NASA-chef in tranen in Senaat

Nieuws | de redactie
26 februari 2010 | De topman van de NASA, Charles Bolden, kreeg het te kwaad tijdens een hoorzitting van de Senaat over zijn werk, zijn budget en de toekomst van de ruimtevaart.

NASA’s 2011 budget request, released Feb. 1, sets aside $19billion for the space agency for next year. It is a slight increasefrom the 2010 budget, and included a life extension through atleast 2020 for the International Space Station, as well new fundsfor space technology development and basic scientific research.

Obama’s budget assures the retirement of NASA’s shuttle programin the fall. In place of NASA-built spaceships to replace them, thebudget request would set aside $6 billion over the next five yearsto support the development of commercial spaceships capable oflaunching American astronauts.

NASA’s three aging space shuttles are due to retire in Septemberafter four final missions. After that, American astronauts will bedependent on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the InternationalSpace Station during the gap between the shuttle program and whennew spacecraft come online.

Without a successor to the space shuttle, NASA will losetalented engineers from layoffs and attrition, which poses a threatto the United States’ prowess in human spaceflight, former shuttlecommander Robert “Hoot” Gibson told the committee as part of alater hearing with a panel of space experts. “With the retirementof the space shuttle later this year, and if the administration’sproposal is followed, the United States will no longer be aspace-faring nation,” said Gibson.

Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) asked Bolden how he explainedthe looming gap, and subsequent job layoffs, to NASA employees whowill lose their jobs when the shuttle fleet retires without asuccessor program. Bolden, known for his emotions, teared up.

“I can tell them, as I have, that I’m going to do everything inmy power to try to make sure that we develop some programs that aregoing to get to where we all want to go as soon as possible,”Bolden said. That includes funding research into new technologies,including ones to combat radiation and health effects for deepspace missions, and others that have the potential to shave monthsoff manned trip to Mars, he added.

Pressed by Senator Nelson (D. Florida), who has complained thatPresident Barack Obama has not personally stated a cleardestination for the U.S. space program, Bolden testified that whileMars is NASA’s ultimate goal, the agency isn’t ready to go thereanytime soon. “If you gave me an infinite pot of money I could notget a human to Mars within the next 10 years,” he said. [bron]

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