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U.S.-Russian Cooperation in Space

Wednesday, June 11, 2003 - 12:00am
Washington, D.C.

Opening Statement By Hon. Bart Gordon

Good morning. I’d like to welcome the witnesses to today’s hearing. I look forward to your testimony. I’d also like to thank Chairman Rohrabacher for holding this hearing - it’s a very timely topic.

U.S.-Russian space cooperation has been an important part of our space program since the early 1990s. And today, it is critical to the continued survival of the International Space Station. With the Space Shuttle fleet grounded, it is no exaggeration to say that we are one Progress or Soyuz failure away from having to pull the crew off of the Space Station. If that happens, the risks to the Space Station will go up significantly.

It is clear that the Iran Nonproliferation Act has complicated the situation. However, a discussion of how best to achieve the nation’s nonproliferation goals is not the purpose of this hearing. Certainly, Members may have differing views on whether linking the Space Station program to nonproliferation is a good idea. The fact of the matter is that the Iran Nonproliferation Act has been public law since 2000. In light of that, Congress needs to hear from the Administration in specific terms how it will protect the considerable taxpayer investment in the Space Station.

Namely, the NASA and State Department representatives need to answer at least the following questions:

  • The United States is responsible for providing Space Station crew return support starting in 2006. How will the Administration meet that commitment and still comply with the Iran Nonproliferation Act?
  • The Space Shuttle fleet was grounded for more than two-and-a-half years after the Challenger accident. How will the Administration ensure that the Space Station can continue to operate if the Shuttle fleet is grounded that long again?
  • If the Administration is expecting the Russians or the other Space Station international partners to pay for the Soyuz and Progress flights until the Shuttle starts flying again, as well as from 2006 onwards, have the Partners in fact agreed to pay? And if so, is there a signed agreement?

These questions are important ones, and it is time for clear answers. The realities of the situation are certainly clear:

  • NASA is dependent on Russian spacecraft to keep the Space Station in operation until Shuttle flights resume.
  • Since the Administration cancelled the U.S. Space Station Crew Return Vehicle in 2001, NASA is totally dependent on the Russian Soyuz CRV until the end of this decade.
  • And the only alternative to the Space Shuttle for getting crews into space over the next ten years is the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

It is not enough to say - as the NASA witness does - that "to date" there hasn’t been a need for NASA to seek an exception or change to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. Given existing commitments and other realities of the coming ten years, the Administration needs to tell this Congress specifically how it intends to deal with those commitments and realities.

Well, we have a lot of ground to cover today. I again want to welcome our witnesses, and I yield back the balance of my time.



1 - John Schumacher
NASA Assistant Administrator for External Relations
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2 - Robert Davis
President and CEO California Space Authority California Space Authority
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3 - Henry Sokolski
Executive Director Nonproliferation Policy Education Center Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
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Link to Government Printing Office PDF file Link to text version Link to text version with speaker index
Serial 108-25
108th Congress