we are all thankful.
At the same time, though, the shuttle has become more expensive to maintain and fly safely. The shuttle is a bit old. It has been hit by unforeseen events, from a hurricane to damage in space. We need the shuttle to maintain our commitment to the International Space Station, where we have treaty obligations.
Second, another reason to support this amendment is the shuttle will be retired in 2010, and we are faced with the challenge of developing a new, reliable, safe human flight vehicle. But the costs of returning the shuttle to flight have forced NASA to cut funds for the next transportation vehicle by almost $500 million. This cut contributes to the gap of over 5 years between when the shuttle retires in 2010 and when we get a brandnew vehicle in 2015.
This is not acceptable. We cannot let China get to the Moon before the United States does. We also need to make sure we keep our astronauts safe for the remaining time they use the shuttle . Also we have to keep that excellent talent down there of scientists, engineers, and mechanics, to keep our shuttle flying safely.
Third, NASA has had to forage for funds in other programs to pay to fix the shuttles. Since 2003, science and aeronautics have been cut by almost $100 million.
Science on the space station has been drastically cut. This has a ripple effect within the scientific community. It affects our future ability to understand and protect changes in our planet and in other issues. The National Academy of Sciences says we need more space science, not less.
The consequences of not doing this amendment are clear. It contributes to the delay of our next space transportation vehicle. No one wants that. We do not want to be grounded for an extensive period of time. It reduces our commitment to our international treaty obligations on the space station.
The goals of the amendment are clear. It maintains our commitment to safe, reliable, and robust human spaceflight. It keeps us on track for the next reliable space transportation vehicle and maintains our commitment to scientific discovery.
We didn't leave NASA with an unpaid bill 20 years ago, and we shouldn't do it now. Twenty years ago, our colleagues, Senator Byrd and Senator Stevens, provided $2.7 billion out of the defense budget to buy a replacement space shuttle . We did not cut NASA's budget after the Challenger accident. We shouldn't do it after the Columbia accident.
We recommend this amendment because it is $1 billion. It follows the precedent from the Challenger accident. It does not add to the base. It fulfills important national goals which were set by our President to lay the groundwork for space exploration to Mars. But if we are going to do that, I believe we have the national will to do that, I believe we need the national wallet to do that.
So 50 years after the birth of our great Apollo Program, we need to make sure we keep our commitment to exploration and discovery. I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan amendment.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mrs. McCaskill). The Senator from Texas.
Mrs. HUTCHISON. Madam President, I rise to speak on an amendment Senator Mikulski and I have worked on for a long time. After we lost the space shuttle Columbia over Texas and we were so involved in the cleanup of that tragic accident, all of us--Senator Shelby, Senator Mikulski, Senator Nelson from Florida, many of us--did try to make sure we had the funding that was needed, first of all, for a comprehensive review of what happened. We did have an incredibly good product from the Commission that was put together that did determine the cause. We did fund that at $100 million. But the added safeguards and safety measures that were required by that study and the Commission report were not funded.
As Senator Mikulski said, we are about $2 billion to $3 billion in the hole. We cannot allow that to happen because here we are on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik and it is another sputnik moment. When all of us in America were shocked that Russia had put up the first spaceflight, we were left to say: Why weren't we first?
Today, 50 years later, we are looking at a 5-year gap from the end of the space shuttle before the crew-return vehicle will be on line to put American astronauts back in space. That is another Sputnik moment.
Are we going to rely on Russia after 2010 to put American astronauts in space? I hope not. I hope America never loses its commitment to be the first in technology, in knowing what can be done, in exploring issues we haven't even thought about because we know how much that exploration has already done for our country.
In fact, what has happened is exactly as Senator Mikulski just explained. The accounts for NASA have been drained. We have drained from science, we have drained from the Hubble telescope, and we have drained from other aeronautics research to fund the Columbia accident report and safeguards, and we have not moved forward for the crew-return vehicle.
It is estimated that if we can get this billion dollars and if we can fully fund the accounts that have been bled, we could chop at least 2 years off that gap.
We are talking about a technological and educational issue at a time when India and China are doing more and more exploration into space, and we are talking about a national security issue that the United States would not have the capability for 5 years to put an American astronaut in space.
Who can forget the beginning of the war against terror when we were putting missiles, guided through satellites, into windows from 2 miles away because we have that capability we have gained from the exploration in space. In addition, if we look at the science and innovation we must continue to pursue to make the investment in the space station worthwhile and to keep our commitment to our international partners, we have to be willing to put the amount that is required from America with our international partners into the space station. That, too, has been robbed.
