Space Exploration > History, Space Stations|
Space Station: A Congressional Viewpoint
By Jim Plaxco
On June 29 of this year (1994), the US House of Representatives was the scene of a two hour debate about the future of the International Space Station Alpha. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for VA-HUD-Independent Agencies had passed House Resolution 4624, the VA-HUD-Independent Agencies Appropriations Resolution. The space station debate was instigated by Representative Roemer (D-IN), who wanted to amend HR4624 to delete all funding for the space station, except for those monies necessary to shut the program down.
What follows is an extended, edited excerpt of that debate. In going over the statements made by the supporters and detractors, there was a large amount of repetition of arguments on both sides. It seemed that everyone wanted to get their two cents in no matter how many preceding congressmen had made the exact same points. For the most part, those supporting the amendment to kill the space station justified their position from a cost standpoint - they said that we just couldn't afford it.
To make it possible to fit two hours of debate herein, I have extensively edited the remarks made to the extent that I have left out the redundant, the flowery, and the trivial. A full transcript of the debate can be obtained from the Congressional Record of June 29, 1994. Each speaker is identified by Last Name, Party ((D)emocrat, (R)epublican, (I)ndependent), State, and their position on the station ((Y) to terminate the station, (N) to fund the station.
Mr. Roemer D-IN-Y
Mr. Chairman, we will debate for the next two hours one of the most serious topics that a people can debate, our future...This year we cut the $2.1 billion from the space station... and put the money for this year only, 1 year, $2.1 billion, back into the NASA account...
What about the future? There is an article that appeared this week on the front page of the New York Times by William Broad that said that there is a one-in-five chance that this space station will be hit by debris...That is a 20-percent chance with $71 billion. Now, Mr. Goldin has admitted that that is a problem. He says he will spend money to shield it. That shield will weigh down the space station and make it more expensive...
Mr. Stokes D-OH-N
Mr. Chairman, I support my President and intend to vote for this redesigned space station I think we will benefit from working with a nation [Russia] with so much experience in long duration space travel....
There is concern that the space station will take funds away from other worthwhile science projects. I would remind the Members that the committee [VA-HUD-IA AppSubComm] has provided the full budget request of $2.1 billion for space station and we have done it without cutting back on space science, aeronautical research, or mission to Planet Earth activities. In fact, the committee did not recommend any reduction in the science, aeronautics, and technology account which funds these activities.
The reductions to NASA's requests are in the human space flight account which funds space station and space shuttle activities and the mission support account which primarily funds NASA employees and facilities.
Mr. Zimmer R-NJ-Y
... This year we have a space station that relies heavily on Russia to get it off the ground. Although NASA has announced plans to buy the Russian control module, we will be dependent on Russian rockets to provide the fuel to keep the station aloft. Russia's government is, as we all know, unstable. A friendly regime may not last past the elections scheduled for early 1996, much less through construction of the station and operating it for 10 years through the year 2012...the State Department has admitted in testimony to our committee, the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, that there are absolutely no safeguards in place to assure that the money that we send Russia to pay for this program will not be siphoned off by corrupt bureaucrats or to support the Russian military establishment.
...the life sciences research that is part of the residual function of the space station is intended to prepare us for long-duration space missions. But NASA currently has absolutely no plans to send humans back to the Moon and beyond to Mars or even beyond Earth orbit. These programs were canceled in order to pay for the space station.
[True, the Democratic party did kill the Space Exploration Initiative but I don't believe that paying for space station was the reason they gave at the time. J.P.]
... In fact, our leading scientists in this field tell us that it is a mistake to try to do microgravity research on the same platform where you are doing life sciences research, because the presence of astronauts knocking around will interfere with the experiments being done in the microgravity module...
NASA has tried relentlessly to salvage this project...In doing so, it has choked off a host of more cost-effective research efforts... NASA is being forced to scale back the shuttle program. It is canceling shuttle missions and considering mothballing an orbiter. The satellite surveying Venus will be turned off while in perfect working order in order to save money because NASA cannot afford to keep operating it. Even with modest inflation, NASA will face a 20-percent cut in science spending over the next 4 years. That means NASA will have to cancel or scale back even more programs than it has to date...the only way we can save the space program is by killing the space station.
