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FYI Number 130: September 24, 2004

Senate Report Language on NASA Programs


As reported in FYI #129, the Senate Appropriations Committee, in the report accompanying its FY 2005 VA/HUD Appropriations bill, included lengthy report language on NASA and the President's vision for space exploration. The entire text of the report (S. Rept. 108-353) is available at http://thomas.loc.gov/ under "Committee Reports." Selections from the report's introductory section on NASA follow:

SPACE EXPLORATION VISION: "Early this year the President announced a vision to return man to the Moon and eventually to Mars. This vision has provided an overall direction for NASA. Such a Presidential vision has been missing from NASA for many years. While many programs at NASA have been working, in some cases exceptionally, a comprehensive initiative to orient the mission of NASA has been lacking. The Committee is supportive of the vision, but has reservations about the low level of details provided in the fiscal year 2005 budget request on how this vision will be accomplished."

"By providing a vision, the President has prompted a discussion about what NASA could do, or should be doing. The budget NASA has presented to the Committee outlines the plan for implementing the vision, yet does not provide sufficient details for the technical and scientific goals to be reached by embracing the vision. The Committee understands that as any plan moves forward, particularly in an area of high risk such as space, that adjustments in time and budget will be necessary. However, a sufficient framework must be established prior to embarking on a path that may ultimately cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

"NASA's new vision maps out an aggressive role for the United States in both manned and unmanned space exploration. However, the potential out-year costs are substantial and will likely be very difficult to sustain. In addition, the Committee believes that there must be a commitment to those activities at NASA that are already underway. The Shuttle program and the construction of the ISS continue to be the primary focus of the Nation's manned space flight activities. Nevertheless, the Committee believes that a replacement for the Space Shuttle's manned and heavy lift capabilities must be considered as part of any plan for continued human access to space.

"The Committee is concerned that the current implementation plans for the new vision do not properly address the requirements and development for the heavy lift capability that may be necessary to carry out the proposed vision. A complete review of such plans must be conducted prior to embarking fully upon the implementation of the proposed vision."

"NASA has the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a successful implementation of the proposed vision. The current budget justification does not provide the details the Committee expects to see for such a dramatic undertaking. The Committee expects NASA to take initial steps for implementing the vision in fiscal year 2005, and to provide year-by-year budgetary and developmental goals related to the vision for the next 5 years, along with 10-year summary budget totals, in the fiscal year 2006 request."

RETIREMENT OF SHUTTLE: "NASA has presented a timeframe for the retirement of the Shuttle program which assumes an end in the program around 2010. This timeframe is essential if resources are to be available for the Crew Exploration Vehicle [CEV] in order to meet a potential Moon mission between 2015 and 2020. If there are delays in the Shuttle program that push retirement beyond 2010, then funds for CEV development will also be delayed. At a time when the Shuttle fleet continues to be grounded, the Committee feels that the schedule NASA has presented is overly ambitious and optimistic."

PHASE-OUT OF EXISTING PROGRAMS: "As part of the proposed exploration vision, NASA will begin to phase-out existing programs in order to accommodate the vision. These plans must be clearly identified in order for NASA to smoothly transition older programs to make way for missions associated with the vision.... The current Federal fiscal environment is not favorable to supporting completely the budget NASA has presented for fiscal year 2005. The out-year costs also seem overly optomistic at time when both the administration and Congress are committed to reducing the Federal budget deficit. However, steps toward laying the foundation of future NASA initiatives must be taken in order for there to be a future for many NASA activities once the Shuttle program is retired and the International Space Station is completed.

"The Committee is also concerned that NASA will neglect areas that will only tangentially benefit from, or that do not fit within, the proposed vision. Within the fiscal year 2005 budget request, programs and infrastructure are proposed to be deferred, or cancelled, in such areas. These programs appear to be the sacrifices for the near-term budgetary resources needed to facilitate the implementation of the new Moon/Mars vision."

NEED FOR STRONG, BALANCED SCIENCE PROGRAM: "The new national space policy to proceed with human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond has profound implications for all of the science conducted by NASA. While the Committee applauds those goals, it is concerned that the strong, balanced science program that has served the Nation so successfully for many years should be nurtured and sustained as the new policy is implemented. That science program has been based on a set of carefully crafted scientific strategies that are founded on scientific and technical merit, relevance to overall national needs, and broad consultation with the scientific community via the National Academy of Sciences. Consequently, the Committee directs the National Academies' Space Studies Board to conduct a thorough review of the science that NASA is proposing to undertake under the new policy and to develop a strategy by which all of NASA's science disciplines, including Earth science, space science, and life and microgravity science, can make adequate progress towards their established goals, as well as providing scientific research in support of the new policy. Further, the Committee is troubled by the abrupt and seemingly unilateral decision to alter the science conducted aboard the ISS to focus solely on biological and physiological research without any consultation with or authorization by Congress. As part of the scientific review, the National Academy of Sciences shall also consider the new direction of research proposed by NASA on the ISS and whether it is compatible with the overall national research needs identified in past Academy reports.... Prior to receipt and consideration of the report, NASA is directed to maintain a balanced science program that follows priorities that have been recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and agreed to by Congress."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
301-209-3094

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