Space: May 3, 2002


Congress is not happy with the Bush Administration's plans for the International Space Station in particular and for NASA in general. The Administration provides NASA with no budget increase and stops work on the space station at a point it can support only three members and no serious scientific projects. Congress wants to see the station expanded to the point that real science can be performed. Congress is also doubtful that the new Space Launch Initiative can build a system to replace the Space Shuttle by 2012 and wants the Administration to restore lost funding that would have provided most of the shuttle upgrades to keep the 20-year-old spacecraft flying another 20 years. At the core of this debate is the failure of the X-33 program to produce a workable spacecraft after spending $1 billion. The problem is that to save development money, NASA eliminated all but one design before knowing if that design would actually work. The Administration's NASA plan to replace the shuttle by 2012 gambles on selecting one new technology and making it work the first time. Congress wants to see three parallel technology programs developed simultaneously, at least to the point that it can be sure one of them will actually work.--Stephen V Cole


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