Appropriations Committee Chairman Highlights Mississippi’s Role in Space Exploration, Research

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Amid questions about U.S. space policy priorities, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, is seeking assurances that sufficient resources will be available to continue on-time development of the Space Launch System and to support rocket engine testing like that done at Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center.

Cochran highlighted the importance of the role of Stennis Space Center to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a hearing of the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee on Thursday. Bolden testified on the FY2016 NASA budget request.

At the hearing, Cochran sought Bolden’s guidance on how that panel could better serve NASA’s mission and the Stennis Space Center.

“With the budget constraints we have, it will be important for NASA to continue to work with us to ensure that we have adequate rocket testing infrastructure at Stennis to support the Space Launch System and our nation’s space exploration goals,” Cochran said.

“I fully intend to continue to do what is necessary to ensure a robust engine-testing infrastructure at Stennis,” he said.

Cochran questioned Bolden on his outlook on the future of Stennis, asking if the Administrator was “satisfied that the Administration and the Congress are constructively working together to help ensure the goals of our space exploration program are reached.”

In response to Cochran’s inquiries, Bolden praised the Appropriations Committee for its work and pledged continued cooperation.

At Cochran’s prompting, the Administrator also complimented the Stennis Space Center, highlighting rocket testing from SpaceX, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Blue Origin and saying those companies’ use of the Center shows NASA’s success “capitalizing on the ability of American industry to augment what NASA does so that we can utilize the funds that the [Appropriations] committee gives us.”

Bolden also sounded an optimistic note on the future of NASA, saying “Our best days are in front of us. Young people are really excited about what we’re doing. They see that it’s their future, not ours—we’re passing through. There is no doubt in my mind that our best days are in front of us.”

Stennis Space Center is NASA’s largest rocket testing facility, and employs more than 5,000 people in Hancock County, Mississippi. A unique Federal City, more than thirty private companies, government agencies, and academic organizations use the Center for testing and research.