United States Code
USC most recently checked for updates: Jun 30, 2022
Congress makes the following findings:
The United States human space flight program has, since the first Mercury flight on
May 5, 1961, been a source of pride and inspiration for the Nation.
The establishment of and commitment to human exploration goals is essential for providing the necessary long term focus and programmatic consistency and robustness of the United States civilian space program.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is and should remain a multi-mission agency with a balanced and robust set of core missions in science, aeronautics, and human space flight and exploration.
In the 50 years since the establishment of NASA, the arena of space has evolved substantially. As the uses and users of space continue to expand, the issues and operations in the regions closest to Earth have become increasingly complex, with a growing number of overlaps between civil, commercial and national security activities. These developments present opportunities and challenges to the space activities of NASA and the United States.
The extraordinary challenges of achieving access to space both motivated and accelerated the development of technologies and industrial capabilities that have had widespread applications which have contributed to the technological excellence of the United States. It is essential to tie space activity to human challenges ranging from enhancing the influence, relationships, security, economic development, and commerce of the United States to improving the overall human condition.
It is essential to the economic well-being of the United States that the aerospace industrial capacity, highly skilled workforce, and embedded expertise remain engaged in demanding, challenging, and exciting efforts that ensure United States leadership in space exploration and related activities.
Crewmembers provide the essential component to ensure the return on investment from and the growth and safe operation of the ISS. The Russian Soyuz vehicle has allowed continued human presence on the ISS for United States crewmembers with its ability to serve as both a routine and backup capability for crew delivery, rescue, and return. With the impending retirement of the Space Shuttle, the United States will find itself with no national crew delivery and return system. Without any other system, the United States and all the ISS partners will have no redundant system for human access to and from the ISS. It is therefore essential that a United States capability be developed as soon as possible.
Existing and emerging United States commercial launch capabilities and emerging launch capabilities offer the potential for providing crew support assets. New capabilities for human crew access to the ISS should be developed in a manner that ensures ISS mission assurance and safety. Commercial services offer the potential to broaden the availability and access to space at lower costs.
While commercial transportation systems have the promise to contribute valuable services, it is in the United States national interest to maintain a government operated space transportation system for crew and cargo delivery to space.
Congress restates its commitment, expressed in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005 1
(Public Law 109–155) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 1 (Public Law 110–422), to the development of commercially developed launch and delivery systems to the ISS for crew and cargo missions. Congress reaffirms that NASA shall make use of United States commercially provided ISS crew transfer and crew rescue services to the maximum extent practicable.
1See References in Text note below.
It is critical to identify an appropriate combination of NASA and related United States Government programs, while providing a framework that allows partnering, leveraging and stimulation of the existing and emerging commercial and international efforts in both near Earth space and the regions beyond.
The designation of the United States segment of the ISS as a National Laboratory, as provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005 1 and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008,1 provides an opportunity for multiple United States Government agencies, university-based researchers, research organizations, and others to utilize the unique environment of microgravity for fundamental scientific research and potential economic development.
For some potential replacement elements necessary for ISS sustainability, the Space Shuttle may represent the only vehicle, existing or planned, capable of carrying those elements to the ISS in the near term. Additional or alternative transportation capabilities must be identified as contingency delivery options, and accompanied by an independent analysis of projected availability of such capabilities.
The United States must develop, as rapidly as possible, replacement vehicles capable of providing both human and cargo launch capability to low-Earth orbit and to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.
There is a need for national space and export control policies that protect the national security of the United States while also enabling the United States and its aerospace industry to undertake cooperative programs in science and human space flight in an effective and efficient manner and to compete effectively in the global market place.
cite as: 42 USC 18301