Today, following President Obama's speech in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on his plans for our Nation's space program, Science and Technology Committee Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) expressed strong concerns with the President's direction for NASA.
Rep. Hall made the following statement:
"In February, the Administration surprised everyone when it proposed a radical departure from America's robust human space flight program by canceling Constellation, the next-generation space program that has been endorsed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support since 2005 and in which the U.S. has already invested over $9 billion. The President's plan leaves America dependent upon Russia for flying our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and risks ceding America's dominance in space to Russia, China, and India, countries that have present and/or future capabilities for human space flight.
"President Obama instead proposes a new initiative for NASA to buy seats for American astronauts aboard commercially operated launch vehicles -- systems that do not currently exist. His plan lacks clear direction and specifics and gambles our space future on untested and unproven new systems. While I have long supported the development of commercial cargo systems to resupply the ISS, companies must demonstrate that they can safely carry cargo to the station before we should risk our astronauts' lives in ferrying them there. Relying on unproven and undeveloped privately owned systems places our nation's space program at risk and raises serious concerns about viability, safety, cost, and America's superiority in space exploration.
"The President today revealed further details of his plan, including the continued development of a scaled-down Orion capsule, which would be used only as a "lifeboat' from the ISS, and the possibility of a heavy-lift vehicle that would not even be decided until 2015 at the earliest. The President's announcement today, unfortunately, still will do nothing to ensure America's superiority in human space exploration or to decrease our reliance on Russia in the interim. America needs to have a bold presence in space and a proven plan for access to low Earth orbit and beyond. This is essential to our national security, and global predominance.
"I agree with Neil Armstrong, Apollo astronauts and many other supporters of our space program who believe that the President's proposal would be devastating for the future of NASA. Our space program is a national priority and source of pride. More than 30,000 jobs are at stake all across the nation, and we are on the brink of losing a highly skilled workforce. As ranking member of the House committee with jurisdiction over NASA, I will work with my colleagues to advance legislation that will ensure America's continued leadership in space."