Politico: Ted Cruz: ‘The First Trillionaire Will Be Made in Space’
‘Space is vital for our technological excellence and advances in communication and navigation and defense’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Politico highlighted U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) commitment to advancing America’s leadership in space as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. A longtime advocate of space exploration, Sen. Cruz has authored two major pieces of space legislation that have become law: the U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act of 2015 and the Cruz-Nelson NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017.
“Space is vital for our technological excellence and advances in communication and navigation and defense,” Sen. Cruz said to Politico’s Bryan Bender. “Both the private sector and the public sector depend upon America's tremendous advantage. I believe there is a strong bipartisan commitment in Congress to ensuring America's continued strong leadership in space and advancing on the next frontier, most critically going to Mars.”
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Ted Cruz: ‘The first trillionaire will be made in space’
June 1, 2018
By: Bryan Bender
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) grew up devouring the science fiction novels of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. Both his parents were mathematicians and his mother worked "for the Smithsonian helping compute the orbits of Sputnik."
As chairman of the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee, he has authored recent legislation on commercial space and to provide funding and a long term vision for NASA.
"I predict the first trillionaire will be made in space," he says. "We don't know precisely how, any more than when exploring previous frontiers we've known exactly what we would find. But that drive to innovate, to explore, to discover, I think produces enormous benefits for the economy and for the world."
Cruz sat down with POLITICO to discuss what he has planned for the panel in the coming months to reform government regulations to encourage more investment in the private space economy; his desire to visit the super secret Area 51; and the need for continuity at NASA.
"History teaches that space policy far too often has bounced from one program to another with different administration's coming in and canceling their predecessor's program."
This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Why does American investment in space continue to be so important in your view given all of our other challenges?
It generates tens of thousands of jobs across Texas and across the country. Space is vital for our technological excellence and advances in communication and navigation and defense. Both the private sector and the public sector depend upon America's tremendous advantage. I believe there is a strong bipartisan commitment in Congress to ensuring America's continued strong leadership in space and advancing on the next frontier, most critically going to Mars.
In the time I have chaired the science and space subcommittee, we have passed two major pieces of legislation -- both of which I authored -- concerning space. In 2015, the Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, which entailed working closely with Democrats on the committee, including especially Senator Nelson and with senators with having parochial interests across the country and working closely with House members as well with different focuses and priorities and we built consensus on that legislation. In 2017 passing the NASA Authorization Bill, which likewise i worked very closely with Senator Nelson.
If you think about it there are very few areas of policies where we have had two major pieces of legislation -- one signed by Obama and one signed by Trump. That is indicative, I believe, of the strong bipartisan commitment to American leadership in space, even in a time when we see such amazing political division on a host of other issues. I am very proud to have been able to work collaboratively with my colleagues.
Going forward we are once again returning to the legislative field drafting yet another set of legislation on commercial space and another longer term NASA Authorization Bill. The bill we passed in 2017 was the first authorization bill NASA had had in seven years, going back to 2010. I believe it set the predicate for a longer term authorization that I hope to move in the coming months.
Is the commercial space bill a version of the American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act that passed the House in April?
We are engaged in ongoing and collaborative conversations with stakeholders in the administration, with other senators, with House members, and with industry The question of where to house regulatory oversight is still a question that is the subject of discussion. But I think there is wide consensus that w need to see regulatory streamlining, that we need to remove the barriers to investing even more resources in terms of developing and exploring space.
A very significant focus will be creating a regulatory environment that is conducive for major expansions of the commercial space sector. I believe that NASA, the federal government, has a critical role to play, helping drive the space agenda forward. But to invest the tens of billions of dollars -- or even hundred of billions of dollars -- that will be needed to engage in deep space exploration -- to go back to the moon, to go to Mars -- it will take far more than the government resources we have devoted recently to it. It will take leveraging the private sector on many multiples so that we get a much greater impact. So my focus is working to create the environment for that to happen.
So it sounds like you are not settled on any one construct for how the government organizes itself to unleash that.
I think that's right. The process of drafting legislation that can be consensus legislation -- that can bring together Republicans and Democrats, that can bring together senators and House members -- that entails at the front end a great deal of lift and a great deal of seeking expert advice from those deeply engaged in the space mission and working to find the best ideas and best approaches that work.
What is the case to be made to the American people for why sending humans to Mars is so important? How do you sell it at a time it is hard to fund a host of programs that need more resources?
There will always be a competition for resources. But from the very beginning of man's exploration of space America has led the way. And I believe it is vital we continue to do so. For millennia, little boys and little girls looked up in the sky, looked up at the stars and wondered 'what's out there, who's out there?'
That desire to explore has fueled much of the achievement of mankind -- whether exploration of the New World that led to the colonization of America or exploration in space, leading most significantly to Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The desire, the need to explore, to learn, to stretch our boundaries is critical to who we are as human beings.
