The House Science Committee has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday at 9:30 am on “The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America’s Space Program.” (This hearing was originally scheduled for last week, but postponed when the House was not in session at the previous time.) The title of the hearing is pretty self-explanatory, with one of the topics of discussion to be the release last week of the report by the National Research Council on NASA’s strategic direction, or lack thereof. Scheduled witnesses include:
- The Honorable Robert Walker, Wexler & Walker
- Maj. Gen. Ronald Sega, USAF (Ret), Vice Chair, National Research Council Committee on NASA’s Strategic Direction
- Ms. Marion C. Blakey, President & CEO, Aerospace Industries Association
- Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen Ph.D, Professor for Space Science and Aerospace Engineering, Associate Dean for Entrepreneurial Programs, University of Michigan
- Dr. Scott Pace, Ph.D, Director, Space Policy Institute, The George Washington University
Most of those names are pretty familiar to the space community; Walker, in fact, is a former chairman of the House Science Committee. An exception may be Zurbuchen, whose areas of interest as listed on his university website include not just space science studies but also, among others, “Developing and analyzing space mission architectures for various exploration and commercial applications.” In August he wrote a blog post expressing concern about the future of NASA’s Mars exploration program given the lack of missions in the pipeline (a situation at least partially remedied by NASA’s later selection of the InSight lander in 2016 and a Curiosity-like rover for 2020). He criticizes “bean-counters” for making decisions for short-term benefit but “long-term severe consequences” and suggests now is the time to start thinking about human Mars missions. “Needless to say, I would make a condition to fire a lot of NASA so-called managers, bureaucrats and bean counters before making such massive investments” in a Mars program, he writes.