Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) criticized the Obama administration for lacking a human space exploration mission and cancelling the nation’s Constellation Program.
The primary goal of the program was to return astronauts to the moon by 2020.
“My main point is we have to have some sort of mission coming from the White House or coming from the people – the real space exploration mission, which is exploring the heavens and that’s what I’m fighting for,” he said after the Citizens for Space Exploration reception on Capitol Hill. “Right now we just have no mission. My personal opinion is go back to the moon because it’s great training for Mars.”
NASA has been paying Russia about $70 million per seat on Russian Soyuz capsules, which are reportedly the only flights available for astronauts to the International Space Station after the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.
“The problem is right now we don’t have a vehicle to stop that. The vehicle to prevent that or minimize that was Constellation, which the White House killed in 2010 with nothing to replace it,” said Olson, a member of the House Communications and Technology subcommittee.
“SpaceX has rockets go up there with cargo but no crew yet, so we’re stuck with hitching rides with the Russians, which was worked out but it’s kind of scary because like Ukraine, something that happens here on Earth, they take that to space and say, sorry guys, you can’t ride anymore. That space station that we built, 90 billion bucks of our money goes away,” he added.
Olson said the Obama administration does not see the “inspirational value” of human space flight.
“Being a little kid and growing up and just being awed – we’re on the moon, an American is walking the moon. I was so proud. The whole world was proud,” he said. “Then, we stopped that program early and replaced it. It took us about a decade to find a space shuttle but then we got the space station, which is great but that’s – the shuttle’s not flying now. We have nothing except the station.”
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), a member of the House Science, Space and Technology committee, said the U.S. needs its own vehicle to get humans to space if it wants to lead the world in space exploration.
“We are trying to put more money into the space launch system – that is what’s going to get us beyond low Earth orbit. That’s what’s going to get us to the Moon and that’s what’s going to get us to Mars,” he said.
According to NASA, the space launch system is an “advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle, which will provide an entirely new capability for science and human exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.”
Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, has said the new rocket is not expected to launch until at least 2018.
Brooks announced that the Republican-led House increased funding for the space launch system by $150 million for the next fiscal year.
“You’re going to see us putting money into human space flight and the space launch system,” Brooks said.