WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today released the following statement after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and SpaceX launched two astronauts from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a flight to the International Space Station (ISS). NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley flew on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft powered by a Falcon 9 rocket and will spend several weeks on the ISS before returning to Earth and landing in the Atlantic Ocean. The mission represents the return of human spaceflight to the United States.
“Today marked the first time American astronauts have launched into space from U.S. soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011,” Wicker said. “The mission represents the return of American human spaceflight capabilities and paves the way for commercially offered flights to Earth’s orbit. I applaud NASA and SpaceX on this momentous achievement and for keeping our nation at the forefront of the New Space Race.”
NASA’s Commercial Crew program awarded contracts to two companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to develop space transportation capabilities and sell them as services to NASA — a different approach from traditional, government-developed spaceflight programs. SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecraft is the result of that effort.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2019, S. 2800, passed by the Committee in November of last year, features a number of provisions related to the Commercial Crew program. Specifically, the bill would direct NASA to utilize a similar contracting approach for various other human spaceflight programs, including the Human Landing System for the Artemis deep space exploration program.
The Commerce Committee exercises jurisdiction over NASA.