Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is the new chairman of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics. Calvert was first elected to the House in 1993 and represents constituents in the Riverside and San Clemente, CA area (see http://calvert.house.gov/.) Calvert has served on the House Science Committee for twelve years. The chairman plays an important role in NASA matters, as his subcommittee has jurisdiction in the House over space and aeronautics legislation (see http://www.house.gov/science/committeeinfo/members/space/index.htm.)
Yesterday, Chairman Calvert addressed the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, CO. The full text of Calvert's remarks is available at http://www.house.gov/science/press/speeches/CalvetSpeech.pdf Below are selections from his address regarding the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA's space vision, a reauthorization bill, space science, the nomination of Mike Griffin to serve as NASA administrator, NASA's budget prospects, and Calvert's call to the space community:
"We are at the cusp of a new era in space exploration. From where I sit, we are at a crossroads in furthering the human race's journey beyond the confines of our planet. As we look back on nearly half a century of unmanned and manned space flight we can be proud of our accomplishments. But as we look ahead to the future, the choices we make today will impact our space journey for decades to come. I believe that now is the time to take a hard look at our U.S. Space Program and to begin making the decisions about what kind of program we need for the future.
"As we undertake this process we can learn from the past but we should not be constrained by it. The first steps on this road have already been taken. The Columbia Accident Investigation Board painstakingly documented the shortcomings of our national civilian space program in its 2003 report. In January of 2004, the President declared his Vision for Space Exploration. In June of 2004 the Aldridge report provided a roadmap for realizing the Vision. It is now up to us to lay the groundwork for achieving that Vision, to put in place the policies, structures and funding that will allow us to succeed.
"This isn't going to be easy. Building a new space program along the lines of the Vision requires that every aspect of our current program be analyzed and validated. Much of what we have today may not match up with what we need for the future. But at the same time there will be opportunities for fantastic new programs which we haven't been able to afford under the existing structure.
"The President's Vision aims to fulfill and capitalize on mankind's nature to explore. Our space exploration program will provide exciting new scientific discoveries, but equally important is that it will provide a clear and focused set of challenges to the U.S. Space Program. Challenges that will drive launch technology, communications, sensors, robotics, new materials, propulsion systems and more. These advances will spin off into new capabilities for national security and commercial space. Why should everyone in the American space business care about exploration? Because it will be a huge technological engine that will spend over $100 billion in pushing the state of the art over the next fifteen years. Everyone will benefit from this investment."
Calvert then offered his views on commercial space, national security space, and the current space program.
CIVIL SPACE PROGRAM:
"Our Civil Space program is represented by NASA, an agency undergoing a radical transformation to align itself with the goals of the exploration vision. The President's Vision has given us a national direction and a destination for civil space. We will fly the shuttle until 2010. We will complete the International Space Station. Then we will go on to the Moon and to Mars."
HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE:
"The Hubble Space Telescope program has been a fantastic program that has delivered images beyond our wildest dreams! It is performing beyond its original design life. NASA already has plans for a next generation telescope - the James Webb Telescope. Although we will have a gap of coverage, Hubble has delivered volumes of data that will keep scientists busy for years to come. NASA is planning the development of a de-orbit module, which I think is a wise way to proceed."
SPACE SHUTTLE, MOON, MARS, SPACE SCIENCE:
"The challenges facing NASA right now are unprecedented. Here is an organization that is being tasked with revamping the operations of its biggest program, the space shuttle, so it can return to flight and complete its second biggest program, the International Space Station. At the same time it is developing a plan to transition from these programs to the Crew Exploration Vehicle and returning to the Moon and then going to Mars. NASA also runs a wide ranging aeronautics program, a robust earth sciences program, a diverse education program, space telescopes and many other research and development programs too numerous to list. NASA works with and relies on our international partners to service and construct the International Space Station and to send probes throughout the solar system. NASA even operates its own TV channel. It does all this on a relatively fixed budget.
"The Space Operations directorate, in particular, is facing an extraordinary challenge. It is being tasked with returning the shuttle to flight in a ‘zero defect' environment with a mandate to keep the risk to the absolute minimum. At the same time NASA is being asked to transform itself to conform to the President's vision on space exploration, something that will require innovation and taking risks. The two mandates could not be more diametrically opposed.
"I am confident that the people of NASA can meet these challenges. The work they have done in the wake of the Columbia tragedy has been outstanding. They have taken the Columbia Accident Investigation Board's recommendations for return to flight and developed amazing solutions to problems. They are attempting to forge a new culture and organizational structure to ensure safety and quality assurance in all of their operations."
"It's up to us in Congress and the administration to provide that support. The President has given us the broad vision, a clear space transportation policy and nominated a new administrator for NASA.
"Congress must now provide a rational and stable budget to accomplish the goals laid out by the President. Most importantly, we must exercise our oversight authority to ensure the U.S. Space Program stays on course.
"Getting a NASA Authorization bill to the President is one of my highest priorities this year. We have a lot of new players on the Space committees in both the House and the Senate. Not only am I new as the Chairman of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee, but I have a new Ranking Democrat - Cong. Mark Udall of Colorado. Mark and I serve on other committees together and I look forward to working with him in this 109th Congress, under the leadership of Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert, as we shape the future of NASA.
"On the Senate side, we have a new Chairwoman of the Science and Space Subcommittee -- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas as Chair and Senator Bill Nelson of Florida as her Ranking Democrat. Both have NASA interests in their states.
"From the beginning, I have supported the President's Vision. We in Congress asked him to offer a direction for our civilian space program -- and he did. I know how difficult that it is to get a NASA Authorization through the Congress. I plan to work with members of my Subcommittee and the Science Committee to get a bill out of the Committee and through the House. I also look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get a good bill on to the President's desk for signature. We owe it to NASA and our Nation to take leadership in the direction that NASA is moving."
MIKE GRIFFIN AS NASA ADMINISTRATOR:
"I am looking forward to working with the newly appointed Administrator for NASA - Mike Griffin - once he is confirmed - probably around the second or third week of April. He appears to be the right person for NASA at this time. He is a free thinker, a rocket scientist, and a business man who understands the government. What a great combination to lead NASA at this critical time!"
FY 2006 NASA BUDGET:
"Although NASA is one of the few agencies to receive an increase in the FY06 President's budget request -- it received a 2.4% increase, it still fell short of the planned increase of about 5% that was projected when the FY05 budget was sent to the Congress last year. I would assume that NASA's current request of about $16.5 B is probably the best top line that we will see. We in the Congress may have to realign spending within NASA to be sure that this Nation is getting the most bang for its buck in its civilian space investment."
CALVERT'S REQUEST TO THE SPACE COMMUNITY:
"I am in the learning mode. I need your inputs. Bring me innovative solutions to problems. I expect every program to be able to justify its use and cost in the context of a mission statement. I have met with folks all over the space spectrum. The only common theme is that no one is happy with the National Space Program that we have today. We can and we must do better - we will do better. Our economy, security and our quest for knowledge
depend on it."