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ICYMI: Houston Chronicle: Cruz says “We need more space exploration”

"America has always led the way in space exploration, and we need to reclaim that leadership.” - Sen. Ted Cruz

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Earlier today U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, spoke with Houston Chronicle's Eric Berger in anticipation of becoming chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Competitiveness. Below is full transcript of the interview.

Cruz on NASA's new rocket and spacecraft: "Absolutely I support them"

Houston Chronicle
Eric Berger

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, has been named chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on science and space, which has responsibility for NASA. He spoke on Wednesday with Chronicle science writer Eric Berger about his views on space exploration.

Q. Did you grow up interested in space?

A. Every young boy or girl was amazed by the potential of space. When John F. Kennedy laid down a marker in 1962 that man would go to the moon, it inspired a nation and a world. Texas has been at the heart of space exploration from the very beginning. Unfortunately in recent years this (Obama) administration has lost sight of the core mission of NASA. My priority as chairman of the subcommittee is to refocus NASA on its core priority of exploring space. We need to get back to the hard sciences, to manned space exploration and to the innovation that has been integral to the mission of NASA. We should not be allowing NASA to have its resources diverted to extraneous political agendas separate and apart from exploring space.

Q. For the last three years NASA has been building the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft. Do you support the continuation of these programs?

A. SLS and Orion are critical to our medium- and long-term ability to explore space, whether it is the moon, Mars or beyond. Absolutely I support them. At the same time I am deeply concerned about our inability to reach low earth orbit right now. We are entirely dependent upon the Russian Soyuz system. It is unacceptable from the perspective of space interest and also from national security interests. I have repeatedly inquired of this administration about its contingency plans if the Russians shut off the Soyuz. The answers have been altogether insufficient. America should have the capacity to get to the ISS without the assistance of the Russians. Americans should have the capacity to launch a rescue mission to the station should that prove necessary without being dependent. America should have the capacity to launch our critical satellites without needing to acquire Russian RD-180s (rocket engines).

Q. Do you support the efforts by Boeing and SpaceX to develop American vehicles to get astronauts to the station by 2017?

A. I am encouraged by the progress of both commercial cargo and commercial crew. But we need a continued focus on the stated exploration objectives with maximum efficiency and expedition. One of the great benefits of space exploration, but also commercial crew and commercial cargo, has been the jobs and economic development that have flowed from allowing innovation and the private sector to play a critical role in space. Texas and the Houston area in particular has been a tremendous beneficiary of that private sector activity.

Q. Speaking of the private sector, SpaceX has a rocket testing facility in central Texas and is going to build a launch pad in South Texas. What do you think about the company?

A. I think it is terrific to see commercial companies innovating with regard to space. SpaceX has made substantial investments in Texas, and that is benefitting our state. I am an enthusiastic advocate of competition and allowing the private sector to innovate. Indeed one of the first priorities of the subcommittee will be to take up reauthorization of the Commercial Space Launch Act precisely to continue fostering an atmosphere of innovation and competition.

Q. Do you support NASA's mission to robotically capture an asteroid and then send astronauts to visit it near the moon?

A. The asteroid mission has at times seemed to have had a changing and shifting focus. It will be important for the subcommittee to hold hearings to help NASA articulate and formulate its priorities for space exploration, whether to an asteroid, the moon, Mars or beyond.

Q. Where does the kid inside you, that grew up fascinated by space, want to see humans go?

A. There's no limit to human imagination or to the desire for exploration. Everyone of us has looked up at the night sky and wondered what lies out there. America has always led the way in space exploration, and we need to reclaim that leadership.



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