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Volume 2, No. 15                October 2, 1998
October 1, House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
"NASA at 40: What kind of space agency does America need for the 21st Century"

On NASA's 40th anniversary, the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics conducted a hearing (10/1/98) to review the space agency's record of achievement and seek recommendations for America's "strategic goals in space for the next 40 years."

Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said the space frontier should be an engine of growth that is "open to all," not simply a government program for a wealthy nation. Ranking member Bart Gordon (D-TN) saluted NASA on its anniversary. He said while the agency has not had "an unblemished record," it has had many successes and provided practical benefits.

Following are highlights of testimony from witnesses:

Daniel Goldin, NASA Administrator

"NASA has had a great forty years, but what the American people can be most proud of is this: when it comes to pioneering the future, we are just getting started," Goldin stated. In the near term, the space agency's priorities are: 1) safety of the astronauts and ground crew; 2) building the International Space Station, and; 3) cutting costs and increasing reliability of space transportation.

NASA's strategic goals, according to Goldin, include: 1) erase the boundary between air and space flight, and make possible commercial flights from Florida to Japan in two hours; 2) an international permanent outpost "near Mars"; 3) advanced telescopes to image Earth-like planets beyond our solar system "with a resolution high enough to see geological and biological processes at 600 trillion miles," and; 4) human space platforms "at strategic locations in the solar system," such as the solar Libration Point 1 to "support research, communications, transportation, and in-space operations."

Within ten years, Goldin said it is his hope that "NASA will have transferred all low Earth orbit operations and infrastructure to the private sector."

Howard McCurdy, American University Professor
Over the next 40 years, Mr. McCurdy said "We need to develop the infrastructure of space, beginning with the International Space Station and continuing through space habitats and large communications networks. We need to develop cheap, reusable spacecraft. We need to expand the involvement of industry and other government agencies in space. We need to significantly reduce the cost of space operations. And we need to continue a robust program of space exploration, research, and development."

To promote private space enterprises, McCurdy recommended establishing a "space bank" to provide venture capital and the creation of "something like a Corp of Space Engineers" to develop the infrastructure of space.

Eilene Galloway, International Institute of Space Law
"On NASA's 40th birthday," Ms. Galloway said "we can celebrate four decades of peace and freedom from space wars." The United Stated, she explained, adopted policies at the beginning of the space age that "preempted outer space for peaceful benefits for all mankind."

Looking to the future, Galloway said global activities are emerging, especially in telecommunications, that may become outside the control of the United States. "We face difficulties in solving this problem," she said, "because the decision making groups that merged in the first days of the space age are no longer united, peace is taken for granted, there is no longer the fear of space wars, and we live at a time when the psychological atmosphere favors deregulation."

Rick Tumlinson, The Space Frontier Foundation
"After a glorious start," Mr. Tumlinson stated, "our people's opening of the [space] frontier has now fallen victim to its own heroes, and a lack of a clear vision of the future on the part of our leaders." He recommended that NASA: 1) privatize the space station; 2) "re-examine the extremely shortsighted decision to discard the Russian space station to Mir"; 3) develop "cheap, reliable and regular transportation to and from space"; 4) turn over the space shuttle fleet to private operators; 5) provide financial incentives for the new space transportation industry, and; 6) privatize the NASA centers.

Tumlinson said with these policies NASA could save enough money to go to "Mars and beyond and have space stations and cities on the moon and tourism and clean space energy."

Pete Conrad, CEO Universal Space Lines
The overarching space goals for America in the next 40 years, according to Pete Conrad, should be to: 1) foster a commercial space industry; 2) explore the solar system; 3) settle the solar system, and; 4) explore the universe.

But to achieve these goals, Conrad said there must first be cheap access to space. "You need to be able to get to low Earth orbit (LEO) easily, frequently, reliably and cheaply," he explained. The federal government's role, he said, should be to "support and encourage science," "foster long- term, high-risk technology development," use space "for the defense of the United States," and encourage and incentivize the "growth of the nascent entrepreneurial commercial launch industry."

"NASA should be the leading advocate of change and the transition to a primarily commercial space industry," Conrad offered.

About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our national elected officials on space issues.

The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 20,000 members and 75 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization.

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