|AIAA Executive Director Urges Congress to Develop a Long-Term, Committed and Stable Strategic Plan for the U.S. Space Program
Decries Current Fractious State of Exploration Policy and Declares Cohesive Plan Vital to the
February 27, 2014 – Reston, Va. – American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Executive Director Sandra H. Magnus today testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on “Mars Flyby 2021: The First Deep Space Mission for the Orion and Space Launch System.” Magnus described the current lack of long-range, cohesive vision within the U.S. space program and the lack of budget support for long-term exploration goals, and challenged Congress to create a unified, forward-looking , goal-oriented exploration strategy.
Observing that barriers to a cohesive space exploration program are systemic and date from the earliest days of our nation’s space program, Magnus said, “In general, particularly in human spaceflight, the U.S. has typically lurched from goal to goal lacking a long-term, stable and strategic vision to tie our collective efforts together into an overarching space architecture.”
She reinforced the need for a committed exploration policy, noting, “The ability to make decisions based on a long-term view will always allow for better outcomes rather than being forced to deal with the uncertainty of a plan and budget situation that morphs every year, or every few years, based on unpredictable forces such as elections and the changing nature of global politics.” Magnus warned that a Mars flyby mission, or any other mission, must not “return to the misguided lessons of the past; any mission chosen cannot be done merely with the mindset of accomplishing a ‘goal’ without clearly being tied to an overarching strategy.”
Pointing out shortfalls in the NASA budget, currently at 0.5% of the U.S. budget, which limit the ability to create such a strategy, Magnus said, “This is not enough…if we are going to be a nation that has a future in space, a nation with a strong strategic plan and the will to execute it, 0.5% of the national budget is simply not adequate… Reducing NASA’s budget will not solve the bigger problems we face. Reducing NASA’s budget is a choice to not invest in our future.”
Magnus concluded her testimony by noting the important role of space in the public consciousness: “Space is ‘cool’ and a strong motivating factor for our youth, a point of pride for our citizens. In my many years of being out and about discussing the activities of our country in space, I have yet to find an audience that is not interested, that does not get excited about what we are doing… I believe a strong, stable, strategically directed space program will not only benefit our country economically, but also will serve as a strong motivation for our young generations to pursue challenging and exciting careers in science, math, and engineering – an intangible benefit but an important one – a benefit that Congress and the administration have declared as national priorities.”
For a complete copy of Magnus’ testimony, visit www.aiaa.org/testimony.