On a day of remembrance, looking to the future

By Jeff Foust on 2013 February 3 at 10:37 am ET

Friday was the 10th anniversary of the Columbia accident, and a few members of Congress—but only a few—as well as President Obama marked the occasions with columns or other statements about the accident. Those comments shared solemn sentiments about anniversary, but offered a spectrum of views about the future.

In his statement about NASA’s Day of Remembrance (available on NASA’s website but not showing up on, President Obama noted the Columbia anniversary, as well as the previous Challenger and Apollo 1 accidents, but mostly looked ahead. “The exploration of space represents one of the most challenging endeavors we undertake as a Nation,” he said, adding that “it’s imperative America continues to lead the world in reaching for the stars while giving us a better understanding of our home planet.” His statement then briefly described NASA efforts “that will eventually put Americans on Mars.” Among the items he cited was “the biggest booster since the Apollo-era Saturn V [that] is well on its way to launching a new American journey into deep space.” Of course, when the Obama Administration rolled out its proposed NASA revamp in its FY11 budget proposal—released on the seventh anniversary of the Columbia accident—that heavy-lift booster work was set to be deferred for five years.

Friday’s Orlando Sentinel featured a pair of op-eds from members of Congress tied to the Columbia anniversary but primarily focused on the future. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) largely laid out NASA’s current plan, including develop of the Space Launch System and Orion as well as commercial crew initiatives. “I’d say NASA’s future is bright,” he concludes. Nelson, chairman of the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, does note plans for a NASA reauthorization bill this year, but suggests it will not deviate much from the plan for the agency laid out in the 2010 bill: “the road map from the 2010 plan will continue guiding the agency.” He adds that he plans to “lead an update of space legislation to further enable private companies to meet our nation’s needs,” but offers no specifics.

Read more: On a day of remembrance, looking to the future « Space Politics.

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