Volume 2, No.
Four NASA officials testified last Wednesday (2/25/98) before
the House Science Subcommittee on Space & Aeronautics on
President Clinton's proposed FY 1999 budgets for Space Science,
Life and Microgravity Sciences & Applications, and Earth
Before getting down to business, Chairman Dana Rohrabacher
(R-CA) took a few moments to praise Dr. Wesley Huntress, who
recently announced he will be stepping down as NASA's Associate
Administrator for Space Science. Rohrabacher said Huntress
"inherited an office addicted to budget increases." and that he
turned things around by introducing new faster, better, cheaper
ways of launching spacecraft. Rohrabacher called Huntress a "first
rate scientist, skillful manager, and leader" and said he would be
difficult to replace. Rohrabacher also praised Administrator Dan
Goldin's role in effecting launch and operations reforms.
NASA proposes to increase spending for Space Science
from $1.983 billion in FY 1998 to $2.058 billion in FY 1999. The
slight boost in funding will allow the Space Science program to
"continue building on the momentum ... gained in recent years." For
the Space Science program, 1997 was "another amazing year."
Huntress listed NASA's successful missions: Mars Pathfinder, Mars
Global Surveyor, Galileo, NEAR, and Cassini/Huygens. The Hubble
Space Telescope, he said, "identified what may be the most luminous
star known ù a celestial mammoth that releases up to 10
million times the power of the Sun and is big enough to fill the
diameter of Earth's orbit." The huge star "unleashes as much energy
in six seconds as our Sun does in one year."
Already in 1998, NASA has launched the Lunar Prospector to study
the Moon. Coming around the corner are five Explorer launches, Deep
Space One to test 12 advanced technologies, Stardust, Mars 98
Orbiter, and the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF).
The Earth Science budget inches upward from $1.367
billion in FY 1998 to $1.372 billion in FY 1999. Later this year,
the first Earth Observing System (EOS) spacecraft, AM-1, will be
launched. It will usher in a "new era in studying the Earth's land,
oceans, air, ice and life from space," according to testimony by
Dr. Ghassem Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science
Enterprise (ESE). Also this year, NASA plans to launch Landsat-7 to
continue the gathering of data on Earth's continental surfaces.
Life & Microgravity Sciences & Applications
Asrar said the next series of EOS spacecraft "will likely be
broken up into ... small missions, and will further reduce the risk
of a major setback to the program if one mission fails to operate."
He predicted mission costs will drop from $725 million on average
to about $225 million. After a slow start, NASA finally is
purchasing data through partnerships with commercial firms. Asrar
said NASA intends "to buy data as a normal way of doing
The LMSA budget for FY 1999 is $242 million, up from
$214 million in FY 1998. Total spending, however, will reach $327
million due to an addition $85 million in uncosted carryover funds.
Associate Administrator Arnold Nicogossian highlighted a few
discoveries from last year's microgravity research, then outlined
major events for 1998.
This year, NASA will conclude its missions to Mir and fly the
last Space Shuttle / SpaceLab mission. In testimony, Nicogossian
said researchers discovered that "tissue cells grown on Mir were
smaller and mechanically weaker than those grown on Earth." The
tissues also "had different shapes ù cartilage tissues grown
on Earth were disk-shaped, while those grown in space became
spherical." In battling bone loss, NASA has learned that "daily
exposure to an artificial ultraviolet B light source maintains
adequate vitamin D levels in the human body."
In 1998, Nicogossian said NASA will begin construction on a "new
advanced life support system testbed and in early 1999 a decision
will be made on upgrading the ISS life support system with advanced
new technologies, including some that are biologically based." To
provide continued access to space for research while the space
station is being built, NASA is planning an additional shuttle
mission for May of 2000.
Joseph Rothenberg, AA for the Office of Space Flight,
provided a brief statement to the subcommittee on science-related
issues. He said NASA is "evaluating the development of a free-
flyer pallet based upon the current Spartan spacecraft design that
would be capable of an extended on-orbit life." Co-flying with
[the] space station," he added, "the free-flyer could be utilized
for Earth and space science missions as well as technology
demonstrators, potentially with a design that supports payload
Responding to a question, Rothenberg announced Russia has, to
date, failed to make its February 15th payment to subcontractors.
Russia's construction of the Service Module is a couple of months
behind schedule and NASA is "skeptical" of the recovery plan.
Launch of the element could be delayed to April of 1999.
Only a handful of subcommittee members attended the hearing.
Rohrabacher voiced displeasure with NASA's management of the Earth
Science program. About $690 million is still sitting around waiting
to be spent. The Congressman told NASA it needs "to get the Earth
Science financial house in order."
Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN) is the new ranking minority
member for the subcommittee. His views toward space still are
largely unknown. He voted against the space station from 1992
through 1995. If the hearing is any indication of his politics,
NASA might better be wary. Gordon leveled an ideological attack on
the space station, asking: "Why are we spending money in space when
we can't afford to operate school buses?"
Congressman Tim Roemer (D-IN) predictably fired a salvo at the
"slower, bloated, not even mediocre" space station. Cost overruns,
he complained, are undermining investments in science and
Congressman Ralph Hall (D-TX) made a surprise appearance to
defend funding for microgravity research. Since 1996, $462 million
has been stripped from the life and microgravity program to pay for
the construction of the space station. Hall dubbed the transfer of
money a "sorry situation" and berated NASA for raiding the science
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) announced she was
displeased with the Administration's budget cut for NASA and argued
for stabilizing spending.
Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL), worried about a shortfall in
Space Shuttle flights, inquired about the AXAF launch schedule. He
also asked about funding for solar space power. The
cross-enterprise technology program will be managed by Code S,
although Code M still will be responsible for completing the main
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 23,000
members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a