Subcommittee Stresses the Need for a Solid Plan for Getting Humans to Mars

Feb 3, 2016
Rep. Earl Perlmutter(D-CO) Shows Enthusiasm for a 2033 Mission to Mars
Subcommittee Stresses the Need for a Solid Plan for Getting Humans to Mars

(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology’s Subcommittee on Space held a hearing titled, “Charting a Course: Expert Perspectives on Human Exploration Proposals.” The purpose of the hearing was to examine the possible options for various architectures and intermediate steps to develop the capabilities and skills necessary to land humans on Mars while maintaining constancy of purpose through the next presidential administration.  Testifying before the Subcommittee were Mr. A. Thomas Young, Former Director, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA; Former President and Chief Operating Officer, Martin Marietta Corporation; Dr. John Sommerer, Principal of Talitha Ventures and Panel Member of the National Academies Committee on Human Spaceflight and Chair of the Technical Panel; and Dr. Paul Spudis, Senior Scientist, Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Members on both sides of the aisle and witnesses stressed the need for a credible plan for achieving the consensus goal of landing humans on Mars.

Ranking Member of the Space Subcommittee, Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), said in her opening statement, “This Committee’s inquiries during recent hearings have focused on the need for a clearly articulated plan and next steps, such as the Human Exploration Roadmap that the bipartisan House-passed NASA Authorization Act of 2015 directs NASA to develop. I recognize that this is not an easy task given previous flat funding levels, uncertainty over future budgets, and the need to allow flexibility in planning a multi-decadal endeavor.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “We are not going to have a human space exploration program worthy of this great nation if we continue down the current path of failing to provide the resources needed to make real progress and failing to embrace a clear goal and pathway to achieving that goal. What we need now is a clearly articulated plan on how we will get to Mars.”

Members and witnesses discussed the budgetary issues associated with achieving the goal of sending humans to Mars, the need for a plan and discipline in following the plan, and the need to ensure the sustainability of the plan through the transition to the next presidential administration and beyond.

Congresswoman Edwards said, “I’m confident that a plan of sufficient detail can come to fruition, but we don’t have time to spare if we are to sustain such a challenging endeavor across the upcoming Presidential transition.” 

Ranking Member Johnson said, “In just about one year, the nation will transition to a new Presidential Administration. Such transitions have, in the past, led to significant redirections in NASA’s human exploration programs. If that were to happen again, that would be a tragedy, and a wasteful one at that.”