If you were able to go back in time and ask Americans during the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo era what the goal of the nation’s space program was, the answer would be far clearer than that one would receive from the present-day. So while Americans proudly admired the Space Shuttle Discovery as it flew over the Washington, D.C. area, lost on them was the stark fact that, for the first time since Americans launched John Glenn, the United States has neither the means to send its astronauts into space nor a space policy to explore beyond earth.That is, as Representative Frank Wolf points out in his letter to the National Academies’ Space Studies Board, because “[w]hile there is strong congressional support for American astronauts to return to the Moon, and eventually travel to Mars, the Administration still refuses to articulate a clear mission for NASA’s exploration program“. And though the Congressman, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee with oversight for NASA, believes that NASA has reached new low’s during the current Administration, he notes, and references a chart, that this has been a problem for NASA over the last few decades.
Rep. Wolf asks the Board to consider three points:
- Were NASA being formed today, how would it be structured and what would be its priority programs?
- Like the FBI Director, should a NASA Administrator serve a 10-year term as a shield from White House pressure and to “…improve cohesiveness over multiple administrations“?
- Concurrent submission by NASA of its budget to both Congress and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as an outside Board of Directors for the Agency?
In his letter, House Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf implores the Space Studies Board, which is meeting this week to review NASA’s strategic direction, as established in NASA’s fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, to be “…bold and unreserved” and “bold, thought provoking, and inspired” in its assessment and recommendations, as its report will help inform Congress in next year’s deliberations over NASA’s authorization.
Rep. Wolf closes his letter with a handwritten note stating, “Thank you. This is important“.