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Volume 3, No. 1                February 11, 1999
A New Star On Capitol Hill

There's big news at the House Science Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics but it's not something that was announced at today's hearing on the President's budget request for "the sciences at NASA." It's the change that has taken place in the main committee room during the past several months. The Science Committee has gone high tech. There now are permanent remote- controlled TV cameras, a LCD projector, large flat-screen monitors on the side walls, and an upgraded sound system. Soon, the Science Committee hearings will be broadcast over the Internet. Today's hearing was a dry run.

The Science Committee's chamber is the first hearing room in the House to be modified with the new communication technology. Witnesses can now use computer graphics and programs, such as Power Point, to present information to committee members.

The presentations by NASA officials today using the new equipment wowed the committee members and the audience. First to testify was Dr. Edward Weiler, Associate Administrator for Space Science. He displayed images from the Hubble Space Telescope and video of recent planetary missions. For the first time in memory, committee members were not impatient to cut off witnesses after talking only five minutes.

The bottom line. The new technology allows NASA to more effectively communicate its exciting missions to members and this may translate into greater support from Congress. A much larger audience will also now have ready access to committee hearings, allowing greater participation by the public and space community.

Edward Weiler

Dr. Weiler highlighted recent space science missions and new programs funded by the Administration's FY 2000 budget request. This includes the Mars Micromissions program, which will "target high priority science at low cost." Potential missions are "new rover concepts, such as Mars airplanes and balloons," which will fly as secondary payloads aboard the 2003 and 2005 launches to the red planet.

The proposed Mars Network is a series of microsatellites that will orbit Mars to provide "nearly continuous Internet-quality, data relays." (Communications to Martian rovers and landers are currently restricted to about 10 minutes each day.) The Mars Network will substantially boost exploration, scientific and educational opportunities.

Ghassem Asrar
Dr. Asrar, Associate Administrator for Earth Science, briefed subcommittee members on NASA's Earth Science program. The space agency later this year is slated to launch the Earth Observing System (EOS) AM-1 spacecraft to study the "physical and radiative properties of clouds; air-land and air-sea exchanges of energy, carbon and water; measurements of trace atmospheric gases, and volcanology." Also scheduled for launch in 1999 is Landsat-7 to gather data on "land-use and land processes measurements."

According to Dr. Asrar, the Earth Science Enterprise is spending about 10 percent of its $1.4 billion budget to develop next generation instruments, spacecraft, and information systems technologies to make advanced measurements." To date, NASA has spent $50 million on remote sensing product development." The Administration has requested a slight increase in spending for Earth Science for FY 2000.

Arnauld Nicogossian
Dr. Nicogossian, Associate Administrator for the Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences and Applications, recounted a series of microgravity missions in 1998. The program's current budget totals $263.5 million. For FY 2000, the Administration has requested $256.2 million.

To demonstrate the value of microgravity research, Nicogossian highlighted numerous projects from NASA's Commercial Space Centers (CSCs). The budget for the CSCs is only $15.4 million yet is being cut by $1 million in FY 2000. NASA has announced plans to set aside 1/3 of the space station for commercial activities. But it's investing only about five percent of the microgravity budget to develop and validate commercial microgravity projects -- far less than what is required to take full advanatage of the space station laboratories.

NASA also is failing to provide sufficient access to space for microgravity research until the space station can be assembled.

Claud Canizares
Dr. Canizares provided testimony on the recent Space Studies Board report, Supporting Research and Data Analysis in NASA's Science Programs. The report recommends ways NASA can improve its Research and Data Analysis programs.
New Subcommittee Members
The Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee now has 30 members, a large number of whom are new, including: Frank Lucas (R-OK), Mark Green (R-WI), Steven Kuykendall (R-CA), Mark Sanford (R-SC), John Larson (N-CN), Mark Udall (D-CO), David Wu (D-OR), and Anthony Weiner (D-NY). Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has returned to the subcommittee after serving on the Budget Committee for the past six years.

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 75 chapters actively promote the creation of a spacefaring civilization.

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