By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, June 29, 2017, Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot testified before the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. The Trump Administration is proposing cutting NASA 2.9 percent in fiscal 2018. US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said that the administration is “Projecting a lofty vision for space while providing a budget that keeps that vision from leaving Earth.”
Sen. Shelby is the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee.
Chairman Shelby’s said, “I am pleased to welcome Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot to the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to examine NASA’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Mr. Lightfoot and I worked well together during his tenure as the Director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.”
Sen. Shelby said, “The Administration has proposed a fiscal year 2018 budget of $19.1 billion dollars for NASA, which is a reduction of 2.9 percent from the current year level. While this overall cut is less than many other agencies experienced in the President’s budget request, it still reflects a significant reduction of $561 million.”
Shelby claimed, “This budget request attempts to navigate a challenging fiscal environment, but would disrupt ongoing missions and delay future exploration for years to come. There are proposals to cut science missions and to eliminate the entire education directorate using the rationale that NASA could do without these programs under a reduced budget.
Shelby stated, “Other research programs are left with insufficient financial resources, which will make it impossible for NASA to meet its own management plans and launch schedules. For human exploration, the current administration picks up where the previous administration left off, by projecting a lofty vision for space while providing a budget that keeps that vision from leaving Earth.”
Sen. Shelby continued, “The Space Launch System and the Orion crew capsule are designed to break our human space program free of its decade’s long tether to low Earth orbit, eventually sending our astronauts to Mars. In addition, SLS will provide NASA with a versatile platform to deliver planetary robotic science and space-based astronomy missions. SLS is the vehicle that will make possible many of NASA’s goals to push the boundaries of exploration. I look forward to an initial launch of SLS and will work to see that a crewed-launch will follow soon thereafter.”
The SLS is being designed and tested in Huntsville.
Shelby added, “I believe we must have an accurate budget to reflect these launch decisions and to meet our nation’s exploration goals. If the other pieces necessary for exploration are not ready, we will lose time and waste funds in the near-term that could be used for other important activities down the road. NASA, I believe, must ensure that the rigor with which it reviews its own missions is applied to all of its activities and avoid pressure to send astronauts to space at any cost.”
Alabama’s senior Senator said, “There is a growing sentiment that NASA should change the way it does business; that it should be a buyer of commercial transportation services. Were it not for billions in development funds from NASA acting as venture capital, there would be no companies attempting to one day take crews to the space station. Even with this investment, the companies NASA will use for commercial crew services are behind in schedule, the program has increased in cost, and independent observers cite the inability of our partners to meet contracted safety standards. While risk is inherent in anything NASA chooses to undertake, there is no replacement for proper analysis and reasonable precaution when lives and the resources of the nation are at stake.”
NASA’s Marshall Spaceflight Center is an important employer in the Huntsville area, where the Space Launch System is being designed and tested. The SLS is designed to launch the Orion deeps space explorer module into missions well beyond Earth orbit with a goal of eventually launching a manned mission to Mars.
Senator Richard Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and is serving his sixth term representing the people of Alabama in the Senate.