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Sen. Cruz Questions Administrator Bridenstine on America’s Future as Dominant Leader in Space

Participates in Senate Commerce Committee hearing focused on maintaining the United States’ position as the global leader in space

March 13, 2019

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, participated in a hearing entitled, “The New Space Race: Ensuring U.S. Global Leadership on the Final Frontier.” There, he questioned Jim Bridenstine, Administrator of NASA, on the future of the International Space Station (ISS). Sen. Cruz reiterated his unwavering stance that the ISS should continue to be federally funded and operate until at least 2030.

“The space station as a matter of scientific and technical capability can continue to be utilized at least until 2030--if not later,” Sen. Cruz said. “And, given that the taxpayers have invested over a hundred billion dollars in it, the testimony we received is that it was prudent to get the maximum return for that investment. And that it would be nothing short of catastrophic to cede low-earth orbit to the Chinese. In light of that testimony, I introduced legislation that explicitly extended funded funding for the space station until 2030. This committee passed that legislation unanimously. It went on to pass the Senate unanimously. I was very pleased to see this year’s president’s budget, that did not have that language zeroing out the funding. But instead, talked about transitioning to more commercial opportunities--which all of us would like to see--but no longer suggested a threat to the funding for the space station in 2025. I think that is beneficial to the American taxpayer. I think that is also beneficial to our partners in the Space Station, making clear that our commitment to the station is to get the maximum reasonable life and use out of it.”

Watch Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning here. Excerpts are below: 

Sen. Cruz: “Thank you Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for your testimony, your leadership.

“Administrator Bridenstine, let’s talk a little about the ISS [International Space Station]. As you are aware, last year’s budget from the administration proposed ending all federal government funding for the ISS by the year 2025. The space subcommittee of this committee held a series of hearings on whether that was wise, whether that was prudent. The testimony we received consistently was that it was not. The space station as a matter of scientific and technical capability can continue to be utilized at least until 2030--if not later.

“And, given that the taxpayers have invested over a hundred billion dollars in it, the testimony we received is that it was prudent to get the maximum return for that investment. And that it would be nothing short of catastrophic to cede low-earth orbit to the Chinese. In light of that testimony, I introduced legislation that explicitly extended funded funding for the space station until 2030. This committee passed that legislation unanimously. It went on to pass the Senate unanimously.

“I was very pleased to see this year’s president’s budget, that did not have that language zeroing out the funding. But instead, talked about transitioning to more commercial opportunities--which all of us would like to see--but no longer suggested a threat to the funding for the space station in 2025. I think that is beneficial to the American taxpayer. I think that is also beneficial to our partners in the Space Station, making clear that our commitment to the station is to get the maximum reasonable life and use out of it. Do you agree with that sentiment?” 

Administrator Bridenstine: “Yes, sir. I have been watching your leadership on this issue with great interest, as you can imagine. And, I would say we are starting even right now today to put together all of the tools so that we can commercialize low-earth orbit as rapidly as possible. It is true, the language ending direct funding is not the language we’re using anymore in 2025. But instead, we’re transitioning--and that’s starting today. Transitioning to new funding models that would be enabling of commercial activities. What you’ll find in this budget request is $150 million specifically for commercialization activities in low-earth orbit. But that $150 million does not include the great investment that is the ISS that helps us transition. We need to utilize the ISS for the transition to commercialization. It is a tool to get to commercialization.

“So, know this, I believe a day is coming when we will have commercial activities in low-earth orbit. The goal here, Senator--and you know this--NASA wants to be one customer of many customers in a robust commercial marketplace for human activities in low-earth orbit. At the same time, we want to have numerous providers that are competing on cost and innovation to drive down cost and increase access to space. We just recently saw what happens when we can dock a commercial Crew Dragon to the International Space Station with a reusable rocket provided by the private sector. Costs are going to go down, access is going to increase. We don’t want to just do it with commercial resupply to the International Space Station, not just with commercial crew to the International Space Station, but actually with habitation in low-earth orbit. The purpose for this, ultimately is so we can save resources and use the precious dollars that this committee in the Senate and the House give us, use those precious dollars to go to the moon where there is not yet a commercial marketplace but for which we believe there will be a commercial marketplace. Our goal is to retire risk, commercialize, and go further and do more. 

“And I do believe the date very well could be 2025--and that’s my goal. And I’m going to be very clear: my goal is to move us to a day where in 2025 we are completely commercialized. But it’s important to note that what we’re talking about now is the development of a new funding model.”

 

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