Letter From Members of Congress to the President Regarding NASA Heavy Launch Vehicle Funding in FY 2011

Status Report From:
Posted: Wednesday, June 23, 2010

image June 22, 2010

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express concern for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 President's Budget for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Human space exploration is ingrained in the American psyche. It is part of who we are as explorers, entrepreneurs, scientists and Americans. The proposed Exploration Systems Mission Directorate reduction jeopardizes our country's leadership in space and could put our national security at risk. Additionally, we do not see the benefit of a 5-year delay to a decision on exploration system architecture.

If we continue with this new space policy, including the outright cancellation of the Constellation program, we are concerned that other countries will forge ahead of us, challenging our space dominance as we literally cede the higher ground to our foreign competitors,

We must have a strong national program to take us beyond low-Earth orbit. In addition to wasting years of hard work and more than $10 billion invested in the Constellation program, the cancellation of this program with nothing else in the pipeline will prevent us from exploring space for many years. It is in the nation's best interest to leverage the investments made in Constellation over the last 5 years, into a beyond low Earth orbit exploration program, today.

We support the immediate development and production of a heavy-lift launch vehicle that, in conjunction with the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, may be used for either lunar or deep-space exploration to an asteroid and beyond, as you said in Florida. This would provide operational flexibility while ensuring our taxpayers' investments have not been made in vain. Industry and space experts believe that a heavy-lift exploration system could be operational within six years and achieved within NASA's Exploration topline budget. With no significant technological breakthroughs on the horizon in regard to heavy-lift propulsion needs, we see no reason to prolong a decision that will result in the loss of a highly-experienced and motivated workforce.

Furthermore, we believe that reinvigorating NASA and our nation's science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce for the 2 1s t century is fundamentally dependent on a strong national space program that begins today. A robust American deep-space exploration program would ensure that American astronauts explore beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon, Mars or any number of exciting deep space destinations. Additionally, a renewed focus on heavy-lift vehicles and exploration will inspire our youth, invigorate our workforce and protect many jobs in today's difficult economy.

We look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to make the necessary changes in order to support an exploration program that continues our elite astronaut corps, preserves an irreplaceable workforce, protects our defense industrial base and ensures that the U.S. will leave low-Earth orbit within the decade.


See original letter for signatures

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