Committee Reviews Report on Future of Human Spaceflight

Jun 25, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today held a hearing to review the recommendations of a recent report conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) on the future of human spaceflight. 

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “The administration’s continued focus on costly distractions is harmful to our space program and does not inspire future generations to go into innovative fields such as science and math. However, a distinguished panel of experts has concluded that a return to ‘extended surface operations on the moon’ would make significant contributions to landing people on Mars. The same has not been said for the Asteroid Retrieval Mission, which is a mission without a realistic budget, without a destination and without a certain launch date. We must rekindle within NASA the fire that blazed the trail to the moon.”

The NRC report, titled “Pathways to Exploration – Rationales and Approaches for a U.S. Program of Human Space Exploration” was requested by Congress in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. The report was co-chaired by Governor Mitch Daniels, who serves as President of Purdue University, and Dr. Jonathan Lunine, Director of Cornell University’s Center for Radiophysics and Space Research. Both Governor Daniels and Dr. Lunine testified today about their findings.

The report confirmed that NASA lacks a plan for human space exploration.  The NASA Authorization Act of 2014, which recently passed the House with bipartisan support, requires a detailed plan for how NASA will land humans on Mars.  The NRC’s report offers suggestions on the best way to reach that goal. The report also calls into question the Obama administration’s continued focus on the Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), highlighting “an underlying concern that ARM would divert U.S. resources and attention” from other potential missions.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss): “The National Research Council’s report clearly points to the need for a detailed plan and budget focus if we are to succeed at sending a manned mission to Mars. The NASA Authorization Act of 2014 which just passed the House of Representatives by a near unanimous vote includes a requirement that NASA develop a roadmap for the future of human exploration which defines key milestones and decision points for an expanded human presence in the solar system. The report also agreed with previous conclusions from this Committee that an Asteroid Retrieval Mission would lead to dead ends on the pathway approach.  I want to emphasize that statement and reiterate my thoughts that the ARM is a costly distraction, and I’m hopeful that NASA will take the recommendations of this report to heart.”

For additional information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.