Washington, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Space today held a hearing to examine Mars exploration. The hearing focused on efforts to develop deep space habitation capabilities.  Committee members questioned witnesses on plans for putting humans on Mars and the challenges to achieving this goal.

Space Subcommittee Chairman Brian Babin (R-Texas): “One of the most critical capabilities needed to sustain humans for a journey to Mars is a habitat.  Without a viable habitat to protect our astronauts from the inhospitable environment of space, we cannot achieve our goals for human deep space exploration. 

“Congress demonstrated its strong support of space exploration last year in passing the most significant update to commercial space law in decades and by appropriating robust and increased funding levels for NASA exploration programs.

“We are an exceptional nation of ‘doers’ and as we forge a path through the high-ground of space on our journey to Mars, I have strong faith in the ingenuity of American scientists, engineers and the entire industry to address the challenges posed by deep space exploration and to develop the spaceflight systems needed to reach our goals in a safe, sustainable and affordable way.”

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas): “Unfortunately, the Obama administration, year after year, woefully under budgets the very programs that will get us to Mars.

“At the same time, the administration continues to push plans for an unjustified Asteroid Retrieval Mission.  The Asteroid Retrieval Mission is a distraction without any connection to a larger roadmap to explore our solar system and is without support from the scientific community or NASA’s own advisory committees. The Government Accountability Office recently estimated that the total cost for the Asteroid Retrieval Mission would be $1.72 billion. 

“These funds would be better spent on space exploration with a connection to future missions to Mars, like deep space habitats and propulsion technologies. America leads the world in space exploration but that is a leadership role we cannot take for granted.  It has been over 40 years since astronaut Gene Cernan became the last man to walk on the moon.  It is time to press forward. It is time to take longer strides. It is time to aim for Mars.”

In March, Chairman Lamar Smith and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.) co-authored an op-ed titled Houston, we have an opportunity — it's called Mars. In the article they discuss the persistence of purpose and careful planning that is needed to turn the first human space flight to another planet in our solar system into reality.