Just think, last month Senator Mikulski and I went to a signing between the National Institutes of Health and NASA of an agreement that the National Institutes of Health would be a partner in the international space station lab, that it would begin to do some of the far-reaching medical research that could only be done in the space station because of the microgravity conditions, and NIH signed the agreement. Are we going to continue to rob the accounts for scientific research at a time when we are on the cusp of doing the research about which we have been talking--research into breast cancer, research into osteoporosis--where we can see the cells grow because there is no gravity that is pulling against the growth?
What about Dr. Samuel Ting, the Nobel laureate from MIT who testified before our committee? I am the ranking member--former chairman--of the NASA, space, and science subcommittee. He came to our committee and wowed all of us with the potential for scientific research on the space station. He is a Nobel laureate in physics. He said cosmic rays are the most intense in space. On the space station, we can begin to find what cosmic rays do in that intensity and perhaps even begin to find a new energy source from being able to harness those cosmic rays and create a form of energy which he says can only and best be done on the space station.
I ask my colleagues, in a time when we are all trying to find ways to cut back on expenditures that are not necessary, to look at this amendment carefully because it is an investment in the future. It is an investment to make sure our technology transfers are continued. As an example, look at the items on Earth that have been discovered or enhanced by space research: international TV broadcasts, pacemakers, automatic insulin pumps, car phones, CAT scans, infrared thermometers, long-range weather forecasting which has revolutionized not only our agriculture industry but the ability to predict hurricanes. We have so many quality-of-life issues that have been enhanced or discovered because we were willing to do this research.
I ask my colleagues to look at this investment. Do we want to see this go to the Chinese or to India or to Russia, or do we want to continue to make sure that America is the creator, America is the innovator, that it is Americans who take the discoveries and turn them into products that can change our lives, especially in medical science?
I ask my colleagues to look at what we have gained in superiority in defense because we have invested in space. Yet, at a time when we are at war, when we know we have used the satellites to the most effective point they have ever been used for intelligence gathering, for the ability to do intelligence gathering without harming Americans, without putting Americans in a plane because we can take from the satellites the information so that the pilot is not in danger of being shot down because there is no pilot. We can gather intelligence, we can retain our superiority and technology and creativity, but it will take the investment. If we are going to pay for an emergency out of operating funds, we are eating our seed corn.
Madam President, surely America and our Congress and this Senate understand that issue. The leadership of the appropriations and authorizing committees, Senator Mikulski, Senator Shelby, myself, and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, are the four chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees. All of us have asked to meet with the President to talk about this priority that we must continue exploration in space and determine how we would go forward in a bipartisan way to assure America's leadership in this important endeavor. I hope the President will support this amendment, will meet with us to have a joint effort to do this amendment.
The President himself has already laid out the vision. He has said we are going to put people on the Moon again, we are going to establish a base on the Moon, and from there we are going to go to Mars. The President has laid out the vision, but we must have the capability to fulfill the mission by having the scientific research that will keep us in the technological lead by continuing to make sure we are looking at all of the energy sources we can use, by creating the medical capabilities that can only be done in the microgravity conditions.
I join with so many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in asking that we adopt this amendment, that we get 60 votes, if that is what we need, to assure that this goes forward, not as another appropriation but as an investment to assure that America's leadership continues.
Madam President, I wrote a piece for the Hill, which is one of the local Capitol magazines. It goes into more detail about why this is so very important.
I ask unanimous consent to have the article printed in the Record.
There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
Maintain U.S. Supremacy in Space
On Oct. 4, 1957--almost 50 years ago to the date of this publication--the Soviet Union launched the world-famous Sputnik satellite, setting off alarm bells throughout Washington that America was falling behind in space technology. But America's ingenuity was dramatically mobilized by President Eisenhower, who passed The National Defense Education Act, which provided massive investments in science, engineering, and technology. Those investments paid off when we safely landed a man on the Moon, fulfilling President Kennedy promise. The research program we created spawned some of the most significant technologies of modern life, including personal computers and the Internet.
Today, we are on the verge of another Sputnik moment. In November, China will launch its first lunar orbiter--a major milestone in its rapidly-developing space program. In fact, China's progress has been so substantial they're planning on landing a man on the moon by 2020. A decade or so from now, the Red Flag may be flying on the lunar surface.
