January 14, 2004, WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon said he was pleased the president laid out a more specific plan for the nation’s human space-flight program.
Gordon, who will be the new ranking member of the House Science Committee when Congress reconvenes next week, joined President Bush at NASA headquarters today (Wednesday, January 14) to watch the president lay out his plan. Gordon made the following comments about the speech:
"First, I am pleased that the president has proposed some long-term goals for the nation’s human space flight program. The lack of clear marching orders has hampered NASA’s effectiveness and has kept it from realizing its full potential as the nation’s space agency. That is why I and other members of Congress were calling for the administration to establish a vision for the space program even before the space shuttle Columbia tragedy.
"I intend to give the president’s proposals very serious consideration, and I look forward to getting more specifics from NASA and the White House in the coming days. Clearly, we are going to need more specifics on the proposed timetable for achieving the goals, the costs, how the administration proposes to pay for the initiative, and what the impact will be on the rest of NASA’s programs. I am particularly concerned that NASA’s other missions not be cannibalized in an attempt to cover the costs of these proposals.
"That being said, I think that the nation will benefit from a thoughtful, well-planned exploration program. History has shown that past investments in our space program have resulted in new technologies and capabilities that have delivered significant benefits to our citizen – better weather monitoring, improved communications, new materials, innovative medical diagnostic techniques, and so forth.
"I have no doubt that we will see a comparable return in our investment in a long-term space exploration program. I also believe that an exploration initiative will inspire our young people, demonstrate our continued commitment as a nation to preeminence in science and technology and strengthen our national security.
"At the same time, though, the president’s proposals will have a high price tag. These proposals should not come at the cost of deferring our commitments to our children, our veterans and our other national priorities. We now have a half-trillion dollar deficit. The president is going to have to make the case for why his proposals should be supported in the face of that deficit. His ambitious space agenda has to be seen to be more than simply a re-election sound bite, or it will be dismissed out of hand by both Congress and the American public. Having said all that, I think that the president has kicked off a long, overdue discussion on the future of NASA, and I look forward to working with him to craft a productive way forward."