Washington D.C. – Today, Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph M. Hall (R-TX) made the following statement, reflecting on the Space Shuttle Program and all of its successes:

“Having served on this Committee since I was first elected to Congress in 1980, I have had the pleasure of being involved with the Space Shuttle Program since Columbia’s maiden voyage back in April, 1981.  It has been an honor to have attended several launches, every time feeling the anticipation of the countdown and lift-off.  We have watched in awe as the Shuttles rocketed into space, and we have felt the shock and sorrow when Columbia and Challenger ended in tragedy. We will always remember those brave Astronauts who lost their lives, and we should honor their courage and sacrifice by continuing their work to better America through space exploration and scientific discovery.

“Along with being a source of pride and inspiration for the last thirty years, the Space Shuttle Program has also helped to preserve America’s role as the global leader in innovation and engineering.  The Space Shuttle is the first manned spacecraft ever developed that can achieve orbit, land back on earth, and then be reused. Including tomorrow’s launch, the Program will have launched 355 different individuals from 16 countries, ferrying astronauts into earth orbit to build and utilize the International Space Station, possibly the most challenging engineering project ever undertaken.  The Program has also delivered a multitude of scientific satellites and instruments into orbit that have expanded humanity’s understanding of the universe. 

“The talented men and women of NASA’s Space Shuttle team have done an extraordinary job, continually pushing the boundaries of science and engineering.  They deserve tremendous credit for their accomplishments and their continuing commitment to the success of our nation’s endeavors in space.  The Space Shuttle has been a remarkable national capability that will be missed once the STS-135 mission crew returns safely to earth from its final voyage, and Atlantis is retired along with the rest of the fleet.  I salute the four brave astronauts, led by Commander Doug Hurley, as they depart on this historic mission.

“With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA will face a critical period and will need Congress’s support and direction to focus its limited resources on sustaining America’s leadership in space.  We are in a challenging budget environment, but I believe that ensuring U.S. access to space is vital to our national interests.   I believe human space exploration should be a national priority.  In order for the U.S. to remain a leader in space exploration Congress has given NASA a blueprint in last year’s authorization bill, which is now law.  The Space Launch System and Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle are important priorities that can also ensure the U.S. achieves assured access for American crews, in case commercial ventures do not materialize or our international partners become unable to provide access to the Space Station.   As Chairman of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee, I will continue to make sure that NASA follows this path, so that America will remain the preeminent leader in space exploration.”

For more information on the STS-135 mission, visit the NASA website.