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House Committee to Hold Hearing on NASA's Past, Present, and Future

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Feb-2017
Updated: 09-Feb-2017 08:47 PM

The House Science, Space, and Technology (SS&T) Committee will hold its first NASA hearing of the 115th Congress on February 16.  Two former astronauts (one of whom also is a former U.S. Senator), a former NASA chief scientist, and a former NASA center director and industry executive will discuss NASA's past, present, and future.

Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced last week that the first space hearing this year would be a "panoramic view" of NASA in order to acquaint the many new members of the committee with NASA's activities.

The list of witnesses includes Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. Senator Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the only scientist (geology) to have walked on the Moon, and legendary Gemini and Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Tom Stafford (Ret.), who currently chairs NASA's International Space Station (ISS) Advisory Committee. 

Schmitt and Gene Cernan, who passed away on January 16, were the last two men to walk on the Moon during the 1972 Apollo 17 mission.  He represented New Mexico in the Senate from 1977-1983.  He is a long time advocate of mining Helium-3 on the Moon and using it to fuel fusion reactors on Earth.  He chaired the NASA Advisory Council when Mike Griffin was NASA Administrator (2005-2009).  Stafford flew on two Gemini missions (VI and IX) and the Apollo 10 mission that orbited the Moon in preparation for the Apollo 11 lunar landing.  He also commanded the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) where a U.S. Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docked together in space for the first time.  It was an amazing political feat in the Cold War era that presaged the ongoing long-term U.S.-Russian cooperation in building and operating the ISS along with Europe, Japan, and Canada.

Schmitt is not the only scientist on the witness list.  Ellen Stofan, who stepped down as NASA's Chief Scientist just two months ago, is also on the panel.  A geologist, she was an associate member of the radar team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, chief scientist for NASA's New Millennium program, and deputy project scientist for the Magellan mission to Venus.  She was NASA's Chief Scientist from August 2013-December 2016.

The fourth witness is Tom Young, who was mission director for NASA's Viking Mars missions before becoming Director of Goddard Space Flight Center.  After leaving NASA, he joined Martin Marietta, which merged with Lockheed in 1995 to form Lockheed Martin.  He was President and COO of Martin Marietta before the merger and Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin afterwards.  For the past two decades, he has chaired many review boards and investigation teams to determine why failures occurred or programs went off course, most recently Independent Review Teams for NOAA's weather satellite programs.  He was a member of the NASA Advisory Council under Charlie Bolden's leadership.

No current NASA employees are on the list.  The hearing is at 10:00 am ET in 2318 Rayburn House Office, Washington, DC.  The committee typically webcasts its hearings.


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