Statement of Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren
I'd like to thank Congressman Boehlert and Senator McCain for convening this hearing. Over the next few months, we will be asking some tough questions related to the breakup and loss of the Columbia, and the future of the United States space program. But first, our country has paused to reflect on the heroism of the seven astronauts who gave their lives so that the dreams of humans reaching for the stars can live forever. My thoughts go out to the families of our fallen, and to the extended NASA family.
I am pleased the NASA Administrator Sean Mr. O'Keefe has joined us here today. I look forward to hearing from and working with you and the dedicated and hard working members of the NASA employee family, as we seek answers to our concerns about the future of the United States space program. I trust that you will ask us for help, keep us informed and be prepared to make your recommendations to this committee that will help us be able to move our space program forward. I firmly believe this committee must focus on asking the difficult questions that relate to how we are best able to resume our quest to explore space.
This committee must work in a nonpartisan manner and should not waste any time in trying to assess blame or create excuses for things that should have done to help prevent this immense tragedy and loss. To do so would be a waste of time and money and, more importantly, would dishonor the sacrifices made of the brave Columbia crew and devalue the efforts being made by all who seek to ensure that this never happens again.
I believe that our pursuit of answers to this tragedy would best be served by the appointment of a truly independent board of inquiry, much like President Reagan appointed after the Challenger disaster. Until that happens, Mr. O'Keefe, I am pleased that you accepted some of the recommendations contained in a letter sent to the President last week by 16 Democratic members of the House Science Committee. I am sure many of our Republican colleagues would have joined us in expressing our concerns about the composition of the review board, and I am confident they would have echoed our concerns. Without these changes, I believe the results of this work would have been viewed with great skepticism and certainly would have suffered without the added, independent expertise of the new members of the board. Just as Columbia's crew went into space seeking to expand our knowledge of space, we must do all in our power to ensure that our investigations will answer more questions than they create.
Mr. Chairman, I am committed to sending humans into space. We are explorers by nature, and I believe we must explore our own planet and those beyond. I believe these hearings need to focus not only on investigating the policy concerns that led to the shuttle tragedy, but where we go from here in the exploration of space.