Mr. Hansen R-UT-N
The need for light-weight materials for space launch technology led to the development of a composite materials industry. Medical breakthroughs, like CAT scans, MRI scanning, programmable pacemakers, lasers for surgical procedures, implantable insulin pumps for diabetics, vision diagnostic equipment, and fiber optics technology have saved thousands of lives and improved the lives of perhaps millions of patients throughout the world... How do you put a price tag on that sore of benefit?
Mr. Lewis R-CA-N
First, we hear arguments that the scientific capability of station is not worth the investment. Let me share just one example...Researchers at NASA's Johnson Space Center have developed a device called the rotating wall vessel. They have flown it on shuttle and experienced enormous success in using the vessel in a microgravity environment to grow cancer cells outside the body. Prior to the use of the rotating wall vessel, breast tumors had never been cultured successfully outside the body. 50,000 women will die of breast cancer this year...The ability to watch cancer cells grow and change gives scientists insight into their genetic material... The key to progress in this unique microgravity research vessel, however, is the ability to expose these cells to microgravity over an extended period of time.
Second, I want Members to dismiss outright the argument that full funding of station is responsible for reductions in the costs associated with the shuttle. Nothing in the current International Space Station Alpha has caused a reduction. Funding for shuttle operations and upgrades has been declining in real terms at about 3 percent per year since 1990. That reflects two things: an insistence by this subcommittee that NASA eliminate questionable overhead in the program and a willingness by the agency to demonstrate that it can be more cost efficient.
Opponents can not have it both ways. They would suggest that we kill station because it can not be managed within costs. Then, when a major space program like shuttle has a concrete record of reductions over a period of years, they would slyly imply that it is not cost efficiency or legislative oversight but rather reflects station putting a squeeze on the shuttle budget.
Mr. Hall D-TX-N
...Listen to what Dr. Michael Debakey, the famed heart surgeon had to say:
"Better health care for our citizens is not at odds with a space station. As a physician, teacher, and explorer, I must emphasize that our space program and space station are not frivolous, because they may provide keys to solving some of the most vexing problems that affect our people."
or to Dr. Charles Lemaistre, president of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and former president of the American Cancer Society:
"In [the space] environment where we have a unique approach to weightlessness, toward purifying many of the agents that are already effective here on Earth, toward removing the toxicity of many of the cancer chemotherapeutic agents, there is opportunity there. It is that opportunity we all want to see made possible to biomedical research by the creation of space station Freedom."
I would like to share with you a recently approved resolution of the American Medical Association's House of Delegates:
"The AMA supports the continuation of the NASA and other programs for conducting medical research and other research with potential health care benefits on manned space flights including the continued development and subsequent operations of the international space station."
Eight of the Institutes of the National Institutes of Health see enough potential benefit from NASA's research activities in space to justify entering into agreements for cooperative research and to undertake a joint NIH-NASA shuttle research flight in 1997.
Mrs. Roukema R-NJ-Y
... the poor state of the Russian economy and the Yeltzin government's tenuous grip on power make Russia an unreliable partner in a multiyear, multi-billion-dollar venture. Canada has realized this fact and voted to reduce its financial commitment to the space station.
[Wrong. Canada's actions were a result of a reduction in funding for Canada's Space Agency and a new "Canada First" policy of spending money where it will do the most good for Canada's domestic economy. J.P.]
...Continued funding of over-budget and problem-plagued boondoggles, like the space station, only serve to keep voter discontent with Congress at historically high levels.... the space station is siphoning funds from other basic science programs, cancer research, environmental protection, housing needs, emergency food and shelter programs, veterans programs, and most of all deficit reduction. We need the space station's $2.1 billion here on Earth.
Mr. DeLay R-TX-N
This is not an amendment for deficit reduction. Read the amendment... this amendment will kill the space station but not one dime will go for deficit reduction. The amendment leaves enough money in human space flight for shutdown costs and reallocates the balance back into NASA.... [for 1995 only]...The authors of this amendment claim that the space station is eating away at NASA's science budget... but the Appropriations Committee fully funded the President's request for Science, Aeronautics, and Technology at an increase of $113 million over FY94.
...I want my colleagues to know clearly that NASA has done its part for deficit reduction. In last year's request, NASA reduced its 5 year budget plan by 18%. This year, NASA reduced it again by another 12%. The funding level for NASA in this bill is $526 million under FY1994. All other agencies in this VA/HUD bill are receiving increases over last year.
