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Leave no stone unturned for a shuttle replacement

Through their efforts and those programs, the United States has become a leader in space exploration and I am committed to maintaining this position. The Congress provided a balanced and responsible means of securing that leadership in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act. Although we have yet to see the final, formal architecture for the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA assures us that it will move forward with that development on a timely basis and has begun steps to expedite development of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), using existing contracts and previous investments to the maximum extent.

NASA’s January report to the Senate Commerce Committee on the SLS heavy lift rocket and MPCV capsule was incomplete and inconclusive. Despite the fact that they had already studied more than 2,000 vehicle design concepts in recent years, some at NASA felt compelled to undertake yet more studies in the months since that report, only to find that the basic concept outlined in the 2010 Act is, in fact, the best path forward, as has been made more and more clear in recent briefings on their progress in filling in the blanks from their January report.

{mosads}While I am hopeful that we can soon have a clear definition of the path to replace the space shuttle, I am gravely concerned with the gap we are facing. There will be an extended period of time between the shuttle and the next U.S.-developed capability to launch humans into space, whether using commercially-developed vehicles or the SLS/MPCV, both of which are provided for in the Act. This leaves us with no independent access to our space station and no back-up capability to the Russian Soyuz launch vehicles. 

There is clearly an immediate need for the deliberate, expedient development of future U.S.-based space vehicles to maintain our commitment to the International Space Station. This will protect our massive investment in developing that remarkable facility and in ensuring that we can make maximum use of its tremendous research potential. I will continue to work to ensure we leave no stone unturned in realizing those goals.

John Boozman is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Science and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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