In a recent press release, Senator Ted Cruz announced that he plans to expand the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) funding in order to return the organization back to its former glory. There was fear that Cruz, who has recently become the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Competitiveness, would cut NASA’s budget, but his statement proves quite the opposite.
In his rallying release, Cruz recalls the Space Race and the United State’s role in early space exploration. He states, “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy laid down a marker for space exploration that inspired a generation of Americans to reach for the stars, recognizing that the race to the heavens was nothing less than a crucial front in the battle between freedom and tyranny.” Cruz goes on to note the role of Russia and other countries in the International Space Station (ISS) and the shift away from manned space missions. He implored that, “We should once again lead the way for the world in space exploration.”
Cruz also emphasizes the need to “refocus our investment on the hard sciences, on getting men and women into space, on exploring low-Earth orbit and beyond, and not on political distractions that are extraneous to NASA’s mandate.” It has been almost fifty years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s two-hour moonwalk in July 16th, 1969. In that time our efforts to reach the moon and outer space have dwindled and focus has shifted. The launch of the ISS in 1998 and the launch of the Curiosity rover in 2011 have rekindled public interest as have the recent efforts by commercial companies, like SpaceX.
Cruz plans to once again make U.S. a contender in the ongoing space race and names his home state of Texas in his statement. He reminds us that, “Texas has a major stake in space exploration. Our space program marks the frontier of future technologies for defense, communications, transportation and more, and our mindset should be focused on NASA’s primary mission: exploring space and developing the wealth of new technologies that stem from its exploration.” Cruz mentions commercial space exploration, but mainly focuses on what he calls NASA’s “core mission.”
He closes with the reassuring statement, “I am excited to raise these issues in our subcommittee and look forward to producing legislation that confirms our shared commitment to this vital mission.” This renewed interest in funding space exploration brings to mind a quote by famous astronomer, Neil deGrasse Tyson. When guest starring on Bill Maher, he went on a bit of a rant about the defunding of the James Webb Space Telescope and NASA, stating the following: “When someone says, ‘We don’t have enough money for this space probe’, I’m saying, ‘No, it’s not that you don’t have enough money. It’s that the distribution of the money that your spending is warped in some way that you are removing the only thing that gives people something to dream about tomorrow.’ You remember in the ‘60’s and 70’s, you didn’t have to go more than week before there was an article in LIFE magazine about, The Home of Tomorrow, The City of Tomorrow, or the Transportation of Tomorrow. All that ended. After we stopped going to the moon, it all ended. We stopped dreaming.” Tyson made valid points about the allocation of money and the manned space missions. Hopefully his sentiments will ring a little less true as Cruz’s legislation comes to fruition.