WASHINGTON – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told Congress today he will recommend canceling the Space Launch System and Orion capsule programs if Russia stops American astronaut rides to the International Space Station any time soon and before U.S. companies are ready to do the job.
Bolden said the space station would probably have to be shut down without Russian transport, and in that case, “I would go to the president and recommend we terminate SLS and Orion.”
The comments came as Bolden was questioned during a committee appearance about NASA’s 2015 budget by U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville). Brooks said afterward that shutting down SLS and Orion would “compound” the access to space problem. “Administrator Bolden’s testimony underscores America’s need for sufficient funding for launch vehicle development,” Brooks said. “We simply cannot use Russia as a crutch for America’s space program any longer.”
Bolden said the administration has a plan to put Americans in space in 2017 aboard American-built and operated space taxis. “This is like asteroids, we have a plan, the plan needs to be funded, and the plan is commercial crew,” Bolden said.
Congress and the White House have sparred over the commercial crew program and NASA’s desire to rendezvous with an asteroid for research. So far, Congress has been more interested in funding SLS and Orion than either commercial crew or the asteroid mission. Some in Congress also believe the White House has looted NASA’s space budget to force the agency to do more climate and Earth science research.
Bolden was testifying about the White House 2015 budget request for NASA before the House science subcommittee that oversees the agency.