Wicker Convenes Hearing on U.S. Leadership in Space

March 13, 2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today convened the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation for a hearing titled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier.” The hearing discussion focused on the U.S. government’s strategy for maintaining leadership in space, ensuring space industry competitiveness, and addressing challenges to America’s spacefaring preeminence. 

Excerpt from Chairman Wicker’s opening statement, as delivered, below:


We have entered into a new space race — this race is different from the one America won 50 years ago. The new space race has three dimensions:

First, the United States must maintain its position as the international “partner of choice” for current and aspiring spacefaring nations. Strengthening international partnerships through cooperation on space endeavors enhances our prestige around the world. The International Space Station is a key part of U.S. global leadership, but NASA’s FY 2020 budget request proposes to end funding for the ISS in 2025.

Witnesses should detail opportunities to enhance space partnerships with other nations and demonstrate how the budget request supports those efforts.

Secondly, America must maintain our position as the focal point for space commerce. We want space companies to be established and continue to grow in the United States. The global space industry is expected to grow from around $400 billion today to nearly $3 trillion over the next two decades.  

President Trump has supported the commercial space industry through policies to streamline regulations for launch, remote sensing, spectrum usage, and export control. In particular, I commend the Vice President’s leadership of the National Space Council, which has achieved interagency consensus on critical issues and provided bold and clear direction on space policy.  

Perhaps Mr. O’Connell will address the current state of the industry and provide the committee with a progress report on meeting various Space Policy Directives to promote the commercial space industry. Administrator Bridenstine should also address NASA’s role in partnering with commercial providers and growing the industry. 

And third, as competition in commercial space heats up, we must stay ahead of rising space powers, notably China. Maintaining America’s position as the preeminent spacefaring nation is the final dimension of the new space race.

China’s space program could represent a significant challenge to American leadership in space. A recent Defense Intelligence Agency report noted that China’s space program “supports both civil and military interests.”  

In January, China became the first country to explore the far side of the Moon. By 2025, China plans to complete its satellite navigation system rival to GPS, launch a rover to Mars, operationalize a space station, and begin building a Moon base, among other ambitions.  

President Trump has provided clear direction for NASA to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration to enable human expansion across the solar system.” He is right.

I hope our witnesses will tell the committee how America can maintain an edge over foreign space programs and show how the budget request will help sustain American leadership in space. It is essential that we have consistency in policy, stable and sufficient funding, and a robust set of international and commercial partnerships to achieve these goals.