The National Space Society vision is people living and working in space

Volume 2, No. 3                March 2, 1998

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 Science.

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.

Space Science

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).

Earth Science
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.

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 business."

Life & Microgravity Sciences & Applications
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.

Space Flight
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 change-out on-orbit."

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 technology.

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 funds.

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 study.

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 spacefaring civilization.

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