I predict the first trillionaire will be made in space. We don't know precisely how, any more than when exploring previous frontiers we've known exactly what we would find. But that drive to innovate, to explore, to discover, I think produces enormous benefits for the economy and for the world.
How have you worked with the White House National Space Council?
I have spent a great deal of time with the vice president, working together, collaborating on pace and expanding America's leadership in space. My staff spent a significant amount of time working with the staff of the National Space Council -- in addition to working with stakeholders throughout the arena of space exploration. The new NASA administrator, Jim Bridenstine, is a close friend. I led the fight in the Senate to confirm Jim as administrator. It is unfortunate that it took over a year for him to be confirmed. That was not good for NASA to lack a Senate-confirmed administrator for that much time. But I am very grateful that he is now confirmed and in the job. I think he will prove to be an excellent of administrator of NASA.
You are a fierce critic of NASA's plan to transition the International Space Station to the private sector by 2025 to help pay for other agency priorities.
I think that argument is seriously mistaken. We have invested over $100 billion in the International Space Station. We have seen significant innovation, technological advances, come from the ISS. History teaches that space policy far too often has bounced from one program to another with different administration's coming in and canceling their predecessor's program. The consequences of that for space have been deeply problematic. Whether canceling the Constellation program, which cost thousands of jobs and wasted billions of dollars, or canceling the Space Shuttle program before we had an adequate replacement in place. Far too often our space policy has been quick to cancel a program without reaping the benefits of our investment. I think it would be profoundly foolish to cut short the ISS' useful scientific life after this considerable investment.
That is contrary to federal statute and it is contrary to strong bipartisan support in Congress for continuing the space station as long as it is scientifically viable and useful. Paul martin, who is the inspector general at NASA, testified that for crew and cargo transportation plus ongoing civil infrastructure costs, even if many of the activities transition from one to the other any assumption that ending direct federal funding would free up $3 billion to $4 billion in 2025 for use in other NASA initiatives is wishful thinking. I agree with the inspector general of NASA. As long the Constitution vests the appropriation power in Congress we are not going to see support for cutting the strength of the ISS or abandoning our international partners or ceding U.S. leadership in low-earth orbit to China, who would very much like to take leadership from us. That is not going to happen if Congress has anything to say about it.
You made reference to "what's out there.'
I will confess that one of the great disappointments of my time in the Senate is that I have yet to have the opportunity to visit Area 51.
Have you asked?
I haven't and I probably should. I don't know if they'd let me go or not. But it's worth inquiring. If we have little green men hidden somewhere I don't know about it. But of course we should be asking what's out there, we should be thinking about it, for all the consequences it could have on us.
Serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee and also chairing the science and space subcommittee of the Commerce Committee has placed me at the intersection between the commercial space world and the military and defense aspects of space, which are absolutely critical to defending our national security. I have devoted to considerable time and energy to leading in the area of missile defense, in the area of investing in space-based interceptors, so that we can have boost-phase intercept to protect against rogue states like North Korea or Iran.
Also impressing our military leaders to invest more in hardening our space assets and preparing for potential aggressive action from other countries in space. I have asked at many armed services hearings how often our warfighters are training in a space-down environment. How many captains of aircraft carriers are able to navigate using a compass and the stars if there is no GPS and there is no satellite communications? How many of our fighter pilots are prepared to bomb in a space down environment? I think those threats are real and significant. We are making meaningful investments to counteract the aggressive and potentially hostile actions we are seeing from other nations but far more needs to be done. Space will be front and center, both to preserving our ability to defend our nation and continuing to drive extraordinary economic growth.
How much elbowing do you see playing out between the new space companies and traditional contractors?
There are always tensions but I'm a huge proponent of competition. New entrants bring innovation, they bring hunger, they bring a willingness to think outside the box. That in turn drives efficiencies and drives innovation from existing players. I don;t think it's good for a handful of big defense contractors to be the only competitors in town. That doesn't encourage the kind of dynamism that they want to see or we want to see. S fostering a competitive environment, I think, benefits everybody. That's something I've worked hard to do. Look, space is plenty big enough for all the player involved and who want to get involved. We need a lot more innovators and a lot more resources being devoted to space. That is one of the great challenges from the legislative slide. Can we create a regulatory environment that incentives that investment so that we can ensure America's continued leadership in space -- not just this year or next year but 10 years, 50 years, 100 years from now.
Right now it is utterly unacceptable, for example, that we must rely on a Russian rocket to take our astronauts to the space station. That was a failure of vision and a failure of leadership that needs to be corrected. One of the things I'm very proud is in the NASA authorization Act in 2017 is that both houses of Congress unanimously confirmed that we are going to Mars. This is the unifying objective that should drive NASA. We are going to Mars and the first boot that will step foot on the surface of Mars will b an American boot, it will be an American astronaut. I believe that is a vision that can unify and energize players in both the public and private sector and it is a vision that I am going to continue to work to advance and bring people together until we achieve it.