Supporters Promote Constellation as Safest Space Shuttle Successor

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Astronaut-safety hearing becomes pro-Constellation rally
Orlando Sentinel

A congressional hearing on astronaut safety turned into a pep rally for NASA’s troubled Constellation moon-rocket program, with lawmakers and witnesses endorsing it as the best replacement for the space shuttle even as critics complained the hearing was one-sided.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat who heads the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, organized the hearing as a counter to a presidential panel that recently suggested scrapping Constellation’s Ares I rocket in favor of commercial launchers.

“It will be difficult to make reasoned judgments about the wisdom of investing significant taxpayer dollars in … commercial providers or of altering Congress’ commitment to the existing Constellation program in the absence of clear answers [about safety],” she said.

Specifically, Giffords contended that the independent presidential panel led by retired Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine did not adequately review astronaut-safety issues posed by commercial rockets. This omission, she said, shortchanges the Ares I rocket and Orion capsule.

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