Senators explore policy around space exploration

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) are working to get Americans back into space.
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 4:28 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - It may still be years before we see humans on Mars, but with mega-wealthy CEOs and former TV stars blasting off into space, it’s clear space exploration in evolving. In Washington, lawmakers are focused how to ensure the U.S. can continue to lead while working with public and private partners around the globe.

The U.S. wants to return to the moon by 2024. It is a goal set by the Trump Administration and reaffirmed by the Biden Administration. But there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to reach that goal, and Thursday, lawmakers explored policy around space exploration.

In a Senate hearing led by Senator John Hickenlooper (D-CO), former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told the senators that NASA needs Congress to pass an authorization bill. That’s something Congress is supposed to do every year but hasn’t done since 2017.

Bridenstine said without the assurances the authorization provides, along with consistency across presidential administrations, international partners may look to countries like China for leadership when it comes to space exploration.

Bridenstine said, “I’m not saying China shouldn’t have a space station, they should. But what I’m saying is the United States of America needs make sure that we’re doing what is necessary to lead.”

Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) helped lead the hearing with Hickenlooper and highlighted how China’s growing space program recently tested a nuclear-capable rocket which flew around the globe in low orbit. Lummis said the test shows China is incapable of separating civilian and military goals for space, and that China’s advancements are becoming a greater threat.

Lummis said, “We must work to avoid a Cold War-style space race. Unfortunately, it seems some countries are less committed to this.”

The hearing focused on the bipartisan desire for the U.S. to continue playing a leading role in space exploration, which includes working with other countries and with private companies.

Hickenlooper said a return to the moon, a mission to Mars, building a new space station — or any other U.S. space advancements -- are big deal to Colorado which is home to many in the aerospace industry.

Hickenlooper said, “Whether you’re talking about Colorado Springs or Grand Junction, there are small companies, large companies, addressing the issues necessary to make sure that a space station operates successful.”

A NASA authorization bill is caught up in disagreement over how big of a role private companies should play in missions to land people on the moon.

Thursday’s hearing was originally supposed to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado in August, but was delayed because of Senator Hickenlooper’s positive COVID test.

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