Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ready to Rumble

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz. Image source: Google Plus.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the new chair of the Senate Subcomittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, issued a press release late today announcing the panel's first hearing under his leadership.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, will convene a hearing on Tuesday, February 24, 2015, at 2:00 p.m. entitled “U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness.” Former NASA astronauts including Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the Moon and the pilot of Apollo 11, and leaders in the commercial space industry will provide their testimony.

“I look forward to Tuesday's hearing, which will provide both the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee and the American people a great opportunity to reflect on the past, analyze the present, and examine the future of space travel in the United States,” said Cruz in calling the hearing. “We will look to ensure that NASA and commercial space have clear and consistent mission objectives and can continue to work alongside our international partners, but not be dependent on them. America should once again lead the way for the world in space exploration.”

The hearing will examine the United States’ goals in human space exploration, including the role of the commercial space industry and its contributions to U.S. global competitiveness. Among other issues, the hearing will discuss the importance of a sound exploration strategy that involves NASA, partnerships with international allies, and innovation and competitiveness in the U.S. commercial space sector. The hearing will also examine whether updates are needed to the Commercial Space Launch Act.

The hearing will have two panels.

The first panel features three astronauts — Walt Cunningham (Apollo 7), Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), and Shuttle-era mission specialist Mike Massimino. Cunningham has vocally opposed NewSpace, while Buzz Aldrin generally has been supportive of the Obama administration's space policy. Massimino, to my knowledge, hasn't expressed any political opinions but has appeared in many episodes of NASA's Inside the ISS. He's also known for his occasional cameos on The Big Bang Theory.

The second panel includes Boeing's John Elbon, Eric Stallmer from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, and Dr. Scott Pace from George Washington University's Space Policy Institute.

It's an interesting mix. One might even say it's ... fair and balanced.

UPDATE February 20, 2015The House Subcommittee on Space announced today that they will hold a hearing next week as well, on Friday February 27 at 9:00 AM EDT. It's entitled “The Commercial Crew Program: Challenges and Opportunities.”

Invitees are NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmier, Joseph Dyer of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, John Mulholland from Boeing, and Garret Reisman from SpaceX.

Given that this committee just fast-tracked legislation to reduce commercial crew funding in upcoming years from what the Obama administration is requesting, it should be an interesting hearing.

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