Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) opened the Space &
Aeronautics "posture hearing" (2/24/99) to examine NASA's FY 2000
budget with a partisan swipe at the Clinton Administration. He
criticized the White House for cutting NASA's budget (once again),
while boosting funding for other government science programs. He
called the policy misguided and said it was weakening America's
Subcommittee ranking member Bart Gorton (D-TN) pointed out that
"NASA has had to operate under tight budgets," which he considered
not all that bad. He chided the Chairman's opening statement,
saying it was "not a productive way to conduct the hearing." He
said the government shouldn't have a "drunken sailor's" attitude to
spending the public's money.
Both Rohrabacher and Gorton did agree, however, on one matter;
they both praised the performance of NASA Administrator Daniel
Goldin, who was the only witness testifying at the hearing.
Rohrabacher tipped his hat to Goldin, calling him a "courageous
visionary," while Gorton gave President Clinton kudos for
appointing Goldin as Administrator. In one final dig, Rohrabacher
couldn't help mentioning the fact that it had been President Bush
who first appointed Goldin.
Subcommittee witnesses normally are given only five
minutes to summarize their testimony. But Goldin, because of his
fancy, PowerPoint presentation, was allotted double this time
In his written testimony, Goldin said he was "pleased" with the
Administration's proposed budget of $13.578 billion for NASA in FY
2000. But in his remarks to members of the Subcommittee, the
Administrator confessed he "wanted a bigger budget but [he] didn't
Goldin provided some long-term trends at NASA. He said the
percentage of the agency's budget "devoted to science and
technology has increased from 31 percent in FY 1991 to 41 percent
today." The percent of the budget allocated to human spaceflight,
however, "has declined from 48 percent in FY 1991 to 40 percent
today, and is projected to decline to 35 percent by FY 2004."
"We have changed NASA as an institution," Goldin said. The
average cost of spacecraft development in the early 1990s was $590
million. In 1999 it's $205 million, and NASA's goal by 2004 is to
drop the total to only $79 million. According to Goldin, "The
state-of-the-art in instrument and spacecraft technologies points
to the near future when present day thousand kilogram, cubic meter
satellites are replaced by constellations of micro and nano-
satellites with instruments on chips."
About the International Space Station, Goldin said NASA has
authorized the construction of a U.S. permanent propulsion module,
which could be available as early as FY 2002. In the meantime, he
said reboosting by Space Shuttle coupled with the Interim Control
Module's (ICM) capabilities would be sufficient to maintain
elements in orbit.
Russia's inability to meet deadlines in building elements of the
ISS has caused a 6-8 month slip in utilization flights to the ISS,
and as a consequence NASA has "slowed the development of research
equipment," Goldin explained. NASA boasts that it's funding "over
900 experienced principal investigators" for microgravity science.
Yet at the same time it's funding only a handful of Commercial
Space Centers, which will utilize a third of the station. The
imbalance means commercial enterprises will be unprepared to take
full advantage of the ISS when it opens for business, costing
Only four Shuttle missions were flown in FY 1998 (for nearly $3
billion), and only five are planned for FY 1999. But there may be
an additional emergency flight in October to service the Hubble
Space Telescope, which is experiencing problems with its gyros.
If there are further delays in assembling the ISS, NASA wants to
have "standby" missions waiting to fill any gaps. Goldin said the
time needed to prepare a gap mission is being reduced from 15
months to nine months. The additional cost for a Shuttle flight
would be about $35.
The first flight of the X-33 reusable launch vehicle has slipped
at least a year until July 2000. "The X-34 also has experienced
some manufacturing difficulties that will delay the first unpowered
flight four months to September 1999; the first powered flight is
currently scheduled for February 2000," Goldin said.
Members of the Subcommittee expressed concern about America's
launch infrastructure. Goldin said NASA may give Kennedy Space
Center the responsibility for developing advanced range
technologies to reduce the cost and time required to launch
Over the next five years, Goldin said NASA is slated to launch
30 Earth Science missions. In September 1998, NASA "awarded five
contracts for Phase II [of the Commercial Remote Sensing Program
(CRSP)] of the $50 million Scientific Data Purchase." The agency is
"developing plans for the next data buy as the commercial remote
sensing market matures."
Goldin said he "would love to see more money going to
education." The Administration reduces spending within NASA on
education from $71.6 million in FY 1999 to $54.1 million in FY
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