The Subcommittee on Space today held a hearing on the impact of the president’s budget on programs being built for a trip to Mars and other deep space destinations. Witnesses discussed NASA’s plans for future major tests and milestones of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle, as well as how the administration’s budget request affects these programs. The hearing took place a day after the Obama administration released its Journey to Mars report which contained no budget, schedule, or deadlines.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin: “Last week was an amazing time for the space community. A major Hollywood film about the exploration of Mars debuted within days of NASA announcing a significant scientific discovery – liquid water on Mars. The coincidence of these two events garnered the public’s attention, and rightly so. Rarely does popular culture and science align in such a serendipitous fashion. The attention also prompted obvious questions from the public such as ‘How will discovering water on Mars impact future exploration?’, ‘Are we really going to Mars?’, and ‘How and when are we going to get there?’

“All told, the president’s budget has requested nearly half a billion dollars in cuts to these programs this fiscal year. This Committee’s NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 fully rejects the proposed cuts, and both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved bills to do the same. Even though Congress consistently rejects the administration’s proposed cuts year-after-year, the proposed cuts still have a negative impact on the programs. The annual budget uncertainty that the Administration perpetuates impairs NASA’s ability to manage the program’s efficiently on behalf of the taxpayer.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “There should be no misunderstanding: there is bipartisan support within Congress for SLS and the Orion crew vehicle. This Committee restored the proposed cuts in our Authorization bill. And the House and the Senate Appropriations Committees restored these funds and supported SLS and Orion at the levels necessary to keep their development on track.

“I want to comment on the recent handout that we have all seen by the administration called NASA’s Journey to Mars. This proposal contains no budget; it contains no schedule, no deadlines. This sounds good, but it is actually a journey to nowhere until we have that budget and we have the schedule and we have the deadlines. And I hope the administration will change its posture and decide in the future that it is actually going to support SLS and Orion and keep them on schedule because their proposals to cut SLS and Orion every single year is not helping us achieve the great goals that most Americans want to achieve in space.”

The House Science Committee’s NASA Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 sought to restore $440 million to crucial programs being developed to return U.S. astronauts to deep space destinations such as the Moon and Mars. That bill also restored funding for planetary science accounts that have been responsible for missions such as the recent Pluto fly-by, in addition to providing full funding for the other space exploration programs such as Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo programs.

The following witnesses testified at today’s hearing:

– Mr. Doug Cooke, Owner, Cooke Concepts and Solutions; Former Associate Administrator, Exploration Systems, NASA [statement]

– Mr. Dan Dumbacher, Professor of Engineering Practice, Purdue University; Former Deputy Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA [statement]

Archived video of the hearing is available on the Committee’s website and YouTube.