Senate Committee to Hold Hearing Next Week on Human Spaceflight

Senate Committee to Hold Hearing Next Week on Human Spaceflight

A Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee will hold a hearing next week to get an update on NASA’s human spaceflight program.

The hearing by the Science and Space subcommittee is scheduled for November 17 at 10:00 am in 253 Russell Senate Office Building. The witnesses are not yet listed on the committee’s website. The title of the hearing is “NASA’s Human Space Exploration: Direction, Strategy, and Progress.”

A NASA astronaut is scheduled to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) tomorrow (November 13 EST, November 14 local time at the launch site) along with two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on a Soyuz rocket. The launch was delayed by several weeks while Russia investigated the cause of an August 24 Soyuz launch failure that doomed a Progress cargo spacecraft headed to the iSS. Russia has conducted three launches of various versions of the Soyuz rocket since then to demonstrate its flight readiness.

The August launch failure and its consequences on ISS crew rotations drove home the point that with the space shuttle program terminated, Soyuz is the only way to get crews back and forth to ISS. Even if the space shuttle was still flying, the Soyuz is needed as a “lifeboat” for the ISS to bring crews home in an emergency. If the shuttle was still available, crews could remain on the ISS only while the shuttle was docked there, limiting missions to about two weeks. U.S. dependence on Russia for the ISS program likely will be discussed at the November 17 hearing.

The hearing comes immediately after a three-day NASA “community workshop” on human spaceflight in San Diego, CA where it plans to introduce the Global Exploration Roadmap developed through the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG). The agency says that it is “seeking industry and academic feedback to shape strategy, assist with investment priorities and refine international exploration scenarios for human exploration and operations through the 2020’s.” Although NASA says the workshop is part of an effort “to engage the broader space community,” it apparently does not count reporters as part of that community. Reporters are asked not to attend the workshop, but to watch the webcast and submit questions by email.

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