Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who just took over leadership of the Senate’s space committee, hosted Buzz Aldrin and other former NASA astronauts on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a discussion on space exploration.
Cruz opened Tuesday’s hearing of the subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness by calling for more NASA and commercial space activity.
“The year 2015 is just as critical of a time for our national and commercial space programs as was the case a half century ago,” the Texas Republican said. “Future exploration is certain to present hardships. But it also promises high rewards. New resources, frontiers and economic opportunities.”
Cruz said his “first priority for the space component of the subcommittee will be working to refocus NASA’s energies on its core priorities of exploring space.”
“We need to get back to the hard sciences,” Cruz said. “To manned space explorations. And to the innovation that has been integral to the mission of NASA.”
When Republicans took control of the Senate this year, liberal news websites expressed outrage that Cruz, who represents the Johnson Space Center in Texas, would be named chairman of the committee.
The liberal blog ThinkProgress: “Ted Cruz Takes Space And Marco Rubio Takes Earth: How The Senate Flip Could Undermine Science.”
“Yup, a Climate Change Denier Will Oversee NASA. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” Phil Plait wrote in Slate.
“Ted Cruz, Longtime Foe Of NASA And Science, Will Oversee NASA And Science In New Congress,” the Huffington Post said in a story headline.
But on Tuesday, Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the ranking member of the committee, praised Cruz. “Mr. Chairman, blossoms are breaking all out over Washington because what you just said—you and I completely agree on.”
“Thank you Sen. Nelson for the very kind comments,” Cruz, a potential candidate for president in 2016, replied. “I hope those are not used against you in your next campaign.”
“I was going to say the same thing to you,” Nelson said to laughter in the committee room. “Yours is a little more immediate than mine!”
In his testimony, Aldrin, who walked on the moon and piloted Apollo 11, said that “over the next few years, we must choose whether we are to go forward as a nation and lead the extension of global civilization to a permanent presence beyond low earth orbit, or to allow American leadership in space to erode over the next decades.”
“Some of you may wonder why an 85 year old former Astronaut is here, testifying in Washington DC, rather than playing golf in Florida,” Aldrin said. “Well, in the first place, while I do live in Florida, I am a truly horrible golfer. I am a much better orbital dynamicist. But more importantly, I love my country and I believe the future of the American space program is one of the most important issues we face as a nation.”
Other witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing included Walt Cunningham, an Apollo 7 pilot and Michael Massimino, a former NASA astronaut and mission specialist for the space shuttle program.