Astronaut’s Wife Leads Congressional Fight for NASA’s Constellation Program

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords

Conflict of interest? Congresswoman staunchly backs Constellation — and is wed to astronaut
Orlando Sentinel

For nearly two hours last September, members of a House science committee hammered Norm Augustine, the head of a White House panel reviewing NASA’s space plans. U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., led the charge, attacking the panel’s suggestion that the agency ditch its Constellation moon-rocket program.

“I don’t see the logic of scrapping what the nation has spent years and billions of dollars to develop,” complained Giffords. Backed by fellow House science committee members from Texas and California, states with big NASA centers, she blamed Augustine’s group for “losing ground” and accused him of providing Congress with recommendations that “look almost like cartoons.”

Finally, the roasting became too much for U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich. “I’m not from Texas, California or Florida, and I’m not married to an astronaut, so I can try to be as objective as possible,” he told Augustine. “They have given you a rough time, which I don’t think you deserve.”

It was an uncomfortable reminder of a fact that deeply disturbs critics of NASA’s Constellation program: Giffords, 39, the chairwoman of the House space subcommittee, is married to a NASA astronaut, a man who until recently worked on the agency’s beleaguered Constellation program.

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