The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in the midst of many changes and one of the most challenging periods in its history. The space shuttle is slated to retire this year, the International Space Station nears completion but remains underutilized, and a new means of human space flight is under development. Most recently, the administration has proposed a new direction for NASA. Amid all this potential change, GAO was asked to review the key issues facing NASA. This testimony focuses on four areas: 1) retiring the space shuttle; 2) utilizing and sustaining the International Space Station; 3) continuing difficulty developing large-scale systems, including the next generation of human spaceflight systems; and 4) continuing weaknesses in financial management and information technology systems. In preparing this statement, GAO relied on completed work. To address some of these challenges, GAO has recommended that NASA: provide greater information on shuttle retirement costs to Congress, take actions aimed at more effective use of the station research facilities, develop business cases for acquisition programs, and improve financial and IT management. NASA concurred with GAO's International Space Station recommendations, and has improved some budgeting and management practices in response.
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