Bolden, Hutchison meet to discuss NASA

WASHINGTON Hutchison is the ranking member of the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which is reviewing Bolden's nomination.

When President Barack Obama first chose the former astronaut, Hutchison praised the choice and said that she agrees with Bolden that space exploration is essential for America's future security. She also said she looks forward to working together to continue the United States' preeminence in space.

"[General Bolden] will be an excellent head of NASA," Hutchison said today.

She met with Bolden for a brief time this morning in which in they discussed all things NASA, and she came away impressed.

"He has a great history as an astronaut," Hutchison said. "He knows NASA. He knows what can be done."

However, that does not mean she did not have questions for the Vietnam veteran who flew into space four times aboard the shuttle, twice as pilot, twice as commander.

"We talked about the biggest concern that I have, which is the gap," Hutchison said.

The gap to which she referred is the time between the end of the shuttle program and NASA's return to space, estimated right now at five years.

Hutchison says she proposed extending the shuttle program, though she acknowledged Bolden does not agree with this suggestion. He says it would take away funding and effort from NASA's future plans.

In addition, the two discussed the possibility of extending the life of the International Space Station by its use as a national laboratory for outside agencies and universities. Hutchison said they could help fund the project while NASA focuses on its efforts to return to the moon and fly beyond, a mission she says would be well steered by Bolden.

General Bolden's nomination must be confirmed by the full Senate. There is currently no timetable, though Hutchison has indicated that the Commerce Science, and Transportation Committee will do its part to speed the process along. Hearings are set to begin next Tuesday.

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