Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told attendees of a Thursday hearing the U.S. should start developing space in the near future.
“America must expand commerce and ultimately settlement into space,” Cruz, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness, said during the hearing. “And we must do it first.”
The committee held a hearing that included testimony from space industry CEOs on regulations slowing down the commercialization of space.
“The world is much safer with America as the global leader of this planet,” Cruz said. “And the world will similarly be safer and stronger if the United States and our ideals of free enterprise and free speech are the driving force of commerce and settlement throughout the galaxy.”
CEOs of space companies, including Blue Origin, Bigelow Aerospace and Galactic Ventures, testified at the hearings. Executives urged lawmakers to limit regulations and bureaucratic red tape in order to accelerate the commercialization of space, ultimately speeding up space colonization.
“The opportunities my company can enable through our habitat architecture will help revolutionize the commercial space industry provided that the regulatory environment remains minimal, transparent, and clear,” Robert Bigelow, the CEO of Bigelow Aerospace, said in his prepared remarks.
“I believe that the Congress should concern itself with the necessary business and regulatory environment for habitats to serve as the backbone for all activities in space,” Bigelow said. “Commercial space station development is underway now.”
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, a former astronaut, joined Cruz in calling for increased efforts to commercialize space.
“Right around the corner, there are exciting new endeavors in space enabled by partnerships with NASA and the entrepreneurs and innovators in the private sector,” Nelson said.
Cruz is one of the leading lawmakers behind the push to refocus NASA funding away from Earth science, like global warming, and back to space exploration. The Cruz-led “NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016” increased NASA’s space exploration budget $200 million above what the Obama administration asked for.
Cruz pushed a bill that passed in November allowing companies to mine asteroids. Companies would have property rights over the resources extracted from asteroids, such as platinum and water.
The Trump administration has supported the ongoing commercial space race.
Bigelow called Trump’s election win an “early Christmas present for the country and for NASA.” Bigelow believes Trump could double NASA’s budget for commercial operations. Trump’s budget does not include specific numbers to support commercial programs but states “the budget creates new opportunities for collaboration with industry.”
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