In this ominous environment, you would think Washington would be trying to recharge America's commitment to space exploration. In fact, the opposite is happening. Right now, NASA is planning to retire the Space shuttle in 2010. Until its replacement is ready--not expected until 2015--the U.S. will have no way to launch humans into space.
During this five-year time gap, we will have to rely on Russia to get our own scientists and astronauts to the International Space Station. As the world's leader in space technology, it is simply unacceptable that we will be in this position technological dependency. Our national security depends on our ability to explore space without relying on nations who may not always have our best interests at heart. Thankfully, there is still time to prevent this frightful scenario from becoming reality.
Congress should provide NASA with the added funds it needs to narrow or close the gap in our human spaceflight capability, by accelerating Ares and Orion--the shuttle replacement vehicles--providing increased support to potential commercial vehicles, and, if necessary, keeping the space shuttle flying longer than 2010. This will ensure that America stays in control of its space destiny.
Since NASA was created in 1958, the research that has gone into the space program has also spurred innovations that have greatly improved our lives--from car phones to heart monitors, from ultrasound scanners to laser surgery. Recently, NASA has been implementing my plan to use the U.S. segment ofthe ISS as a ``National Laboratory,'' which means that even more breakthroughs can be expected once that lab is fully operational. On Sept. 12, NASA and the National Institutes of Health signed the first of what should be several inter-agency agreements to facilitate ISS research in the future.
We want the U.S. to be the global leader in space research because the unique environment of outer space enables scientists to conduct many experiments not possible on Earth. For example, NASA is considering placing a sophisticated particle detector on the ISS to learn more about cosmic rays. This research must be carried out in space where researchers can collect data without the hindrance of Earth's dense atmosphere and gravity. The results could lead to breakthroughs in our fundamental understanding of matter, and possibly new sources of energy.
There is a strong, symbiotic relationship between space research and national security. For example, by using space-based navigation systems, we can guide a missile to within meters of its intended target. This not only allows our military to more effectively hit a target, it also saves civilian lives and limits collateral damage.
The Chinese are gaining ground in technological areas. For example, China recently surpassed the U.S. as the world's largest exporter of information-technology products (and the U.S. has become a net importer of those products). The Chinese are now turning their attention to space technology--and they are determined to use it as a means of strengthening their military. We cannot allow other countries to acquire new weapons technologies while America does not keep up.
On the day before he was tragically assassinated, President Kennedy remarked, ``This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space, and we have no choice but to follow it. Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome.''
As we mark the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, let's renew our commitment to overcome those difficulties once again. We've worked too hard, and accomplished too much, to willfully forfeit our leadership in space. Let's make the necessary adjustments to maintain our supremacy. Our future depends on it.
Mrs. HUTCHISON. Madam President, I urge my colleagues to support the Mikulski-Hutchison amendment that has bipartisan support of all of the four members of the relevant committees' leadership. I hope together we can take this step to assure America's leadership.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.
Mr. SHELBY. Madam President, I join with my colleagues, Senator Mikulski, Senator Hutchison, and Senator Nelson from Florida, in asking all Senators to support this amendment.
Senator Mikulski and I have worked hard with the others to craft a bill that addresses the priority of our Members, but despite our generous allocation, the funding necessary for NASA to aggressively pursue the President's ``Vision for Space Exploration'' cannot be accommodated without this amendment.
Since the tragedy of the Space shuttle Columbia breaking up during reentry in February of 2003, NASA has spent $2.7 billion to make the shuttle program as safe as possible to ensure our Nation continues to be the leader in space exploration. Unfortunately, as has been pointed out by Senator Mikulski and Senator Hutchison, the NASA budget requests have not adequately restored the necessary resources in their subsequent requests. Instead, the costs have been absorbed from within NASA.
Science funding has been cut significantly, and programs not directly associated with the exploration vision are being deferred, delayed, or canceled. By slowing down the cutting-edge science carried out by NASA, we are mortgaging our future. The foundation for technological leadership and the successes of tomorrow are built on the investments that we make in NASA today.
NASA's research in cutting edge technological advancements have driven science and innovation in this country since the dawn of the space age. We are shortcoming our future by not fully funding science innovation and space exploration. This critical knowledge will be needed in the years to come to make human exploration of the Moon and other planets a reality. These effects cannot be ignored any longer if we are to maintain our leadership and our presence in space.
With the burden of correcting the dramatic Presidential budget cuts in critical justice programs and in NOAA, it is increasingly difficult for the committee to find the resources necessary to keep NASA on the right track. In order to balance the lack of support for NASA's science and aeronautics programs in the budget requests, there are few options left to consider.
