U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, will convene a hearing titled, “NASA Exploration Plans: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going” at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 9, 2019. The purpose of this hearing is to honor the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Apollo 11 mission and the United States landing the first man on the moon. The hearing will examine NASA’s plans for future human spaceflight missions.
- Dr. Christine Darden, Data Analyst and Aerospace Engineer Researcher, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration
- Mr. Homer Hickam, Author, Rocket Boys
- Mr. Gene Kranz, Flight Director, Apollo 11
- Mr. Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation
*Witness list subject to change
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
Subcommittee on Aviation and Space
This hearing will take place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building 562. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
*Note: Witness added on 7/8/19
Chairman Ted Cruz
Fifty years ago exactly one week from today, at approximately 9:30 a.m., three astronauts, sitting atop a rocket the size of a Navy destroyer packing 7.5 million pounds of thrust, took off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Roughly a million people had gathered on the ground to watch this historic event, including half of the United States Congress. These three astronauts, as one newspaper put it at the time, carried with them ‘the hopes of the world.'
The year was 1969, the astronauts were Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, and the mission was Apollo 11. Armstrong and Aldrin would go on to make history a little over 100 hours later when, with more than a third of the Earth watching or listening live, they became the first humans to ever set foot on the Moon. The Apollo 11 Mission would go on to make history again, a little less than 100 hours after that, as the first mission to not only put men on the Moon, but bring them home safely as well. Although President Kennedy hadn’t lived to see it, the goal he had set 8 years earlier had been met. To steal a line from the Flight Director of that mission, we had shown that, ‘What America will dare, America will do.’
Today, we rightfully celebrate the momentous occasion that is the upcoming 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. As President Nixon said in a phone call to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin while they were still on the Moon, because of what they had done ‘the heavens have become a part of man's world.’ Indeed, not only did we succeed in putting men on the Moon and returning them safely to Earth, but we’ve gone on to put robotic rovers on distant planets, celestial observatories in orbit that can literally peer into the beginnings of the universe, and established a human presence in low-Earth orbit that is there still today.
However, while it is tempting to focus only on the historic achievement that was Apollo 11, as some of our witnesses today will highlight, the Moon landing, and the entire Apollo Program for that matter, didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was the result of visionary leadership, national unity, and old-fashioned American tenacity.
The success of Apollo 11 and our national space program was also due in large part to the tireless contributions of countless women who were working behind the scenes, and whose stories have only recently become household names. One of our witnesses today, Dr. Christine Darden, was one of the famed “human computers” at NASA. Without her work and the work of other “computers,” many of them African-American women, we never could have sent astronauts into space, let alone brought them back safely. Unfortunately, Dr. Darden’s and the other computers contributions were hidden for far too long, relegated to the background for a time, despite the critical nature of their work. Her story, and the story of others like her, serves as a reminder of the lessons we need to learn from to ensure that we are cultivating, and elevating talent and leadership, not based on race or gender, but on merit, demonstrated skill, and passion. After the movie Hidden Figures came out, I introduced legislation to rename the street in front of the NASA Headquarters as Hidden Figures Way. The DC Council took up the idea, and just a few weeks ago, I was proud to join Dr. Darden and the families of other human computers at the dedication of the new street sign.
As we look out over the space landscape today, what we see is far different from the landscape of 1969. America and the Soviet Union are no longer the only players in space. Government space programs are no longer the only game in town. And our technological capabilities, both in terms of our ability to plan missions and what we are able to put in space and for how long, are, for better and worse, exponentially greater than they were when the space race began. But to truly succeed we must let our past lessons inform and help guide our future endeavors.
What do the next 50 years in space exploration look like, and what should we seek to accomplish?
First, I firmly believe that we need a bold vision that takes concrete action to secure our supremacy in space. Space is no longer just an uninhabited void or scientific novelty that it was 50 years ago. From GPS and communications satellites to weather and imaging satellites, space has become an integral part of the world economy and of our everyday lives.
The importance of space is certain to grow as space further establishes itself as not only the next frontier of exploration, but international commerce, and economic growth. By some estimates, the space sector will grow to nearly $3 trillion in value in the next three decades alone.
In the next 50 years we will see companies continue to take concrete steps that further expand upon manufacturing in space, developing new life-saving cures, and engage in asteroid mining, in which a small asteroid can contain rare materials such as platinum worth billions. These ventures are in part, why I believe the world’s first trillionaire will be made in space.
The United States will return to the Moon as part of the Artemis program, Artemis is the twin sister of Apollo, and this time when we return to the Moon, NASA has committed that we will land the first woman on the Moon, an American astronaut. On behalf of my two young daughters, let me say, thank you and it’s about time! From there, we will pave the way towards establishing a more permanent presence on the Moon.
We will also look to use our return to the Moon to not only establish commerce but use it as a launching pad to send American astronauts to the surface of the Red Planet, and beyond. I was proud to author and pass the bipartisan NASA Authorization Act of 2017, in which Congress unanimously laid out going to Mars as the critical objective for space exploration.
We must also use the next 50 years to further the search for life within our solar system. This will include a detailed exploration of Earth-like planets like Jupiter’s Moon, Europa.
In short, the next 50 years in space have the potential to be even more consequential than the last, but this will require a serious, sober look at the road ahead of us. Our goal for the next 50 years should be to emphatically establish the United States of America as a true, space-faring nation.
That’s why I am glad to be engaged with Ranking Member Sinema, Chairman Wicker, and Ranking Member Cantwell on a NASA Authorization that will help establish a long-term, sustainable vision for space exploration.
I look forward to hearing from out witnesses today about what those steps might look like, how we might best coordinate our actions, and how we in Congress can act to ensure the next 50 years, and beyond, are even more consequential and impactful than the last. To paraphrase the Astronaut Jim Lovell as he discussed seeing ‘Earth Rising’ for the first time, God has given mankind a stage upon which to perform. How the play turns out, is up to us.'
Witness Panel 1
Dr. Christine DardenData Analyst and Aerospace Engineer ResearcherNational Aeronautics and Space Administration
Dr. Mary DittmarPresident and Chief Executive OfficerCoalition for Deep Space Exploration
Mr. Homer HickmanAuthorRocket Boys
Mr. Gene KranzFlight DirectorApollo 11
Mr. Eric StallmerPresidentCommercial Spaceflight Federation