With the change of representation in the United States Senate shifting to the Republicans, the leaders of the all important committees that determine the course of the nation – has shifted as well. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) having been the highest ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Competitiveness, has now taken the chairmanship position. Simply put, Senator Cruz is now in charge of the NASA budget – a fact that has drawn discussion due to the Senator’s past views and comments.
Walter Cunningham a former NASA Astronaut said, “I’m pleased to hear that Senator Cruz will be chairing the important Subcommittee on Science and Space. In our discussions he has always shown a strong interest in furthering the core goals of NASA and Johnson Space Center. He wants NASA to return to the scientific and exploration standards that enabled our country to win the space race.”
Other persons of note backing Senator Cruz’s chairmanship include Bob Harvey, President and CEO, Greater Houston Partnership and Jean Marie Kranz, President, K6 Strategies.
When asked by the Houston Chronicle if he supports space activities including private efforts, Senator Cruz responded, “SLS and Orion are critical to our medium- and long-term ability to explore space, whether it is the moon, Mars or beyond. Absolutely I support them. At the same time I am deeply concerned about our inability to reach low earth orbit right now….I am encouraged by the progress of both commercial cargo and commercial crew. But we need a continued focus on the stated exploration objectives with maximum efficiency and expedition.”
But the Senator’s posting is not without its critics. A petition at whitehouse.gov asking for his removal as chairman has already topped 35,000. While a petition of this type will have no legal bearing on Senator Cruz’s position on the committee, it does show just how much the public is concerned about NASA’s budget. Ted Cruz responded, “…that he supports NASA’s contributions to science and discovery, and that they should not fear his appointment to lead the subcommittee that oversees the space agency.”
Cruz’s past comments have not done him any favors. As noted in The Washington Post, Cruz has denied that Climate Change is taking place. As NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ) are at the forefront of monitoring the weather – those troubled by environmental issues fear that the Texas Senator might negatively impact efforts to study the impacts of Climate Change.
Senator Ted Cruz might be interested in balancing the budget and reducing government waste, his voting record suggests that he does take science seriously. It is also well known that Cruz is a fervent backer of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS). While the Senator might not increase NASA’s budget, given the number of NASA constituents in his district, he is not likely to take funds away from the space agency either. In the end, NASA will know if Cruz’s appointment is a positive thing when the first budget changes to NASA under his watch wind their way through the political process.