Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Group Urged Congress To Support Commercial Crew Transportation

A diverse group of U.S. human space flight advocates is urging all 535 members of the U.S. House and Senator to support the agency's plans to invest in the development of competitive commercial space taxi services.

"By creating competition, and using fixed-price contracts, NASA's commercial crew program offers a much less expensive way of transporting NASA astronauts to the (International Space) Station than any other domestic means. Funding NASA's Commercial Crew program would lower the cost of access to low Earth orbit, thus enabling more of NASA's budget to be applied to its focus on exploration beyond Earth orbit, and better enabling the kind of program laid out in NASA's authorization bill," the group wrote.

"NASA's competitive commercial crew program is the best way to restore U.S. human launch capability after the Space Shuttle retires later this year, to ensure NASA's long-term role in the International Space Station, and to open up budget resources to send crew beyond Earth orbit."

The signers include former NASA astronauts Loren Acton, Jeffrey Ashby, Jay Buckey, Ken Bowersox, Robert Cenker, Owen Garriott, Jeffrey Hoffman, Millie Highes-Fulford, George "Pinky" Nelson, Rusty Schweickart, Richard Searfoss, Brewster Shaw, Kathryn Thornton and Jim Voss.

Space Coast signers include Edward Ellegood, director of aerospace development at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univesity; G. Wayne Finger, vice president of aerospace and defense with Reynolds, Smith and Hills Inc.; Dale Ketcham, director of Spaceport Research & Technology Institute.

Two members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board also signed: John Logsdon, founder and longtime director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden this morning is testifying about NASA's 2012 budget request before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

Click on the link to watch a Webcast or here for the same on NASA TV's media channel. Here's some background material on the proposed budget.

Committee chairman Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, immediately criticized NASA's plan to increase proposed funding for commercial crew initiatives, whose safety he questioned, while spending less than authorized on a heavy-lift system for exploration.

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