Policymakers Poised for Augustine Panel Report

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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden will testify before the House Science and Technology Committee Sept. 15 on the findings of a White House-appointed panel tasked with determining a range of options for the future of manned spaceflight. Retired Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Norman Augustine, who has led the blue-ribbon panel since its May inception, is also slated to testify.

The Senate Commerce Committee was expected to hold a similar hearing Sept. 16, though a congressional aide said Senate lawmakers are awaiting the Augustine panel’s final report before scheduling.

For the past several weeks the blue-ribbon panel has focused on finishing deliberations and drafting its official report, which will detail options proposed in the group’s final public meeting here Aug. 12. During the meeting, the panel concluded that U.S. President Barack Obama’s 2010 NASA budget is insufficient to fund the agency’s planned space shuttle replacement program, which includes the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and its Ares 1 rocket.

The Augustine panel was slated to deliver its report to the White House mid-September, but due to the document’s length, “it may require an additional two weeks before final release,” according to information posted on the group’s Web site.

Formally known as the Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee, the Augustine panel is currently preparing a summary of the report for delivery to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy officials Sept. 8, according to the Web site.