(Washington, DC) - Today, House Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics held an oversight hearing to examine the status of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) International Space Station (ISS) program. Committee Members discussed the challenges facing the program and questioned witnesses regarding how it should be operated, managed, and utilized.
"While ISS has had a long, and at times controversial and frustrating development path, I am impressed with the progress that has been made in assembling and operating this incredibly complex international space-based science and technology facility," said Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO). As the most complex international scientific and technological endeavor ever undertaken, ISS incorporates innovative ideas and technologies from the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and 10 member states of the European Space Agency. ISS has been continuously crewed for over six years. Once its assembly is completed it will have a pressurized volume of more than 33,000 cubic feet and a mass of more than 925,000 pounds.
The ISS is intended to support NASA's exploration initiative and to serve as a National Laboratory for space-based research. Currently, the Space Shuttle is scheduled for retirement in 2010, which will cause the U.S. to rely on partners such as Russia to provide routine transportation and emergency crew return from the ISS and to seek commercial resupply services.
"Although NASA talks about providing research opportunities on the ISS, we cannot forget that the funding cuts NASA has made to its microgravity research programs in recent years--whether willingly or not--have largely decimated that research community," stated Udall. "I think the onus has to be on NASA to prove that it means what it says by taking meaningful steps both to make the ISS a productive venue for research and to start to rebuild that research community. Yet, it won't be possible to have a productive ISS unless the facility can be sustained after the Shuttle is retired."
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