Washington D.C. – The Space Subcommittee today held a hearing on the progress of the nation’s next generation deep space exploration vehicle and heavy lift rocket. Officials from NASA and the Government Accountability Office testified on the progress of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, which are being developed for deep space human missions that will take astronauts to the Moon and Mars. The Orion vehicle successfully completed its first flight test on December 5th.

Chairman Smith (R-Texas): “The purpose of today’s hearing is simple: we wish to send a loud and clear message that space exploration is NASA’s number one priority, and last week’s test flight demonstrated many firsts. We are also here to ensure the next steps in this long journey are on track and will be just as successful. There is bipartisan support within Congress that NASA stay on track with the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System.

“Great nations do great things. Everyone in today’s hearing wants to ensure that the first flag flying on the surface of Mars is planted by an American astronaut. And they will have arrived there onboard an Orion crew vehicle, propelled by the Space Launch System."

In June, the House passed the Committee’s NASA Authorization Act with full support for SLS and Orion. In August, Smith and Palazzo sent a letter to NASA questioning a yearlong delay for the first scheduled launch date for SLS. The delay was announced despite claims by Administrator Bolden that the president’s budget represented “the amount of money that we need to deliver SLS on the date and time that we said."

In its FY 2014 budget, Congress increased funding for SLS and Orion by more than $330 million over the president’s budget request. Had Congress agreed to the Administration’s original requests, NASA delays could have been even longer.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Palazzo (R-Miss.): “The human exploration program at NASA has been plagued with instability from constantly changing requirements, budgets, and missions. We cannot change our program of record every time there is a new president. This committee is consistent and unwavering in its commitment to human exploration, a tradition that I appreciate and am confident will continue into the future.

“While this hearing is certainly an opportunity for us to celebrate the great progress of the SLS and Orion programs, particularly last week’s test flight, the Committee has ongoing concerns about the challenges facing these vital programs.

“At the very least, we need to know, what are the true funding needs and schedule expectations for the development of the SLS and Orion Programs and is NASA on track to meet these expectations?"

For more information about today’s hearing, including witness testimony and the archived webcast, visit the Committee website.