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Space Watch

Subcommittee on Space Hearing Report "Next Steps in Human Exploration to Mars and Beyond"

The House Science, Space, & Technology Subcommittee on Space held a hearing on May 21, "Next Steps in Human Exploration to Mars and Beyond."

Members in attendance included:

  • Congressman Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chair, Space Subcommittee
  • Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman, Full Committee
  • Congressman Ralph Hall (R-TX)
  • Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
  • Congressman Morris "Mo" Brooks (R-AL)
  • Congressman William J. "Bill" Posey (R-FL)
  • Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ)
  • Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking member, Space Subcommittee
  • Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking member, Full Committee
  • Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
  • Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA)

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Louis Friedman, co-lead, Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission Study, and executive director emeritus, The Planetary Society
  • Dr. Paul Spudis, senior staff scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute
  • Dr. Steven Squyres, Goldwin Smith Professor of Astronomy, Cornell University
  • Douglas R. Cooke, owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions

In his opening statement, Palazzo noted that over the past decade, NASA's human exploration program has been stymied by instability from constantly changing requirements, budgets and missions. Palazzo suggested that NASA needed a plan in place for the capabilities, skills and technologies needed to land humans on Mars and return them safely to the Earth. Palazzo's full opening statement can be found here.

Edwards, in her opening statement, noted that human exploration was a large part of NASA's inspiring mission, and was an important catalyst for advancing the United States' innovation agenda. She said she was excited to hear NASA Administrator Charles Bolden speaking more often about Mars as the ultimate destination for human space exploration. Read her full opening statement here.

As NASA prepares for the next step to Mars, Smith stated that it is the duty of Congress to ensure there is a well thought out and convincing plan in place before committing scarce resources to the Mars goal. Congressman Smith's full opening statement can be found here.

Johnson noted that she has long been a supporter of human space exploration, which is why she was concerned that NASA's human exploration program still has an air of tentativeness about it. Johnson's full opening statement can be found here.

Friedman in his opening statement presented a summary of the Keck Institute for Space Studies Asteroid Retrieval Mission study and its implications for the human space exploration beyond the Moon and specifically to Mars. His full opening statement can be found here.

Spudis in his opening statement presented his personal thoughts on the appropriate next steps for the human exploration of space. He stated that to confront these issues, he believed that the United States must step back and address the more basic question of why the U.S. undertakes human spaceflight and what it hopes to achieve by it. His full opening statement can be found here.

Squyres in his opening statement provided recommendations to the committee with regard to the next steps in human exploration, to Mars and beyond. Those recommendations included:

  • Affirm that Mars is and will continue to be NASA's long-term goal for human exploration of space.
  • Direct NASA to focus narrowly on activities that clearly serve the goal of landing humans on Mars, operating there, and returning them safely to Earth
  • Adopt cis-lunar space as the next milestone, whether ongoing studies show that it is possible to redirect a small asteroid there or not
  • Dictate no milestones beyond cis-lunar space without first assuring ample funding to achieve them

His full opening statement can be found here.

Cooke in his opening statement suggested that a long-term strategy for U.S. human space exploration could have a momentous effect on the future of the United States and its global partnerships. His full opening statement can be found here.

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