On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy stood before the United States Congress and announced his aspirations for American space exploration. “I believe that this Nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.” At that moment, a new space age was born. Just eight years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) achieved Kennedy’s goal when Apollo 11 departed Earth on July 16, 1969.
Last year, thousands of people gathered to watch the Space Shuttle Discovery fly over Washington, D.C. on its way to the Smithsonian, and pictures from the Mars Curiosity Rover captivated Americans and astronomers around the world. Last fall, we gathered in Houston to watch Endeavour fly over our great city. Forty years after Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon, NASA still has the ability to awe school children and adults. At the same time, the last 30 years have been marked by canceled programs due to cost-overruns, mismanagement or abrupt program changes at the start of each new administration. In the past 20 years alone, 27 programs have been cancelled, resulting in over $20 billion wasted on uncompleted programs. Since 2001, NASA has had 3 different administrators and two diametrically different shuttle replacement programs.
As a member of the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, I have worked since I was first elected to protect funding for NASA and scientific research and development. NASA plays a vital role in maintaining America’s competitive advantage in industry and innovation.
I will soon be reintroducing the The Space Leadership Preservation Act, which I was proud to author last year. This legislation will change the leadership structure at NASA so that decisions are made based on science and are removed from the politics of changing administrations. This legislation would create a 10-year term for the NASA Administrator to provide crucial stability of leadership, and it establishes a new Board of Directors to provide a quadrennial review of space programs and vision for space exploration that will set a tone for NASA’s endeavors.
This bill will change business as usual at NASA and result in a more stable and accountable space program. We will once again establish American preeminence in space by ensuring that we are exploring deeper into our solar system and pursuing the most pressing questions the scientific community has about our place in space.
Constant and abrupt changes to our space program are untenable, and they have had a devastating impact on the space workforce and the position of our space program in the world. If America is to remain the world’s leader in space, the status quo must change – and change starts at the top. The agency’s management structure must be more stable and accountable.
In addition to introducing the Space Leadership Act, I have supported the following space related legislation in the 112th Congress:
H.R. 1536 – The Space Shuttle Retirement Act
H.R. 1641 – REAL Space Act