Congress calls for better information and transparency from NASA in their efforts to create programs that will allow another astronaut on the Moon and Mars in five years.
Bipartisan officials today expressed concern with the lack of transparency from NASA on new programs being developed for Mars and Moon launches by 2024.
“There are still more questions that need answers,” said Rep. Kendra Horn, D-OK, chairwoman of the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.
In a hearing on Wednesday, the House subcommittee demanded updates from NASA representatives about their progress on the Space Launch System, the Orion Spacecraft and the Exploration Ground Systems, which are all essential for deep space exploration including landing astronauts on Mars.
According to House leaders, NASA failed to provide an adequate analysis on their plans to fund and further develop the exploration programs, including delaying the hiring of a new head of the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate.
“That position is critical to the success of NASA’s Exploration and ISS programs,” said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson.
After the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Johnson said the efforts to get past Earth must be developed efficiently and that the U.S. does it “safely, sustainably, and affordably.”
According to Johnson and bipartisan members, hiring a new head of the human exploration and operations directorate is a major step in ensure the process is completed properly.
Kenneth Bowersox, the associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, testified before the committee hearing and said the programs have faced a number of issues which added time and cost under the efforts to build the exploration systems.
“While it is still early to declare a precise date on when we’ll attempt to launch the first mission,” testified Bowersox, “my team and I are intent on maintaining the proper balance among holding schedule, understanding the cost, and learning what we need to be sure our exploration systems are ready.”
NASA officials also cited the lack of funding and guidance from Congress as contributing to the delay in progress and an exact date for launches outer space.
According to Republican House leaders, the Trump Administration proposes increased funding for NASA exploration systems each year. This year, the administration requested an additional $1.6 billion to accelerate the return to the Moon in five years.
“This will serve as a down payment on the systems necessary to enable this goal,” said Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Ok.
Congress, however, denied the request for more funding due to lack of information and an analysis of NASA’s decisions, according to Rep. Horn.
Cristina Chaplain also testified before the committee on behalf of the Government Accountability Office, which examines how taxpayer dollars are spent and provides Congress with information to help them save money.
According to Chaplain, NASA has not provided thorough information to her Office about the logistics on how the exploration programs will run.
“We do not know what these programs will cost over time nor what each launch will cost,” testified Chaplain.
NASA agreed to provide Congress and the Government Accountability Office with an analysis of their funding plans.
“We would like to see updates and candid reporting and what they (programs) will cost in the long run,” said Chaplain.