Washington, D.C. – The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA’s proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities In Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Congress has made it clear, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, that we value the planetary science community and the important work they do. Planetary science missions help lay the ground work for manned missions. If the administration does not support planetary science, how can they claim to have serious interest in human space exploration? The president’s budget requests have made it clear that this administration does not consider planetary science a priority. Over the past two years, the Obama administration has significantly cut funding for NASA’s Planetary Science Division.”

In May, the House passed the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (H.R. 4660) by a bipartisan vote of 321 to 87.  The bill provides $170 million more to the Planetary Science Division than the president’s budget request for FY15.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations also approved a bill that would provide $23 million above the president’s request.

Witnesses also testified on the merits of the ASTEROIDS Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Bill Posey (R-Fla.) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.). The bill addresses property rights issues for commercial and private entities interested in utilizing resources found in asteroids.  

Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.): “It is no secret that this committee has expressed significant skepticism with regards to the President’s current proposed Asteroid Redirect Mission or ARM. NASA’s own experts have been critical of the plan. While I am indeed interested in the opportunities offered by near-Earth objects, I continue to be concerned that the administration is not heeding the warnings of these experts for the mission that it has designed. The “American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space Act,” or Asteroids Act, is a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Posey and Congressman Kilmer. It is my sincere hope that the administration will stop spending time on poorly designed and executed missions such as ARM and look to the private sector and scientists for input on the best way to maximize our limited resources.”

The following witnesses testified today before the Subcommittee:

Dr. Jim Green, Director, NASA Planetary Science Division
Dr. Jim Bell, Professor of Earth and Space Science Exploration, Arizona State University, and President, Board of Directors, The Planetary Society
Dr. Mark Sykes, CEO and Director, Planetary Science Institute
Joanne Gabrynowicz, Professor Emerita, Director Emerita, Journal of Space Law Editor-in-Chief Emerita, University of Mississippi
Dr. Philip Christensen, Co-Chair, NRC Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS), Chair, Mars Panel, NRC Planetary Decadal Survey, Regents Professor, Arizona State University

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