...While the new station will cost $5 billion or 23% less than space station Freedom, this space station has 85% more pressurized volume, 50% larger crew, and double the power of the previous design.
Ms. Dunn R-WA-N
...NASA is committed to cut 3,000 civil service staff from current levels by the end of this decade... here is a government agency that has cut its budget 30% in 2 years... Even the Vest oversight committee that turned its back on the station a year ago has done a 180-degree turn in support of the new station program.
... In the microgravity environment of space we will study new and exciting approaches to diagnosing and treating ovarian and breast cancer tumors.
Mr. Torres D-CA-N
Our international partners, Canada, France, Japan and Russia have already committed $3 billion to completing the space station.
[Russia is included as a partner but the dollars spent refers to Canada, Japan, and ESA, of which France is just one of the players. J.P.]
We have over 13,000 direct jobs committed to the space station and over 55,000 when supplies and other indirect jobs are included... A Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates study has shown that eliminating the entire space station would only improve the Federal budget by $260 million after accounting for lower tax receipts and new transfer costs from higher unemployment. This does not take into account the numerous critical technologies that NASA develops and the technology spinoffs that benefit from NASA's research.
Mrs. Maloney D-NY-Y
Let us take a look at what the $70 billion space station really amounts to: 235 times what the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense will spend next year for breast cancer research; 1,300 times what the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense will spend next year on cervical cancer research; 1,870 times what the NIH and DOD will spend next year for ovarian cancer research...
[Mrs. Maloney compares one year of funding for selected programs (1995) vs 28 years of funding for space station (1984-2012). J.P. ]
Dr. David Rosenthal, speaking for the American Cancer Society has said:
"Statements have been made and published to the effect that vital cancer research would be done in space, and that is cited as a reason for supporting space station funding. We cannot find valid scientific justification for these claims."
We all believe in women's health research...But if we want to increase funding for it, why should we spend billions of dollars for one laboratory in space when we could use this money to fund hundreds or thousands of laboratories here on Earth?
Mr. Smith R-MI-Y
...Under the budget resolution we passed May 5, the debt will climb to $6.3 trillion in 5 years. This year, we will pay $289 billion in interest on the debt... We have to cut spending...Undoubtly, the space station would facilitate some scientific research. But is that worth $70 billion that we do not have?... Congress has plenty to do right here on Earth.
Mr. Sanders I-VT-Y
...it is an absolute national disgrace that the US today has the highest rate of childhood poverty in the industrialized world. 22% of our kids live in poverty... Let us ease the pain and suffering being experienced by tens of millions of Americans today before we put our money into outer space. Let us feed the hungry, let us shelter the homeless,...and when we are living well on the planet Earth, everyone together, proud, united, then let us go to outer space.
Mr. Sensenbrenner R-WI-N
... Russia is no longer in the critical path in the International Space Station. Last week President Clinton himself sent a letter to me which says..."...I want to assure you that the US will maintain in-line autonomous US flight and life support capability during all phases of the space station assembly." That takes Russia out of the critical path, and that is a statement of administration policy which is binding upon NASA.
...Many of the redesigns and cost overruns, previous designs of the space station, were ordered right here in the Congress... The danger is cutting the $2.1 billion to something less than that which will mean a stretch-out and a guaranteed cost overrun.
Mrs. Johnson R-CT-N
I want to urge Members to consider the ramifications for our manufacturing base...Our first concrete advancement in manufacturing produced by space station research is what is called rapid prototyping techniques which has reduced the time required to produce parts for the space station by integrating design and manufacturing in a truly revolutionary way. Using rapid prototyping it is now possible to make metal castings of unique parts directly from the design without drawings or special toolings. What does this mean to our manufacturers? It means a 24-week process can now be accomplished in 2.4 weeks. This is a major advancement that will have a huge impact on the productivity and competitiveness of all US manufacturers...
Second, space station hardware requirements have forced manufacturers to invent new material joining techniques that allow them to weld aluminum and titanium to fabricate small, complex heat exchangers consistently and with outstanding reliability. Both the new joining and welding processes and the miniaturization of heat exchangers have applications throughout manufacturing and will enable us to upgrade, miniaturize, and in other ways improve our products.
