Our National Space Program Is on the Verge of a Renaissance
I participated in the third of a series of planned hearings to explore the reopening of the American frontier in space. The hearing, titled “Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement,” examined partnerships between the U.S. government and commercial space industry to advance America’s leadership in space, and space exploration.
Five witnesses testified at the hearing, including Mr. Robert Cabana, Director, NASA Kennedy Space Center; Mr. Tim Ellis, Co-Founder and CEO, Relativity; Mr. Tim Hughes, Senior Vice President, Global Business and Government Affairs, SpaceX; Dr. Moriba K. Jah, Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, Cockell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin; Mr. Jeffrey Manber, CEO, Nanoracks.
Watch my opening statement here and read the full text of his opening remarks below:
Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the trouble makers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them. Glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as the crazy ones we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
That quote of course was made famous by Apple in the company’s 1997 television commercial ‘Think Different.’ Nearly three months ago this subcommittee began a series of hearings looking at the reopening of the American frontier. These hearings are in a way dedicated to the crazy ones, who not only think differently but who take risks and are looking to push the human race forward by expanding American commerce and settlement throughout the universe.
Our national space program is on the verge of a renaissance. This renaissance is being driven by innovators who don’t accept the status quo and who are changing the very nature of space flight. This renaissance is also being driven by public private partnerships between NASA and commercial space companies. In the last few years we have witnessed the test flights and success of reusable rockets which will lower the cost for Americans to access space.
We’ve seen the deployment of cube satellites from the International Space Station, which are not only helping maximize the utilization of the International Space Station but are expanding research opportunities for federal agencies, industry and even high schools. As our previous hearings have showcased, we also have seen an interest from American companies who are looking to expand a commercial presence to the surface of the moon and beyond. Space exploration is rapidly expanding and both commercial companies and NASA are complementing one another. A survey by the Department of Commerce found that U.S. companies had $62.9 billion in space related sales in 2012. While U.S. government programs provided much of this market, about one quarter of the sales were within the commercial sector. Public private partnerships have become the background of core NASA programs, such as the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, the COTS program, and the commercial crew program which will finally end our dependence on Russia to transport American Astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
However, we shouldn’t be content to rest on the laurels of recent success. There is still a lot of work left that needs to be completed to ensure continued U.S. competitiveness in space. Congress needs to work to ensure that investment and innovations with in the commercial space sector isn’t effectively chilled by obsolete regulations or overly burdensome requirements that may not naturally apply to new business models. We must also continue to challenge NASA and the commercial space community to find new ways to partner to advance our national space policy goals as Congress will never be able to fund every priority within the space community. And in preparation of the expansion of commercial space activity we will also need to examine orbital debris and how it impacts exploration and space traffic management.
There are people who are crazy enough who think they can change the very nature of space exploration and if they keep on pressing forward they just might.