Sen. Peters Opening Statement on the Future of NASA at Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. -U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) participated in the Senate Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee hearing on the future of NASA and human space exploration policy. Below is the text of his opening statement as prepared for delivery:


“Good afternoon. Thank you Chairman Cruz for calling this hearing. I am very pleased to be here to discuss the future of NASA. I’d also like to recognize and thank Ranking Member Nelson for his leadership on these issues.


“Being from Michigan, the epicenter of the automotive world, I can’t help but notice some striking similarities between human space exploration and the automotive industry. The auto industry enjoyed a long period of growth and prosperity during the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Then, in 2007, what has been called the “Great Recession” occurred. At the same time, the price of fuel skyrocketed. This led to factories being shut down and thousands of employees being out of work.  The outlook for the American auto industry was grim. 


“But Detroit responded by doing what America does best - they endured, they innovated, they rose to the challenge. And with U.S. auto sales reaching a new high in 2015, the U.S. automotive industry is emerging as a great American comeback story.   


“Similarly, we’ve seen highs and lows in the space business. We had the hiatus in human space flight after the end of the triumphant Apollo program. We had amazing successes in the iconic Space Shuttle program, but we also endured the Challenger and Columbia tragedies. We’ve constructed a football field size space station and maintained a continuous human presence in space for over fifteen years.  But, following the retirement of the Space Shuttle and challenges and false starts in fielding a successor program, our human space flight program hit a low similar to what the auto industry experienced in 2007.


“Now, just like the American auto industry, human space flight is making a comeback in a very big way.  NASA and American industry are working together with a common goal leading to more efficient, safer, and more capable systems.  We must continue to innovate, find new efficiencies, meet our deadlines, and maintain the highest standards of excellence. These are the same elements that helped to bring the automotive industry back to where it is today, and I believe that these elements will continue to bring the U.S. human space exploration to a new high.


“Pushing out to the frontier of space inspires the next generation of engineers and scientists, creates technologies and scientific advances that make life better here on earth, and helps power the dynamo of American industry. The SLS and Orion programs alone engage thousands of suppliers and small business all over the country. I’ve spent time with several of these suppliers in Michigan, including Futuramic, a company that has transitioned from the auto industry to the space industry. Investments in space don’t only help us understand the universe, they create jobs and drive innovation in Michigan and in communities across the nation. 


“A great deal of progress has been made since the NASA Authorization of 2010, and with the first commercial crew flights to ISS, the first launch of the massive SLS rocket, and the launch of the massive James Web Space Telescope all planned for the next two years, there are some huge milestones right around the corner.


“Just about anyone who was alive at the time vividly remembers watching the Apollo missions on TV. Achieving Kennedy’s goal of putting man on the moon by the end of the decade is one of the most significant technological accomplishments in human history.


“Since we last left the moon nearly 45 years ago, we are now on the cusp of journeying once again to deep space. And we are not just going to cautiously dip our toes in the water and then pull back – we are going boldly, and we are going to stay.


“I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize NASA and provide the agency with the stability and constancy of purpose needed to achieve the ambitious goals we have set for our space program. This hearing is an important step in that direction. I would like to thank our witnesses and I look forward to your testimony.”