In a statement yesterday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) endorsed a letter by John Glenn calling for a shuttle extension. “I strongly agree with Senator Glenn, and the concerns expressed by many others, that the simultaneous cancellation of the Constellation program and the retirement of the space shuttle threatens our access to and use of the space station,” Hutchison said. “The decision to retire the shuttle fleet was made based on a plan to have commercial cargo resupply capabilities available soon after the final shuttle flight, and an expected station service date of 2015. The simple fact is that since the shuttle retirement decision was made, the service life of the space station has been extended until 2020 and new commercial cargo capabilities have experienced significant delays.” She added that while she has proposed some scenarios for extending the shuttle program by stretching out the remaining flights (more difficult now with only two missions remaining on the manifest), “the Administration has given no indication that it understands how the President’s proposal changes assumptions and plans regarding the space station, or that it is willing to discuss options to extend the availability of the space shuttle.”
Sen. Hutchison is expected to make NASA a priority at least through the remainder of her current term, which runs through 2012, Roll Call reported this week. David Beckwith, a “longtime” advisor to the senator, told the newspaper that Hutchison “likely would focus her energy on Commerce Committee work and doing her best to protect NASA from budget cuts.” He added that she would likely make a decision “in about a year” whether to seek reelection in 2012, based in part on the whether Republicans take control of the Senate in 2010 or appear likely to win control in the 2012 elections; Hutchison, as ranking member of the Commerce Committee, would be in line to chair it.
Meanwhile, Sen. Richard Shelby is being honored for his efforts to save Constellation, but it’s an award that the Alabama Republican is unlikely to accept. Citizens Against Government Waste named Shelby its “Porker of the Month” for his effort last month add language to a supplement appropriations bill that would require NASA to continue spending money on Constellation. “Sen. Shelby’s actions just perpetuate the notion that politicians in Washington are living on a completely different planet,” CAGW president Tom Schatz said in a statement. “It is outrageous for Sen. Shelby to object to the private sector’s work on space exploration and characterize it as ‘corporate welfare,’ when his own actions are nothing but pure pork-barrel spending to contractors from his state.” That amendment has passed the Senate, but the House has not yet taken up its version of the supplemental.