Last, manufacturing processes have been developed to apply and bond coatings to space hardware surfaces that inhibit the growth of microbiological organisms in space. These same techniques, applied to Earth hardware, can improve our indoor and outdoor air and water quality.
Mr. Hamilton D-IN-Y
I oppose...First, funding of the space station will have an adverse impact on other worthy scientific and space programs in the NASA budget. Second, it is not fiscally responsible to move ahead with the space station at this time...Third, the cost of the space station program continues to rise...Fourth, the scientific community is divided on the need for this space station.
I also oppose the space station project for foreign policy reasons...the space station is neither consistent with the goals of US policy toward Russia, nor the purposes of US assistance. The purpose of US assistance is to support democracy and market economic reform. Nowhere is space cooperation listed... The US will be spending $100 million a year over 4 years to support a Russian state enterprise directly contradicting the goals of US policy and assistance toward Russia.
Mr. Fields R-TX-N
...Let me point out...that NASA's annual budget accounts for less than 1% of total Federal spending and that the space station accounts for 1/700th of the entire Federal budget.
... A few examples of these medical "spinoffs" include: NASA research has led to a 3 inch implant for delivering insulin to diabetics. The implant provides more precise control of blood sugar levels, and frees diabetics from the burden of daily insulin injections. NASA developed instruments to measure bone loss and bone density that do not require penetrating the skin; such instruments are now being used by hospitals nationwide. The "cool suit," developed for the Apollo Program, is now helping to improve the quality of life for some multiple sclerosis patients. The space station is responsible for more than 40,000 jobs nationwide, and the aerospace jobs created by the space program pay an average of $43,000 a year. Aerospace is the US economy's single strongest export sector, with 1992 exports topping $45 billion.
Mr. Mineta D-CA-N
I believe that Members should vote for the space station because it is an incredible testbed for advanced technologies which will drive US success in industries such as aerospace, materials, power efficiency, robotics, electronics, and remote sensing. For instance, the challenge of protecting our astronauts and their equipment from the harsh environment of space - radiation, atomic oxygen, and extreme temperature changes - will lead to the development of advanced, longlife structural materials, coatings, lubricants, and mechanical devices, which will enable longlife unattended operations of power stations, environmental monitoring stations, scientific and military observation posts in remote areas.
Mr. Cunningham R-CA-N
...the Women's caucus... took a bunch of us men to a dinner... held sponsoring Dr. Becker of Florida that talked about cancer research and multidimensional cell research that is going to lead to cancer [cure?]. You cannot look at a cancer cell, multidimensional, here on Earth; you cannot even grow it the way we can in space...
Mr. Cardin D-MD-N
Last year... I voted to terminate the space station... Today...I am convinced that NASA used the wake-up call delivered by the House last year to dramatically change the project, to address Members' concerns, and to present us with a very different case for funding this year.. Total costs through to completion of the station in 2002 have been cut from more than $24 billion to about $17.5 billion. Power on the station has been increased from 68 to 110 kilowatts; 4 pressurized modules have been added almost doubling the volume in the station; and crew size has increased from 4 to 6 persons... I have been particularly heartened by the conclusions of the independent, expert panel assembled by NASA to critique the redesign. Dr. Charles Vest, the president of MIT and chairman of the panel stated:
"I was absolutely stunned at how much change has been brought into the management and operation of the program. They seem to have by and large gone quite far down the path of implementing all of the things that we recommended in terms of management of the program."
Ms. Brown D-FL-N
...The space station will be the largest and most advanced international laboratory ever built for research in space. More than 600 experiments have already been proposed for the station which will build on the proven medical research already conducted on the space shuttle.
Mr. Zimmer R-NJ-Y
...we still rely very heavily on Russian rockets to launch the space station and keep it from crashing back to Earth. We are relying on a rocket called the Progress X which Russia has not yet developed. The Zenit rocket which is intended to be used for resupply flights is being manufactured in Ukraine with which Russia has rocky relations. Russia has looser standards for protecting their spacecraft from orbital debris and because we are putting our joint space station at a higher inclination, we have doubled the risk of collision with orbital debris because of the accommodations we had to make with the Russians. Another consequence of the joint project is that we now only have a 5-minute launch window every day to get our payloads up into orbit to join with that space station. It had been a 50-minute window. That means that we are either going to have to risk the safety of our astronauts or we are going to incur enormous amounts of money skipping day after day as we get to that launch window of 5 minutes per day. There is the untested fuel tank that has to be developed in order to lighten the weight of our shuttle to deliver a full payload to the higher inclination orbit...
