Sen. Cruz: NASA’s Budget Must Reflect the Core Priorities of Human Space Exploration

I held a hearing with NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden in the Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee to examine the President's Fiscal Year 2016 Budget request for NASA.

As we begin the process of putting a roadmap together for the future of NASA, there is one vital question that this committee should examine. Should NASA focus primarily inwards or outwards beyond lower-Earth orbit? Since the end of the last administration we have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated to the Earth Science program at the expense of and compared to Exploration and Space Operations, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics which I believe are all rooted in exploration and should be central to the core mission of NASA.

I displayed the chart to the right that demonstrates the decreased funding for exploration and space operations and asked Administrator Bolden if the current budget proposal was inhibiting manned space flight and exploration.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO, echoed my concern with NASA's focus, and asked Administrator Bolden whether any other agencies are looking at soil in Texas, and conversely whether any other agencies are sending rovers to Mars or tasked with sending Orion.

I remain concerned that the priority of earth science is compromising NASA's space exploration. You have spent a great deal of time at this hearing defending the importance of earth science, defending the importance of weather observation. I think everyone would agree with that.... I would note though that's Sen. Gardner's questions I think were quite accurate, NASA's core competence is not Texas soil conservation. Now I'm a Texan, I love our Texas soil, but there are a lot of people studying Texas soil, you've got a whole Department of Agriculture that spends a lot of time and energy studying the soil in Texas and everywhere else, which is fine, but that isn't what makes NASA special.

It's not that earth sciences are not valuable, but in the last 6 years, there has been a disproportionate increase. We've seen earth sciences increase 41 percent, and we've seen exploration and space operation - what should be the core mission, what NASA exists to do - decrease 7.6 percent. That in my view is disproportionate, and it is not consistent with the reason so many talented young scientists have joined NASA, and so it's my hope that this committee will work in a bipartisan manner to help refocus those priorities where they should be, to get back to the hard sciences, to get back to space, to focus on what makes NASA special. I am hopeful that this subcommittee will move forward with a NASA reauthorization, and that in that process we will continue this discussion of getting back to the core priorities of NASA.


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