Congressman Steve Scalise today sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden expressing his concern and disappointment with the proposed elimination of the Constellation program, signifying a retreat from space exploration.
In his letter, Scalise emphasizes the negative impacts the proposed cancellation would have on the technological edge that NASA and America have enjoyed since the agency's earliest days. Scalise expresses his concerns with how the President's proposals will affect the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF), the Stennis Space Center (SSC), and their employees, explaining that both facilities are critical to American superiority in space. Scalise also requests a meeting with Administrator Bolden to discuss the future of MAF and SSC and an update on how NASA intends to utilize these two facilities.
A copy of the letter follows.
March 9, 2010
The Honorable Charles F. Bolden, Jr.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001
Dear Administrator Bolden:
I write today to express my disappointment with the proposed cancellation of the Constellation program and the negative consequences that America's retreat from space exploration would have on the technological and economic superiority that we currently enjoy.
As you know, in his budget request for FY 2011, President Obama proposed eliminating the Constellation program and effectively set NASA on a course with no clearly defined mission. NASA has already been developing and testing components and launch vehicles that were being built for this program. I am concerned that the scientific advancements that have been achieved to date and the investments that have been made will be lost with the cancellation of Constellation, as will the scientific and technological edge that NASA and America have enjoyed since the agency's earliest days.
In addition, I am concerned with how these proposals will affect NASA's space centers and facilities, their employees, and the businesses that partner with them. NASA employees are the backbone of the agency, and their talent and creativity has led to, and fostered, the innovations and advancements that NASA has achieved. Many of these employees will have to be laid off due to the retirement of the Space Shuttle, and I am concerned that cancelling Constellation will exacerbate these job losses and cause irreparable harm to the facilities where they work, and to the communities in which they live. We cannot rebuild the technological expertise and skilled leadership of the NASA workforce, and NASA's ability to advance the boundaries of human discovery will be severely challenged as a result.
Of particular importance to me are the effects the President's proposals will have on the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) and the Stennis Space Center (SSC). Although these facilities are not located in my district, many of my constituents are employed at MAF and SSC.
MAF has been involved with NASA since 1961, and its employees have built the Saturn 1B and V rockets and the Space Shuttle's external tank. MAF is a world-class manufacturing facility, and its size, advanced manufacturing capabilities, testing facilities, and deep-water port access make it unique among all NASA facilities. No other facility in the country is capable of building the vehicles that MAF can, and, therefore, it should continue to be heavily utilized by NASA in the future. Similarly, SSC has also played a vital role in NASA's success. Since its founding, SSC has tested and flight certified the stages of the Saturn V rocket as well as the Space Shuttle engines. SSC is the nation's premier rocket engine testing facility, and it has become an exceptional interdisciplinary facility made up of NASA and many other agencies engaged in space and environmental programs and our national defense.
SSC and MAF were set to play vital roles in the Constellation program, and both facilities had already begun these efforts. But their work, along with their potential discoveries and advancements, will be compromised if the program is cancelled. To prevent this, both MAF and SSC must remain integral players in carrying out NASA's mission and objectives, and it is imperative that they continue to contribute to a robust space exploration program that will help advance America's economic, scientific and security interests. Without the continued involvement and contributions of these two facilities, American superiority in space will be jeopardized, as will the benefits that this superiority provides to American businesses and job creation.
This issue is a high priority of mine, and I respectfully request that your office provide me with an update on how NASA intends to utilize MAF and SSC in the future. I would also like the opportunity to meet with you personally to discuss your vision for space exploration, as well as the future of these two facilities. If my office can be of assistance in expediting this process, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Member of Congress