Honorable John H. Glenn, Jr.
United States Senate [retired]

Mr. Norman R. Augustine
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer [retired], Lockheed Martin Corporation

Dr. Maria T. Zuber
Department Head and E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Press Release



WASHINGTON, DC – July 30, 2008 - The House Science and Technology Committee today held a hearing commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Members at the hearing heard testimony from a distinguished panel of witnesses, including the Honorable John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit the Earth.

A longtime supporter of NASA, Ranking Member Ralph Hall (R-TX) praised NASA’s 50 years of accomplishments, saying, “It gives me great pleasure to be here today honoring the great achievements of the men and women of NASA over the past 50 years.  NASA has given us so many great accomplishments, and so many great American heroes.”

“But scientific and technological advantages tend to be short lived, and they rely on a steady stream of education and innovation that must be nurtured,” Hall continued.  “While we celebrate and reflect on NASA’s past accomplishments, it is also clear that future challenges and opportunities are no less daunting, no less important, and no less inspiring than those of the past 50 years.”

Witnesses at the hearing discussed both the great accomplishments of NASA, and the future challenges that lay ahead for America’s space agency.  The Honorable John Glenn highlighted education and basic research as two key components that will continue to be important for the U.S. to retain its position of international leadership.  “Throughout our history, we put more effort into basic research, learned the new things first, and with that educated citizenry in a free democracy, new businesses were created, standard of living went up, and we were able to develop an economy that rapidly became the envy of the world… World leadership for the future will still go to nations that lead in education, research and innovation.”

Looking even further into the future, Mr. Norman Augustine, retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation, said that “The next logical centerpiece of the civil space program would seem to be the landing of humans on Mars, probably with a return to the moon as a precursor.”  He continued, “Six robots built by NASA have of course already made successful landings on Mars and have done yeoman’s work … but, eventually, humans will set foot on that planet.  The only question is what flag or flags they will bear.”

Ranking Member Hall concluded, saying that “If America wants to retain its status in the world, and the prestige and power that comes from leadership, we can not be complacent.  Other countries are making great strides, and American leadership is not guaranteed.  We can succeed at whatever we put our minds to, as long as we stay focused.”

Members at today’s hearing also heard pre-recorded testimony from acclaimed cosmologist and theoretical physicist, Dr. Stephen Hawking; and received testimony from Dr. Maria T. Zuber, Department Head and E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.








NASA at 50 - Past Accomplishments, and Future Opportunities and Challenges

Hearing Charter