The adoption of this amendment, offered by Senator Mikulski and Senator Hutchison, will not only respond to the pressing needs brought about by a tragic accident, but will also send a clear signal that Congress is serious about ensuring that the U.S. retains its leadership position in space exploration. I would urge all my colleagues to vote for this amendment. It is sorely and direly needed now.
Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, Senator Nelson will be coming out to speak shortly, an astronaut Senator who will speak eloquently about this. We also hope, for those who would like to challenge our thinking, that they will use this as a time to come to the floor so that we can have an ongoing and continuous debate. We would certainly like to vote on this within the hour, in the interest of moving our bill forward. So we would ask our colleagues to come and speak.
Before I yield the floor, Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Boxer be added as a cosponsor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Florida.
Mr. NELSON of Florida. Madam President, we are observing the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite that was launched by humans. In that time, 50 years ago, it shocked the entire world that the Soviet Union had become sufficiently technologically proficient that they could suddenly seize the high ground--a high ground that heretofore had not been achieved but that mankind had always longed for--to soar into the heavens.
As a result of that significant technological achievement, the United States got shocked out of its lethargy, out of its willingness to just go along with the thinking that we were that good, but in fact we were falling behind. As Senator Shelby said, we suddenly became shocked at the fact that we were falling behind in math, in science and technology, and that, lo and behold, with the symbolic value of the Soviet Union--at that point our mortal enemy in the Cold War--having achieved that first.
Finally, we got Explorer into space, the first American satellite, and we started to take comfort that this Yankee ingenuity of America would suddenly screw up its determination to achieve and that we would not be passed by. And then, lo and behold, as we are preparing Alan Shepard to go into space--not into orbital space, really, but only into suborbit--suddenly the Soviets surprised us again and they sent Yuri Gagarin into one orbit to achieve what no earthbound nation had done.
I remember years ago, Madam President, as a Member of the House of Representatives--and I had already flown on the space shuttle --as I was sitting on the floor of the House, the then-Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill, beckoned me over.
He said: Billy, I want to tell you a story. He said: When I was a young Boston Congressman, I remember I was down at the White House--President Kennedy was the President--and I had never seen the President so nervous. He was just pacing back and forth like a cat on a hot tin roof. He said: I leaned over to one of his aides, and I asked what in the world is wrong with the President?
What was happening was we were getting ready to launch Alan Shepard on the Redstone rocket, which only had enough lift power to go into suborbit. Here we were, 3 weeks behind the Soviet Union, which had just put up Gagarin into one complete orbit. And, of course, we know what happened. Alan Shepard made that first suborbital flight successfully.
We didn't even have a rocket at that point that would get us into orbit with that mercury capsule. We flew a second time in suborbit with Gus Grissom. In the meantime, the Soviets now send another cosmonaut, Titeuf, and he goes into several orbits, and here we are struggling to get up for the first time in orbit. Well, they said, we are going with that Atlas rocket, which was an intercontinental ballistic missile. And so there, among those first seven astronauts, they chose John Glenn. We knew that we had a 20-percent chance that rocket was going to fail.
It is hard for me even to tell this story without getting a lump in my throat, but John Glenn is in orbit for three orbits when there is an indication that his heat shield is loose, which would mean, upon reentry, that John Glenn and the capsule would burn up. And on that de-orbit burn, as he is starting to plunge back into the fiery
reentry of Earth's atmosphere, before we lost radio contact, John Glenn was heard humming the ``Battle Hymn of the Republic.''
Of course, his flight was successful, and we continued on. But because that President said we were going to go to the Moon and return within the decade, and because the Nation put its mind to it and put the resources to it, we achieved what was almost unbelievable--sending 12 Americans to the Moon and returning them safely, including the crew of Apollo 11, which was one of the greatest rescue ventures ever in all of mankind, with Jim Lovell and his crew, when they lost all of their power en route to the Moon on that crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft.
They shut down the Apollo Program in the early 1970s, with massive layoffs, and it was a long time from that last flight in 1972 to the Moon and a follow-on 1975 flight linking a Soviet Soyuz with an American Apollo. And for days, in the midst of the Cold War, two mortal enemies, two cosmonauts and three Americans, were docked together in space, lived and worked and enjoyed each other and communicated to the world as peaceful partners. Because of the disruptions in the space family, it was not until 1981 that we got back into space, with humans, in the space shuttle .
