Sensenbrenner Questions Administration’s Shortsighted NASA Policy
Threatens America’s preeminence in not just space, but also science and technology
During a Science Committee hearing today, Congressman Sensenbrenner questioned the Obama Administration’s short sighted NASA policy because it threatens America’s ability to recruit and train a future generation of scientists and engineers.
“Now by cancelling the Constellation Program, NASA has lost international partners who supported a mission to the Moon,” Sensenbrenner said. “President Obama took a ‘been there, done that’ approach. But we haven’t been there in 40 years, and the international partners who would have helped us have never been there. If we cannot lead the world in space, China and Russia will inevitably fill the void we left behind. That will have a trickledown effect on the number of people we train as scientists and engineers to keep America’s preeminence not in space but in practically everything else.”
Text of Congressman Sensenbrenner’s Statement:
NASA was created in the 1950s as a reaction to the Soviet Union launching Sputnik 1, thereby igniting the Space Race. Beginning with the Mercury Program, NASA’s focus on putting humans into space has served as the most high profile, and arguably the most exciting, facet of the agency. Mission-oriented manned space programs have been the prism through which we judge the agency. Mission orientation, back 40 years ago, excited a group of students to go into STEM education and got us a generation of scientists and engineers.
The Space Shuttle, however, flew its last mission in 2011, and there is now a gap in domestic spaceflight capabilities. Instead, we rely on the Russian Space Agency to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The Bush Administration began the Constellation Program to serve as the Shuttle’s successor, but President Obama cancelled the program. Fortunately Congress continued to see the importance of a heavy lift rocket system and mandated the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion program in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act.
Dr. Pace, I appreciated your comment that the stimulus act appropriated more funds in one act than this country has spent on NASA since its creation in 1958. Budgets and spending are an example of priorities. In terms of having the seeds to continue United States preeminence, not just in manned space programs but also in terms of science, and inventions and everything else that goes along with it, ended up being washing away in a flood of stimulus funds.
As this hearing has highlighted already, President Obama’s approach to human spaceflight lacks a clear mission. He is relying on the success of commercial space, which I agree is vital, but has dragged his feet on pushing human spaceflight at NASA. I support a public-private partnership for our country’s space policy. However, it is up to NASA to develop the heavy lift rocket because the private sector doesn’t have enough funds to do it by itself, and it needs enough thrust to overcome the Administration’s short-sightedness.
Now by cancelling the Constellation Program, NASA has lost international partners who supported a mission to the Moon. President Obama took a “been there, done that” approach. But we haven’t been there in 40 years, and the international partners who would have helped us have never been there. If we cannot lead the world in space, China and Russia will inevitably fill the void we left behind. That will have a trickledown effect on the number of people we train as scientists and engineers to keep America’s preeminence not in space but in practically everything else.