Report from Washington, D.C.

Space-related Hearings on The Hill

Written by: developer

by Jillianne Pierce, Space Foundation Government Affairs Associate

During the month of July, members of Congress held meetings in an attempt to reconcile differences and get budgets passed in advanced of the August recess. The federal budget is comprised of 12 separate spending bills, each with nuances on which the political parties and chambers have differing views.

On July 10, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology, Subcommittee on Space held a hearing entitled “The International Space Station: Addressing Operational Challenges.” This hearing was planned prior to the SpaceX resupply failure on June 28 and addressed a host of issues that the ISS has encountered in the past year — including three resupply failures and maneuvering station out of the way of orbital debris. Congressman Bill Posey, who represents Florida’s Space Coast, asked NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier during the hearing whether there were opportunities for commercial space stations in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) after the ISS program ends. Gerstenmaier said that NASA is looking to get out of LEO and turn it over to the private sector, which will free NASA resources to head out more into deep space, and that in fact right now NASA is encouraging the private sector to see what they can do on ISS to get them comfortable and excited about doing business in LEO.

House Speaker John Boehner announced on July 23 that Congress is looking at a Continuing Resolution (CR), rather than a budget. Although the House and Senate are still unsure what exactly this CR will entail, this short-term legislation will enable the government to continue functioning at current budget levels.

On July 28, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Space, Science, & Technology held a hearing entitled “Exploration of the Solar System: From Mercury to Pluto and Beyond.” The hearing struck a positive chord among an otherwise embattled Congress and touched on the importance of STEM education in inspiring greatness in future generations, as well as the reasons why we explore, and future mission priorities. The timing of the hearing was especially important, given the New Horizons flyby of Pluto just two weeks prior. Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator for the New Horizons Mission, called the science of the New Horizons mission “a window back in time into the early evolution of the Earth’s atmosphere.” Newly-appointed Space Subcommittee Chairman called the hearing “the most fascinating committee meeting I’ve been to in my congressional career thus far.” Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith remarked that after the August recess, the committee will hold a September hearing regarding the question: “are we alone?”

This article is part of Space Watch: August 2015 (Volume: 14, Issue: 8).