Now, there is a lesson in what I have just discussed about our history in space that would teach us not to repeat that now. What is that lesson? First of all, one of the great lessons of that era is the fact that we got excited about science and technology and mathematics and engineering and space flight. We produced a generation of exceptionally talented and educated young people who were told to go to their limit. As a result, we had, in a space program that had to have limited volume, light in weight, and highly reliable systems, a technological revolution of micro-miniaturization that had come directly out of the space flight. This watch is a direct spinoff of the space program. So many of the modern medical miracles and medical techniques are a direct spinoff of the American space program.
In fact, one example in our daily lives is the communications we take for granted. We can go anywhere on Earth and know precisely where we are by the global positioning system, GPS, which is now in our cars, and we can have a hand-held unit and go out on a boat, and if we get lost or stranded, with no motor in the ocean, the Coast Guard knows exactly where to come because we have a GPS to tell us exactly where we are.
So, too, spinoff after spinoff: enhancement of our Nation's economy; the educated workforce. About that workforce, need I remind you now that China is graduating five times the number of engineers that the United States is and India is graduating three times the number of engineers?
I want to return to that era, where we can get young people excited again about science and technology, and there is nothing like the space program that will rivet and ignite those little imaginations.
Right now we are at a critical point because NASA has been starved of funds. That is part of the reason why Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby have brought this amendment to the floor. It is not like the loss of Challenger over two decades ago, when emergency funds funded the recovery to flight, the investigation, the designing of new systems, the repair of old systems that got us into safe flight again--not this time. NASA had to pay for this out of its operating expenditures, to the point of $2.8 billion. It was already a tight budget to begin with, not helped by the inability of us last year in the Congress to meet agreements, and we had to operate under an appropriation called a continuing resolution, that left us at last year's funding levels--not the increase.
As a result, what we have is that NASA is desperately short of funds, to the point that when it shuts down the space shuttle in October of 2010, with the paucity of funds, the next vehicle, called the Constellation System, with a capsule called Orion and a rocket called Aires, will not be able to fly with humans until after a 5-year gap.
That is not good for our educational system. It is not good for our technological prowess and achievements.
The amendment of Senator Mikulski will help correct it; not with the $2.8 billion NASA lost but only a third of that, that we are asking that this Senate will appropriate out of emergency funds.
There is not a young person in America who does not get excited about space flight. There is not an old person in America whose heart does not quicken when they think of the daring adventures and the exploration. There is not a scholar or academic who does not appreciate what manned and unmanned space flight has done by putting up the Hubbell Space Telescope, which has opened up the vistas into the beginnings of the universe and understanding where we came from and how all of it came about and what is the order in the universe. Yet we only know 4 percent of all that we can know about the universe. We still have 96 percent, still to learn.
That is what our space program can do for us. It can ignite the imaginations and the desire to achieve in those young people. It can quicken the hearts of all Americans. It can lead to great new technological achievements that will spin out and affect our daily lives. It will open the new areas of knowledge about what we are as a people who populate a planet called Planet Earth in a solar system that revolves about one star that we call Sun, in a galaxy that is ours in a universe that is so large our human minds cannot even contemplate it.
These are the worlds we want to explore. It is our nature, it is our character as Americans that we are, by that nature and that character, explorers and adventurers. At the beginning of this country, we had a frontier and it was westward. The great leaders of our country at the founding of the country said: Go and explore. Today those frontiers are different. Those frontiers are upward and those frontiers are inward. The great leaders of today ought to be saying: Go forth and explore.
I am hoping the great leaders in this body called the Senate will support Senator Mikulski and Senator Shelby in approving this amendment.
I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. NELSON of Nebraska). The Senator from Florida.
Mr. MARTINEZ. Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of the Mikulski amendment and to echo the comments of my good friend and colleague from Florida, Senator Nelson. The Senator and I both have had the great privilege, not only of representing the great State of Florida but also both of us grew up within a short car ride from where all this excitement was happening, as we were young people growing up. Cape Canaveral, the excitement of flights to space, the heroics of our early astronauts and then later the flights to the Moon and the touch of the tragic that, from time to time, have been a part of any dangerous endeavor, have been a part of our daily lives. Of course, my senior Senator from Florida took it a step further. He himself donned the suit and went into space on the space shuttle on what was, I know, a life-changing event for him.
I know the excitement with which he speaks of the space program is not something I can speak about firsthand as he does, because he has been a part of it, but I can certainly speak to it as a person who has seen the benefits of it to our communities, through research, through improvements to so many things that have been derivative from our space program.
