Now, Congress and the Administration Must Chart the Future for NASA


WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Chairman of the House Science Committee, today released the following statement following release of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report:

“Admiral Gehman and all the members of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board have earned our respect for their selfless and tireless work, their rigor and their independence.  They have performed a great service to the nation and particularly to those of us who must set policy for NASA.  Quite properly, the CAIB report focuses on managerial as well as technical lapses, and on the future, as well as on the past.  They have given us a lot to think over.

“Informed by the CAIB’s recommendations, Congress and the Administration must now chart the future for NASA.  We need to do so without any preconceived notions about what the space program should look like.  We need to put together a full picture of the actual risks and costs of the Space Shuttle before deciding whether and how the program should be run.  We need to think through every aspect of the way the Shuttle program has been organized.  All this will take some time.  There should not be a rush to judgment.  Acting too quickly will close off alternatives and lead to decisions being made without sufficient information, and could also compromise the safety of any future Shuttle crew.  The decisions we make in the next few months will affect the future of the space program for decades to come.  They need to be made deliberately.  That’s the proper way to honor the memories of the Columbia crew.

“On the Science Committee, the majority and minority staffs have been working together for months to pore over the documents assembled by, and the interviews conducted by, the CAIB.  We will follow through on that work with a series of hearings this fall, beginning with a session to hear from Admiral Gehman on September 4.  We will follow up with hearings on such matters as risk assessment, management structure, and budgets.  We expect to hear testimony several times from Administrator O’Keefe and other top NASA officials.

“Those hearings will guide the Committee, and help us fashion responsible policy recommendations for the future.”