Dec 13 2009

SHELBY PROTECTS CONSTELLATION, ARES FUNDING

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee (CJS), today announced Senate approval of the fiscal year 2010 Omnibus Appropriations bill, which contains $3.46 billion for NASA’s human space flight program, Constellation.  Shelby was successful in restoring over $600 million to the program that was cut in the House-passed FY 2010 CJS Appropriations bill.  Shelby was also instrumental in including language that limits NASA’s ability to terminate or alter the current Constellation program.  This will require the Administration to work with Congress and wait for approval prior to changing any current human exploration plans.

Marshall Space Flight Center is responsible for design and development of Constellation’s Ares I rocket, funded at $1.4 billion; and the Ares V cargo launch vehicle, funded at $100 million - $75 million above the President’s request.  Shelby played a critical role in securing this significant increase in funding.  It includes the Systems Engineering and Integration activities, as well as Safety and Mission Assurance activities for Ares I.  Marshall will also lead the development of a new Upper Stage for the Ares I.  Starting in 2015, the Ares I rocket will carry the Orion crew vehicle and its crew of four to six astronauts and small cargo payloads, to the International Space Station.

Upon Senate approval of this important funding, Shelby released the following statement:

“The FY 2010 CJS bill maintains the foundation of our human space flight, Constellation, and keeps NASA on a clear and steady path to success for decades to come. It restores funds the House proposed cutting and sends a direct message that the Congress believes Constellation is, and should remain, the future of America’s human space flight program. We must be wary of claims supported by bogus studies like the Augustine Committee that want us to believe that the future of U.S. human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than our current path. If we are to believe these contrived findings and follow the commercial path, we will be left with unproven rockets that will result in the unnecessary risking of lives and a sure plan for failure.

“The people at Marshall Space Flight Center were given the task of creating and building rockets to take us to low Earth orbit and beyond. The successful test launch of the Ares I rocket this fall represented years of work and great advancement in our nation’s human space flight program. There is no other rocket today that is as safe, or that has successfully demonstrated that it can meet the country’s need for the exploration of space. In fact, those who believe commercial rockets are just as capable, effective and ready to carry out the mission are still waiting to see those rockets become more than mere designs on paper. Without the Ares I and heavy-lift capability of the Ares V rockets, we will relinquish our leadership in space. It is reckless and shortsighted to believe otherwise.

“Those who believe that it is in our nation’s best interest to rely on start up commercial space companies need only examine their current track record. Of the companies enlisted to deliver only cargo, not humans, to space, one company failed to move beyond paper drawings, another is years behind schedule, and a replacement company for the first failure will not even be ready for test flights for years to come. Unfortunately, there are those who continue to believe the empty promises and grand claims by potential commercial providers about their quick and easy science and technology solutions to human space travel. Upon scratching the surface of this farce, however, we are left with unfulfilled promises and expensive propositions that unnecessarily risk the lives of our astronauts and will set America’s human space exploration efforts back decades. This is not the answer, nor is it a path I am willing to support.

“I believe that now is not the time to turn human space flight over to inexperienced and hopeful aspirations, but to cement our leadership in the space with a program we know will keep America at the forefront of space exploration. That program is Constellation. Only Ares has successfully conducted a test flight. Only Constellation has been through years of rigorous public evaluation and testing. Today, this is the only viable program that will take us to the space station and to destinations beyond.

“I have worked hard with my colleagues to ensure that this bill dictates what can, and cannot, happen to the Constellation program. The plan has been in place for years and has proven to be successful. Most importantly, it is now funded so that NASA and Constellation can continue to be the program that leads the world in human space flight.”