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Leading the Way in Space

Published in the Barefoot Tattler

Our investment in Space has had a positive impact on our nation and the world. If we want to continue to see the fruits of that investment, NASA needs a bold new mission to explore deeper into space – to Mars and beyond.

Last year President Trump took an important step in reconstituting the National Space Council; an advisory panel chaired by the Vice President that helps layout our nation’s space policy and provides direction for our nation’s space program. Reconstituting the National Space Council is a sign that we are moving in a better direction.

Having served in Congress with Vice President Mike Pence, I know how informed and excited he is about our space program. I have met with the Vice President on numerous occasions to discuss our space program and my bipartisan legislation, the REAL Space Act, which directs NASA to return humans to the Moon by 2023 and develop a sustained presence there as a stepping-stone for future exploration elsewhere in space. We both agree that it’s critical for NASA to identify a clear destination, like the Moon, and for our nation to commit to fully achieving that goal.

In fact, during the first historic first meeting of the new National Space Council, Vice President Pence was quick to recognize the valuable contributions of the space industry to our nation’s national security, military capacity, and advances in basic and applied science and technology. He then charged NASA with a bold new mission: “We will return NASA astronauts to the Moon — not only to leave behind footprints and flags, but to build the foundation we need to send Americans to Mars and beyond.”

In 2010 Congress authorized construction of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The idea is to build the most powerful rocket that has ever left the Earth to enable humans to return to the Moon and eventually travel to Mars or other destinations. The SLS and its Orion Crew Vehicle have received strong funding support by Congress and will be taking flight in the not too distant future.

To help maintain Congressional support for NASA and the SLS, I recently lead a congressional delegation to the Kennedy Space Center to attend a meeting of the National Space Council chaired by Vice President Pence. During their visit to KSC, members toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, Launch Complex 39A, and got an up close look at Orion, which is being assembled at the Cape. I have always believed that seeing it up close makes a stronger case for robust investment in our space programs.

Returning to the Moon presents many scientific, technological and economic benefits for the United States and the world at large. The economic contribution of NASA’s space program is in the tens of billions of dollars. The technologies developed through and transferred from our nation's program have created advancements across all disciplines of science. Such a mission will reengage the public’s interest in the space program and inspire a new generation study science and engage in discovery.

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