Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Ranking Member of the newly formed Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee, today took part in a hearing on the FY2006 budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Mikulski spoke of the need to service the Hubble Space Telescope, saying "Once again, I am going to fight for Hubble - moving heaven and earth to add another $250 million to NASA's budget for a servicing mission. Hubble is too important to the world and to our country."
To hear and/or broadcast Senator Mikulski's opening statement from today's hearing, please call 1-800-511-0763 and enter actuality number 7321.
Senator Mikulski's opening remarks, as prepared, can be found below:
"This is a new year and a new subcommittee: the first hearing of the new Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee. I am honored to be serving with my distinguished colleague and good friend, Senator Shelby.
"This is a new day, a new subcommittee and, a new opportunity. For the first time, we have created a true 'science' subcommittee. Our former colleague, the great John Glenn said we should have done this a long time ago - and he was right.
"This subcommittee now has jurisdiction over NASA, NSF, NOAA, NIST, Patent Office and the President's Science Advisor. Despite my opposition to reorganizing the Committee, I see the new CJS Subcommittee as an opportunity to look for new ideas and new breakthroughs in science.
"I'm excited about this because science is the key to innovation and innovation is the key to our future. Our economy and our national security will depend upon our ability to develop new technologies, new materials and a new workforce. Science is central to the innovation economy. NASA's role in exploration and discovery is about innovation. We now have a subcommittee that combines NASA and NOAA together in a mission focused way. Wow, do we have an incredible opportunity. We can focus our programs to create new ideas and new energy. I believe this will become a huge opportunity for our country and for our state.
"By partnering with NOAA, I believe earth science can be renewed, refreshed and revitalized. I recently visited NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring. I met with Admiral Lautenbacher and the leadership at NOAA. I was so impressed with what I saw: the weather service, atmospheric and climate research, navigation charting. NOAA is literally about saving lives and saving communities.
"The opportunities to expand cooperation between NASA and NOAA are very exciting: breakthrough thinking, breakthrough ideas, new ways to save our planet, new technologies to help save lives.
"This is an exciting time with exciting opportunities and I plan to make the most of it. So Dr. Grifin, I'm glad you're at the helm of NASA. I think you understand what innovation means and it's importance to this nation. One of your previous jobs was running a technology incubator for the CIA. NASA is a giant technology incubator for our country, and exploration and discovery lead to innovation. But there are enormous challenges and opportunities facing NASA right now.
"I have several priorities to outline at this hearing. First, we have to get the Shuttle flying again- safely. Our thoughts and prayers are with Col. Collins and her entire crew as they prepare for their flight in July. I have always believed that there is no higher priority than the safety of our astronauts- and I continue to believe that. We will do whatever is necessary on this Committee to ensure the safety of our astronauts as they return to flight and complete the space station.
"But once the space shuttle is retired, we must have a new launch vehicle ready to go - the CEV. I agree with Dr. Griffin that we must speed the development of the CEV so we do not have a 'gap.' The President's original plan had a four year gap when the United States would have no capability to launch astronauts into orbit or beyond. I agree with Dr. Griffin that this is not the right policy. We should speed up the development of the CEV so there is no gap in our launch capabilities, and no gap in the workforce. NASA can not afford to lose experienced engineers right now.
"Second, we need to finish the space station and honor our commitments to our international partners. I also believe we should find a way to do physical science on the space station. We have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in laboratory space that should be used for physical science, not just life science.
"Third, we must fix Hubble. I have been a long time champion of Hubble and an advocate for its mission. As the most successful scientific mission NASA has ever created, Hubble has earned the right to continue its mission. Last year, I added $300 million to NASA's budget to prepare for a Hubble mission. While some of this funding was used to study a robotic mission, $100 million is still available to study the Shuttle. Two weeks ago, Dr. Griffin announced that he is re-considering the use the Space Shuttle to service Hubble. However, as Dr. Griffin pointed out, the use of the Shuttle is dependent upon two things: the safe return to flight of the Shuttle, and compliance with new safety requirements for the astronauts. If NASA can accomplish these two goals, then I'm hopeful we could have a Hubble mission by the end of 2008.
"Once again, I am going to fight for Hubble - moving heaven and earth to add another $250 million to NASA's budget for a servicing mission. Hubble is too important to the world and to our country. That's why I asked for a National Academy of Sciences study last year. It now appears that based on the National Academy study and NASA's own internal review, a robotic servicing mission does not seem feasible. So now our attention turns back to the Shuttle. NASA has a lot on its plate right now.
"But the Shuttle is just one of one of many competing needs that NASA is struggling with. Balancing these needs won't be easy. NASA's budget is under tremendous stress. The President is proposing a 2.4% increase for NASA this year- an increase that barely keeps up with inflation. A decade of flat budgets that have starved NASA for too long. higher Shuttle costs, space station over budget, an aging infrastructure, and a new vision for space exploration: NASA has too few dollars and too many obligations. I would add $2 billion to NASA's budget right now, just to meet all of its current needs. The list of immediate priorities is daunting. The Shuttle must return to flight safely and the space station must be finished. Space science and earth science must be maintained, yet science is being cut by 1%. NASA must rejuvenate aeronautics, yet aeronautics is being cut by 10%. And NASA's infrastructure continues to age- especially the wind tunnels.
"Twenty years ago, the United States had over 90% of the market for commercial airliners. Today, we have 50% of that market. The National Institute of Aeronautics just released a comprehensive blueprint for aeronautical research focusing on: aviation safety and security, air traffic control, new airplanes, new engines. Senator Bond and I ordered this study two years ago, through the old VA/HUD Subcommittee. This study has given us a roadmap for aeronautics so we can remain competitive. I urge NASA and the White House to look at this report and adopt it findings and recommendations.
"All of this means we need a balanced space program. Just like Norm Augustine said over a decade ago. I want to get the Shuttle flying again, safely and reliably, move forward with exploration, build a new launch vehicle, fix Hubble, go to the Moon and eventually, Mars. But first things first. We need to take care of our current needs before embarking on new initiatives.
"I believe that a new Congress and a new Administrator presents us with new opportunities. Hubble will be one of our greatest challenges, but it won't be the only one. I'm not just fighting for Hubble, I'm fighting for all of NASA: human exploration, science and aeronautics, working together, not competing against each other. Science can not be allowed to wither. We need to not only win the Nobel Prizes, we need to win market share. Aeronautics is about our national competitiveness and about jobs. Either we're going to have a civilian aerospace industry, or we're not. I believe we should.
"So I'm fighting for all of NASA, not just one program or one enterprise. NASA is too important to America and too important to Maryland.