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The Space Program

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. HALL of Texas. I thank you, Judge, for this opportunity to discuss a stroke of the pen that affects all Americans, a stroke of the pen early in his administration, a stroke of the pen by the President of the United States that canceled out the Constellation, and that's what it's all about, and that's why we're here, and that's why we're fighting for NASA. That's why the great Neil Armstrong, first man on the Moon, stepped out, didn't know he, with his other two compatriots, had no idea when they left here that they'd ever come back alive. They're great patriots. They're great, those among us, and we've lost some. We've had some tragedy in NASA, but we we've had great successes. Those men came here and testified that it'd be outrageous to cancel Constellation.

Now I want to talk about that just a little bit. It's been nearly 5 months since the administration proposed the very radical changes to NASA's human space flight and exploration programs by canceling the Constellation. Just took his pen and ran a line through it. Well, I don't understand that. And I don't understand the lack of sufficient details that Congress would need to determine if it was even close to a credible plan that he suggests. Yet, in spite of our very best efforts to obtain more information from NASA, the situation has not improved; indeed, the President's trip to Kennedy Space Center on April 15 only added to the confusion as he laid out more aspirational goals, but provided no clear idea of how they fit together or how we expect to pay for these new ventures. As such, I still have basic concerns about our ability to access and use the International Space Station after the shuttle is retired.

I remain concerned with the ``gap'' in U.S. access to space, and I want to ensure that we can effectively use the enormous research capabilities of the International Space Station. In examining the President's plan, I still don't see any viable way to minimize the gap and provide for exciting research on the International Space Station.

The President's most recent decision to send an unmanned ``lifeboat'' to the space station at a potential cost of $5 billion to $7 billion does absolutely nothing to solve this problem and largely duplicates existing services provided by the Russians. Although we've already spent nearly $10 billion on the Constellation system that has achieved significant milestones and is well on its way to providing continued U.S. access to space, the administration's decision to cancel Constellation has further stalled development and jeopardized our undisputed leadership in space, and that's what it's all about.

As I've said many times before, as a member of the Space Subcommittee, I am concerned with the proposed commercial crew direction of this administration. While we have long supported the development of commercial cargo operations, I believe it's prudent that we first test cargo capabilities before risking the lives of our astronauts on newly developed systems.

I have also not seen credible data to suggest that there is a viable market for commercial crew carriers, as they claim there is, with no backup, no information on it. In the absence of that data, I fear that we might be setting ourselves up for failure if or when the markets don't materialize.

Anyone can claim to be able to take over commercial crew or to take over the space program, to take over the building of the next instruments of investigating space. Buzz Aldrin, who supports commercial crew--I've read his ideas, and I'm still looking for concrete data that they can finish what they started. It's easy to start these programs and take them over and then have the Federal Government have to step in at great loss of time, at great loss of international partners, at great loss of contractors, at great loss of employees, and great loss to the government for additional money to take over. I admire Mr. Aldrin and I will clearly inspect his suggestions.

Finally, in examining options beyond low Earth orbit, I'm unclear of when we might see the development of a heavy lift system, or whether NASA still considers the Moon as a logical destination. We've been told that a new ``game changing'' technology development program will provide capabilities for accessing the far reaches of space, but we have very few specifics on mission, goals, and direction.

In the absence of a defensible, credible plan, I and many of our Members continue to support the Constellation program as currently authorized and appropriated by successive Congresses. GAO will continue investigating whether NASA is improperly withholding funds and improperly applying the Anti-Deficiency Act as a means of slowing Constellation work. I believe that Congress--and when I say Congress, I mean both Democrats and Republicans--Congress has been clear that it supports the unhindered continuation of Constellation until it authorizes an alternative program.

We can no longer wait for NASA to provide justification for its radical changes. Time is running out. Our space station and those who man it--our many NASA employees, our international partners, our astronauts--await an answer that we can live with and that we can lead with. I yield back my time.

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