Bolden and Garver Sail Through Confirmation Hearing

Bolden and Garver Sail Through Confirmation Hearing

Charlie Bolden and Lori Garver sailed through their confirmation hearing this afternoon. The hearing was somewhat delayed by Senate business and a committee markup, but when the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee was finally able to turn its attention to nominations, Gen. Bolden and Ms. Garver were first up. Other time pressures shortened the question and answer period, but committee chair Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) posed what is probably the most fundamental question facing the agency. He told the nominees that he felt that NASA was drifting and did not have the compelling sense of purpose that it did in the past. He asked the duo if they agreed, and if so, what did they intend to do about it.

Gen. Bolden called for a reinvigoration of research and development (R&D) at NASA that could inspire young people to come and work at the agency. He later added that the government could not fund everything that people want NASA to accomplish, and championed the role that commercial space, especially entrepreneurs, need to play. Ms. Garver said that she shared the Senator’s concern, and advocated an enhanced effort by NASA to better communicate with the public about the space program’s relevance to the challenges facing the country. In that respect, her answer echoed the theme of the National Research Council report released yesterday — America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs.

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) argued that only the President could “unleash the ingenuity of these engineers” and restore the “magic” of NASA’s past. He said that if the President embraced a bold mission for NASA, Gen. Bolden and Ms. Garver were the team that could implement it. He stressed that the President needs to lead and “not let the Office of Management and Budget run NASA.” He asserted that that was the case not only in the Bush Administration, but the Clinton Administration as well, so that it is a bipartisan issue.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) asked about the future of the International Space Station (ISS) as a national laboratory. Both nominees noted that the ISS has had its full complement of six crew members for only a few weeks so the ISS’ potential was just about to be tapped. Gen. Bolden said ISS would “pave the way” to Mars and Mr. Garver called it a “toehold to the universe.” Both also cited the need for space transportation systems to get to ISS more economically and efficiently.

Senator Rockefeller closed this part of the hearing by commenting that he expected the nominees to be confirmed easily.

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