Congressman Rohrabacher's opening statement at the House Science Committee's hearing on the Gehman Report.
Washington, Sep 3, 2003 -
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
September 4, 2003
I’d like to thank Chairman Boehlert and Ralph Hall, our Democratic colleague, for their leadership and good judgment in this vexing moment. Today’s hearing is the first step in understanding what went wrong with the Space Shuttle Columbia, what went wrong with NASA, and what choices we have as we strive to set a new vision for our space program. We are greatly indebted to Admiral Gehman and the Columbia Accident Investigation Board for the outstanding job they’ve done. Their work will be an invaluable resource as we move forward to solve the problems at NASA, and set a course for the future.
A key element of NASA’s success in the past was a clear national objective and purpose. Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo were about beating the Russians to the Moon. Unfortunately today, our civil space program suffers from a lack of strategic vision and a lack of broader national goals. Putting America’s space program on track means more than fixing a flawed piece of Shuttle technology. The Shuttle itself remains a major question mark.
For the last 30 years, NASA may well have been on the wrong path with the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle has failed miserably to meet its original goals. Our reliance on such a complex and high-risk technology has drained billions of dollars from our treasury and other space programs, and has regrettably cost too many lives.
Yet when focusing on the loss of the brave astronauts, we must know they would not want us to turn back. We should not close the door on human space travel. It is a risky venture, but worth the risks. We have the rare opportunity to help NASA break the bureaucratic malaise that has gripped it for so long. Our space program should be about expanding American freedom into a new frontier. To carry all humankind to new heights, into the heavens above, and to better lives here on this planet; to finish the space station, and move forward.