U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today posed a series of pointed questions to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding future funding for NASA. Senator Shelby has consistently fought for America's leadership role in human space flight despite the Obama Administration's repeated efforts to direct taxpayer dollars to the so-called commercial space flight industry.
Senator Shelby's questions, a sample of which can be found below, reflect his dedication to U.S.-led space exploration and refusal to surrender leadership to global competitors such as Russia, China and India, in favor of a speculative commercial space entitlement program set forth by President Obama.
"Mr. Administrator, I believe that the core mission of NASA is to build cutting edge systems that allow us to expand our knowledge of the universe. This administration seems to think that NASA's job is to use taxpayer money as venture capital to support speculative commercial companies, the future Solyndras of the space industry. Despite identifying SLS as a priority program, you requested $150 million less in 2013 than the Congress provided in 2012 for SLS Vehicle Development. At the same time, you doubled funding for commercial programs. When is this Administration going to get the message that the Congress is not willing to subsidize so-called "commercial' vendors at the expense of NASA's core mission of engineering and exploration?"
"Mr. Administrator, in your statement you say that you are "pleased with the steady progress of U.S. commercial providers in developing domestic cargo and crew transportation services.' I would note that one of your commercial cargo providers was originally scheduled to complete three demonstration flights by September 2009. They have only completed one and many expect the date of their second launch to slip again soon, as it just did in February. Your other cargo vendor was expected to complete a single demonstration flight by December 2010. That flight has not even been scheduled yet. How much longer will their flights have to be delayed before you are no longer "pleased' with these providers?"