With one orbiter, Endeavour, aloft and one final launch for Atlantis to go, senators are upbraiding NASA for its lack of a plan for life after the space shuttle. A bipartisan chorus at the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science and Space Wednesday said NASA needs a new and clearly defined mission to succeed the agency’s signature program since the 1980s, the National Journal reports.
“I’m worried that NASA’s inaction and indecision in making this transition could hurt America’s space leadership — something that could cost us billions of dollars and years to repair,” said Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va.
Senators said NASA has not fulfilled a mandate contained in legislation passed last year to focus on the post-shuttle future and align its programs with larger national goals.
At the same time, the Journal reports, the space agency “finds itself squeezed between competing interests in Washington”— White House-sponsored budget cuts on one side, and concerns about lost jobs and idle facilities in congressional districts on the other. While President Barack Obama has halted a plan to send astronauts back to the moon, Congress has appropriated $3.8 billion for a massive interstellar rocket — destination unknown.
“Many industries exist because of the space program,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
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