Opening Statement of Chairman Dana Rohrabacher

Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics

Thursday, September 23, 1999

Today the Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics is holding an oversight hearing on a topic of long-standing interest to everyone in Congress:
preserving the safety of NASA’s astronauts who fly on the Space Shuttle.Ê

ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ Let me be very clear. Spaceflight is risky. It’s always going to be risky. But so is driving to work or to the shopping mall.

ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ The issue of interest to all of us here is whether the Space Shuttle is being operated as safely as can be expected, given its design. And NASA’s
recent decision to stop flying because of the wiring problems discovered after STS-93 – first reported by Keith Cowing of NASA Watch – seems, to me, to
be very prudent. One question, of course, is whether we’ll always have the flexibility to do that.

ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ We also don’t want the huge progress on lowering operating costs made by NASA and the United Space Alliance to become more important than
safety. This committee has repeatedly objected to some of NASA’s last-minute cuts to the Shuttle budget in order to fund Space Station cost overruns.Ê
And I notice that the Senate appropriators separated the Shuttle and Station accounts and gave NASA limited, one-way transfer authority from Station
and to Shuttle.

ÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊÊ Ultimately, of course, we need to find more reliable, as well as cheaper ways to launch people and cargo into space. Those will be, indeed legally
must be, commercial vehicles. And for many reasons, not least of which is safety, we will need to have many different competing approaches. After all,
when an Airbus 320 crashes we don’t stop flying Boeing 767s, or vice versa.Ê

But for now we must continue to fly the Space Shuttle as safely as possible, and within that constraint, as economically as possible. So today the
subcommittee will ask these excellent witnesses about the problems experienced during an otherwise-successful STS-93 flight and about what has been
and what still needs to be done to continue the Shuttle team’s record of success.