Enlarge / Sen. Richard Shelby, (R-Ala.) speaks during a Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing in 2016. (credit: NASA)
As part of the annual US budget process, the NASA administrator meets with the appropriations subcommittees in the Senate and House to discuss the president’s budget request. Under the new president, NASA doesn’t yet have an administrator, so acting administrator Robert Lightfoot is making the rounds. On Thursday morning he met with the Senate’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies.
Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) chairs this committee, which writes the budget for NASA and therefore wields extraordinary power over the nation’s civil space activities. During Thursday’s hearing, Shelby renewed his longstanding concerns about the space agency’s commercial crew program—the NASA-funded efforts by Boeing and SpaceX to develop capsules and rockets to carry US astronauts to the International Space Station.
The agency had hoped for an operational capability by the end of 2017, but now that is likely to slip into early or mid-2019.
Shelby asked about rising costs and delays. “What assurance can you give this committee that there will be no more cost increases or delays?” Shelby said, querying Lightfoot. “Can you do that?”
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