As we go to the Kennedy Space Center these days and we talk to these great scientists, these great engineers, these people who are so enthusiastic, who are so competent in what they do, they speak with great commitment to completing the space shuttle flights that are pending. They speak with great commitment about our space lab and the great
advancements in science and technology that are taking place in the space lab--now a new component in biomedical research that will hopefully be opening the doors to the cure of many illnesses. All of these things have been a part of our space flight, of our tradition, and our history.
The 5-year gap Senator Nelson spoke of, where we will have no manned space flight, is something I do not think most Americans understand. As it is right now, because of shorting the space program year after year, what we have is a situation in which there will be a 5-year gap from the last space shuttle flight until the next vehicle is ready for manned flight.
I think, as the American people would know about this, it would raise concerns for them in the area of science and technology, of advancement, of exploration, which has been such a part of our country where we have led the world without a doubt.
But there is something else about it which troubles me greatly and which I think the American people also ought to be made aware of, which is the fact that in order for an American to fly into space for those 5 years, we would be completely and totally at the mercy of Russia. We have had a very good and cooperative relationship. The Americans and Russians and, frankly, many other citizens of other countries, have been a part of the space shuttle and more particularly of the space lab. We have modules there--obviously the space shuttle arm from Canada, modules that have come from Japan and from Italy and many other countries. Each of those countries with great pride has had one of their crew members go on the space shuttle and go to the space lab. Our cooperation with the Russians has been fantastic, even back to the days of the Soviet Union.
But in an ever-changing world, should not we wonder if it is safe for America to totally be reliant upon an increasingly undemocratic Russia for our space flights? I do not necessarily want to create enemies where none exist. But it does concern me to see these Russian bombers coming into areas where they know very well are our waters, our airspace, and repeatedly now over the last month or so coming into what is U.S. airspace and challenging us to intercept them. Why are they doing that? What is the purpose behind that? What could happen over the next 3 years as we conclude the space shuttle , and then the next 5 where we are without the ability to put a man in space, if our relationship with Russia is not as strong as it is today in 8 years, 5 years, 6 years? It certainly isn't as positive and strong as it was 3 years ago.
It behooves us, for the sake of our independence, our sovereignty, our ability to be in control and the destiny of this magnificent laboratory up in space, that we could accelerate the time where this gap was going to exist. It is going to be there no matter what we do, but we can shorten it. I believe if we shorten it by a couple of years, that would be in our best interests.
When we look at the totality of our expenditures, when we look at the cost-benefit ratio of what we get from our space program, how it inspires our young people at a time when we are falling behind in competition with the world in science and technology, when we know the world is moving faster than we are as it relates to the education of our young people and science and technology, what could be better than a vibrant space program to continue to imbue our young people with the desire to explore, the desire to invent, the desire for all he things that the space program has been to our country?
Our technological edge was never finer honed than when we had a vibrant and strong space program in the late 1950s and on into the 1960s. That was our finest and best time when it comes to science and technology.
We have, in many ways, been living off that for the last 25 years. Now we can have the dawning of a new age of space exploration into areas that have so far eluded us completely--well beyond the moon. This can all happen. This is a small downpayment into a very important part of America's future. It is certainly a very strong and important issue as we look also at very practical issues like our workforce.
The workforce at Kennedy Space Center is a well-trained workforce. It is a workforce that has, over the years, developed and over the years improved its skills. If we were to tell these people over the next 5 years there is no work for you, they will go into other pursuits. These are sharp, talented people. It is not like they are going to be unable to get a job, but it is going to be our loss when those people are not engaged in the continuation of the U.S. space flights.
NASA is a good investment for America. We are not talking about breaking the bank. We are talking about a very small investment for what I believe would be a great return. I am very pleased to join with my colleague from Florida, Senator Nelson, who is my expert when it comes to these issues. We both have great affection for the Cape. He grew up a very few miles south of it. I grew up a very few miles to the west of it. This is our backyard. We know it, we love it, and we know what it has meant to our country. We know the future of it can be very bright and we certainly do support this effort to improve funding for NASA.
I yield the floor.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, the proponents of this amendment have had a very thorough discussion of why we support this amendment. We have spoken for about an hour. We certainly want to be sure that those who might have pause or flashing yellow lights about it bring their concerns to the floor so we can engage in a discussion, maybe even a debate, so we could move this debate forward and dispose of the amendment no later than 4:00 and earlier if possible.
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