Smith and Palazzo: NASA’s Priority Should Be Space Exploration

Mar 27, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology today held a hearing with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Jr. to examine the Obama administration’s fiscal year 2015 (FY15) budget and its priorities. Members on both sides of the aisle raised numerous concerns with the priorities represented in the President’s proposal that cuts NASA’s funding by $185 million.

The President’s budget again seeks to fund an Asteroid Retrieval Mission (ARM), a mission that experts and Congress have sharply criticized. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) highlighted testimony before the Committee by NASA Advisory Council Chairman, Dr. Steve Squyres, who said “I see no obvious connection between [ARM] and any of the technologies or capabilities that are required for Martian exploration.”

Chairman Smith: “The Administration continues to push an asteroid retrieval mission on NASA without any connection to a larger exploration roadmap and absent support from the scientific community or NASA’s own advisory bodies.  It is a mission without a realistic budget, without a destination and without a certain launch date.  The Committee has heard a number of concerns about the mission, as well as many promising alternatives. For instance, the Committee recently held a hearing on the potential for a flyby mission to Mars and Venus in 2021.  While the mission is not without challenges, it is intriguing and would catch the public’s imagination. The White House’s approach has been to raid NASA’s budget to fund the Administration’s environmental agenda. There are 13 other agencies that are involved in climate change research, yet only one conducts space exploration. NASA needs to remember its priorities – and that priority is space exploration.”

Members questioned the Obama administration’s commitment to human spaceflight. Congress has made clear that the Space Launch System (SLS) is a top priority of the Human Exploration program, yet for the third year in a row the administration has reduced the budget for this vital asset. The President’s budget seeks a reduction of $219 million for launch vehicle development.  While over the last seven years, NASA’s Earth Science Division funding has increased over 63 percent. 

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): “There is no doubt that our nation’s space program is facing many challenges. That is all the more reason the Administration must deliver budgets and goals that support a serious commitment to human exploration.  The scientists and engineers who work every day to maintain U.S. leadership in space are counting on you, Administrator Bolden. The American public is counting on the President. They are counting on each of us here in this room to have honest conversation about where we are at this time in our nation’s space program, and to make tough choices. It means setting politics aside and investing strategically in our future. I am ready to work together to ensure the priorities from previous legislation – that the President signed - will be honored.  The future of our space program depends on it.”

For additional information on the hearing, including witness testimony, please visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website.