As the Chair of the House Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds NASA, I am focused on ensuring that NASA receives the funding and guidance necessary to maintain our leadership in space. While I support additional funding for NASA, I believe it is just as crucial for the agency to have a clear vision that is driven by science and inspires our young people to study science and mathematics. Our investment in basic scientific research spurs innovation and technology and generates long-term economic growth. Our investment in NASA leads to lifesaving technologies like MRI machines, and improved pacemakers, advanced semiconductors and more accurate weather predictions.
In the realm of human spaceflight, we currently depend on the Russians for access to the International Space Station. While we are moving forward with establishing access to Low Earth Orbit through the Commercial Crew Program, progress on these programs has been slow. My colleagues and I are working diligently to ensure that these programs return our astronauts to orbit on American built vehicles as soon as possible.
We are also building the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle to explore further into our solar system. These programs will be critical components of our capability to return to the moon or lunar orbit, to reach Mars, and to go beyond.
In planetary science, I have been a staunch advocate for our next large planetary mission, which will explore Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa has a vast saltwater ocean containing two to three times as much water as we have on Earth. This water has likely been heated through tidal flexing and volcanoes on the ocean floor created by Jupiter’s massive gravitational force. The most recent discovery of venting from Europa’s south pole is an encouraging sign that the ice may be relatively thin, providing easier access to explore the depths below. I am so enthusiastic about this mission because I truly believe that when we first find life on another world, it will be in the immense ocean of Europa.
For decades, NASA has played a vital role in maintaining America’s leadership in industry and innovation. Those innovations have proven to be critical to our National Security and economic development. Yet, even with all of its successes, NASA’s future is uncertain. Our space program suffers from a lack of leadership and a clear mission from the Administration, but dedicated civil servants and contractors continue to develop our next generation of missions despite this uncertainty.
I authored the Space Leadership Preservation Act which would make NASA more professional and less political by establishing a long-term NASA Administrator who overlaps presidential administrations, creating a board to drive the vision for NASA exploration, and allowing NASA to develop spacecraft using long term contracts. This legislation would provide NASA with stability and authority to pursue our universe’s most pressing questions.
I will continue to work with my colleagues on the CJS Subcommittee to provide NASA with the funding and guidance necessary to maintain our status as the world’s greatest space faring nation. We owe it to those who have made great sacrifices for our space program and devoted their lives to answering our universe’s most pressing questions.