Mr. Zimmer (later in the debate)
...Now the administration has another rationale for the space station: It tells us the space station will promote democracy and free markets in Russia while saving American taxpayers money. We have heard testimony in the Space Subcommittee from the State Department that there are absolutely no assurances that democracy and free markets will be promoted... As for NASA's claim that the joint Russian-American space station will save the taxpayers $2 billion, the General Accounting Office released a study... that concludes that those savings are grossly exaggerated and may not exist at all.
Here is what the space station will cost, according to NASA's own numbers. We have spent $11.4 billion on research and development so far... We will spend $17.4 billion on future construction costs. We will spend $13 billion on operating costs; that is $1.3 billion for 10 years; and more if the lifespan of the project is longer. We will spend $29 billion on transportation costs to build, service, and use the space station.
Now, that is $70.8 billion... The price tag is going to be higher because NASA's estimate does not include the $438 million cost of upgrading the space shuttle so it can reach the space station with the full payload. It does not include the cost of the module to house the centrifuge, something that has not been mentioned tonight but is absolutely essential if we are going to do life sciences research on the space station. It does not include the $100 million cost to us due to Canada's recent decision to reduce its contribution to the space station because Canada can no longer afford the cost... In addition, NASA is still negotiating the price of the contract with Boeing, the prime contractor...
Mr. Brown D-CA-N
...Let me elaborate for a minute on the state of the US investment in R&D...For the first time since 1958, Federal support of R&D will fall below 1% of gross domestic product. As defense R&D has declined, the investment in civilian R&D had not risen enough to compensate, and both have declined as a percentage of gross domestic product. Cancellation of space station would only exacerbate the situation...Based on the results that have been obtained with the shuttle to date, it is clear that there is a vast potential for productive work in space...In microgravity, we are able to study fundamental properties and processes of materials in ways not possible on Earth. We can grow more perfect crystals of important proteins and learn how to alter them to perform better in the treatment of medical conditions. We can improve our understanding of the fundamental functioning of our biological systems.
Mr. Lewis R-CA-N
It has been said time and time again that space station was stealing from other science programs. The fact is that nothing could be further from the truth, that nobody but nobody with credibility suggests that if we eliminate space station, that money will automatically be going to be transferred to other science projects.
Mr. Dicks D-WA-N
...Critics also contend that station is squeezing out every other NASA effort. But the facts are that human space flight has declined from 47% of the NASA budget in FY93 to 38% by FY97. The percentage dedicated to Science and Aeronautical and Technology Research has increased from 34% to 42% of NASA expenditures.
Mr. Lloyd D-TN-N
...we must realize the benefits and possibilities that such projects hold for everyone in our society. Maintaining a strong industrial base that incorporates the most advanced technologies and materials is vital to our economic stability and growth...Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Community have committed to add $9 billion to the US contribution...
Mr. Pelosi D-CA-Y
...Today, while we debate spending an additional $2.1 billion for this project, over 500,000 children are homeless. Forty percent of our homeless population is made up of families with children... How can we continue to pour money into the space station when we cannot even ensure access to safe, decent, and affordable housing for this Nation's children? ... Some of my colleagues today have said that the space station's work will benefit education and women's health research. I would argue that a much more efficient and cost-effective way to support this research is to cancel the space station and fund directly the many quality initiatives here on Earth.
Mr. Gedjenson D-CT-N
...Less than 1% of the Federal budget is spent on space, but the payback is enormous. Space-derived technology has led to advances in health care, communications, weather forecasting, and environmental research... Space programs stimulate transition from a defense-oriented to a peacetime economy, effectively using many existing manufacturing assets. Space programs provide jobs for highly skilled workers and sustain the vendor base. .. The space station program employees hundreds of highly skilled workers in southeastern Connecticut. Termination of the program would be devastating for the businesses, workers, and communities of my district.
Space Station Comparisons:
(2) Rack reduction from ESA Lab downsizing, US Lab has 13 in all models.
(3) No information on Russian impact in this area