Rep. Hall: NASA Needs to Heed ASAP's Call for a Shuttle Crew Escape System
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), chartered by Congress in 1967 to act as an independent body advising NASA on safety issues, released its annual report on Tuesday, March 25th. The report, which was finished before the Columbia accident, nevertheless focused on a number of Shuttle safety issues. In particular, the ASAP stated that "...the Panel reemphasizes the need for a crew escape system. The [Space Shuttle] program has not committed to the implementation of such a capability." Later in the report, the Panel emphasized that "It is clear that such systems will significantly increase the chance for crew survival in case of a major mishap."
With respect to crew rescue for the International Space Station (ISS), the ASAP last year recommended that NASA: "Continue the flight test program for the X-38 and proceed to the space test of the V201 prototype." It also recommended that NASA: "Press to restore the CRV production program or find a substitute rescue vehicle approach to permit expansion of the ISS crew." This year, the Panel left those recommendations in a "continuing" status, and stressed that "the need for [ISS] crew rescue between 2006 and 2010 remains unresolved."
Rep. Ralph M. Hall (D-TX), Ranking Member on the House Science Committee, today issued the following statement on the ASAP report:
"As in previous years, the independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel has again stressed the immediate need for a Space Shuttle crew escape system - a conclusion which the NASA Administrator has strongly resisted. The ASAP also reiterated its belief that the International Space Station will require a crew rescue vehicle in 2006. OMB's inexplicable cancellation of the U.S. Crew Return Vehicle program in 2001 has left the Space Station totally dependent upon Russian support for at least the rest of this decade. The fundamental issue is whether we should delay developing systems to increase the survivability of our Shuttle and Space Station astronauts or provide that extra protection as soon as possible. Like the ASAP, I think NASA needs to focus its resources on assuring crew safety and survivability as soon as it can. If it can find the money for a multibillion-dollar nuclear probe to Jupiter and a decade-long Orbital Space Plane R&D project, the obstacle to action is not budgetary - it's a question of commitment and common sense."