Space Station Operations Costs ‘Too High,’ House Panel Says
Posted at 10:33 a.m. on May 20, 2014
German astronaut Alexander Gerst, left, Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and American astronaut Gregory Wiseman prepare in Kazakhastan in early May for an upcoming mission aboard the International Space Station. They’ll take off May 28. (AFP/Getty Images)
NASA should scale back certain costs of the International Space Station so it can be a “sustainable long-term program,” says the House panel that writes annual spending bills.
In a report accompanying a proposed fiscal 2015 bill covering NASA, the House Appropriations Committee had this to say:
The Committee remains concerned that annual ISS operations costs are too high, particularly in light of NASA’s proposal to extend the life of the Station through 2024. In order for the Station to remain a sustainable long-term program, NASA must continue to seek and implement cost savings measures with the goal of reducing the ISS operations budget or, at a minimum, slowing the growth in such budget.
Congressional committees often move bills with reports that explain lawmakers’ intentions. In this case, it’s the Appropriations panel’s Republican majority. A House GOP aide said that lawmakers broadly support use of the ISS for as long as possible, and that the language was a note of caution about ongoing costs. It’s unclear whether the panel’s Democrats agree.
Earlier this year, top officials at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced that they want to extend ISS operations through at least 2024.
In written testimony for the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee in March, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said:
This will allow NASA to complete many of the research and technology development activities aboard the ISS necessary to enable planned long-duration human missions beyond LEO; extend the broader flow of societal benefits from research on the Station, which has already resulted in a discoveries that could have significant medical and industrial implications; provide NASA and its private-sector partners time to more fully transition to the commercial space industry the transportation of cargo and crew to LEO; instill confidence in the science community that the ISS platform will be available for important, long-term research endeavors; and help cement continuing U.S. leadership in human spaceflight going forward.
The House Rules committee yesterday paved the way for floor consideration of the spending bill.
More recently, news outlets have reported about the future of Russia’s involvement with the ISS, given the tensions over Ukraine.
NASA hasn’t received any official notification from Russia “on any changes in our space cooperation at this point,” according to a written statement from the agency.
“Ongoing operations on the ISS continue on a normal basis with last week’s return of three crew members and scheduled launch of three new crew members next week,” according to the statement.