Congressman Matheson Reacts to Shuttle Report

Congressman Matheson Reacts to Shuttle Report

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Carole Mikita ReportingUtah Congressman Jim Matheson, a member of the House Science Committee, which oversees the shuttle program, was not surprised by the report's findings.

Rep. Jim Matheson: "There were some preliminary reports before the science committee about this investigation. What's most depressing is they're saying there's this culture in NASA that creates a lack and a concern for safety that was first identified with the 1986 Challenger disaster, and the fact that we haven't solved that problem is very disappointing."

An independent investigation of the Space Shuttle Columbia found both a relaxed attitude about safety and that NASA's upper management didn't want to hear dissenting views about those risks.

Before meeting with a group of businessmen today, Matheson told KSL, Congress wants answers.

Rep. Matheson: "I think we're really gonna try to flush out if there's gonna be a change in the mindset of how this organization runs, so it's a more open and collaborative organization where all points of view are heard. That's the most important step to take."

The report placed some blame to the White House and Congress saying NASA was under pressure to build the International Space Station and to cut costs at the same time. Matheson says Congress needs to decide what its priorities are.

Rep. Matheson: "I think that there's legitimate criticism of Congress for telling NASA that we want them to do all sorts of things, and not providing the resources to necessarily be able to accomplish all of those different things."

Two Utah companies have been negatively affected by the shuttle's grounding, Thiokol, which makes the booster rockets and American Pacific, which produces the fuel.

Rep. Matheson: "It's the only supplier of that fuel in the whole country, based in Iron County. And with the shuttle not running these companies are left in a little bit of a state of uncertainty about what the future's gonna be."

For Utah workers, the congressman will ask NASA what's the timeline for resuming shuttle operations. Matheson says Congressional hearings based on this report will take place when the House is back in session in several weeks.

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