Going to Mars won’t be easy, “even if we sent Matt Damon,” star of the 2015 film The Martian, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) quipped at a Tuesday forum about deep-space exploration held in Washington, D. C.
But the venture is worth doing, helps unify and propel space exploration going forward, and is codified in the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017 (S. 442) that President Donald Trump signed into law in March, said Cruz, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. He sponsored the legislation, which calls for a human exploration road map that includes “the long-term goal of human missions near or on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.”
Although Cruz said that NASA space exploration should not come at the expense of the agency’s Earth science missions, he said Earth science is not central to NASA. “There are a host of agencies that do science research, that have a science focus. That’s not NASA’s central mission,” he said. “Space exploration is NASA’s central mission, and I certainly am doing everything I can to encourage as many resources as possible [and] as much of NASA’s leadership to be focused on exploration.”
The forum, sponsored by the Atlantic magazine, focused on the issues of sending astronauts to deep space, including Mars; efforts to support commercial space endeavors; the challenge of retaining American leadership in space; and bipartisan support for space exploration.
Bipartisanship on Space Exploration
In an intensely partisan environment, Cruz said that there is bipartisan commitment to American leadership in space. “There are not many issues to which there is bipartisan commitment, but that’s one, and I think that’s very good for those of us who care about continuing to explore…