Olson Questions Bolden on Administration Budget Plans on NASA's Constellation Program
Washington D.C. - Today in a hearing of the House Science and Technology Committee featuring National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden, Members on both sides of the aisle voiced serious concerns about the shift in direction the Obama Administration has proposed for human space flight in the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget request.
â€œI am deeply troubled about the future viability of Americaâ€™s human space flight program,â€ said Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Ranking Member Pete Olson (R-TX). â€œI want NASA to have clearly defined goals because I believe that is the only way we will make any progress. NASA is a mission-driven organization that produces its best results with clearly defined goals and the resources to achieve them. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle and a plan to cancel the Constellation program, it is more important than ever that we work together to provide NASA with the legislative guidance it needs.â€
The Constellation Program, which is the planned follow-on system to the Space Shuttle, would be cancelled under the Presidentâ€™s proposed budget. In so doing, the request does not support the goal of returning to the Moon by 2020 that was articulated in the FY 2010 budget request. In its place, the Administration proposes to spend $6 billion over five years to foster the development of commercial human space flight vehicles. The Constellation program has been overwhelmingly endorsed by both Republican and Democratic Congresses in subsequent NASA Authorizations. Members at todayâ€™s hearing expressed many concerns about maintaining a critical workforce, the loss of a $9 billion investment, ceding leadership in space to other nations, related national security issues, and the lack of details and certainty regarding capabilities of the commercial launch industry.
â€œThis budget proposal, relying as heavily as it does on the unproven capabilities of a nascent commercial space industry, contains very few details,â€ Rep. Olson noted. â€œIt not only threatens our leadership in space and our utilization of the International Space Station, but it also risks the loss of much of our aerospace industrial base and our highly-skilled workforce.â€
Until the Congress has had a chance to examine the details of NASAâ€™s proposal, Committee Members today urged Administrator Bolden to adhere to current law and continue with the Constellation program in FY 2010.
Members also raised concerns about the apparent lack of a plan to evaluate crew safety on proposed commercially operated vehicles. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) clearly warned of the inherent risks of a human space flight program without established goals. The CAIB also warned against unbounded technology development programs that, lacking clear requirements and metrics, are susceptible to future budget reductions.
â€œExcept for vague assurances that safety will not be undermined,â€ Olson said, â€œI see no detail explaining how NASA plans to ensure that commercial systems will be equal to the expectations that guided the development of Constellation.â€
Contact: Melissa Kelly