Cruz: US must go deeper into space

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzPaul: Pence should oversee Senate ObamaCare repeal votes Senators introduce new Iran sanctions With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder MORE (R-Texas), the new head of the Senate’s subcommittee on space, wants to go where no man has gone before. 

“We must refocus our investment on the hard sciences, on getting men and women into space, on exploring low-Earth orbit and beyond, and not on political distractions that are extraneous to NASA’s mandate,” the Texas Republican said in a statement on Wednesday.

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Cruz was installed as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness last week. Texas is a major hub of the U.S. space industry, and Cruz seems ready to defend the agency’s gradually shrinking budget.

On Wednesday, he echoed President Kennedy's call for Americans to reach for the heavens and said that returning the U.S. to its former status as the global leader in space exploration should be a geopolitical priority for the nation.

“Russia’s status as the current gatekeeper of the International Space Station could threaten our capability to explore and learn, stunting our capacity to reach new heights and share innovations with free people everywhere,” he said. “The United States should work alongside our international partners, but not be dependent on them.”

NASA has been reliant on Russia to ferry Americans back and forth to space since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. The U.S. is also dependent on Russian rocket engines whenever it wants to shoot many military satellites into orbit, which has raised concerns about vulnerabilities.

On Wednesday, Cruz lauded private companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX that are pushing to bring Americans back to outer space, and which present “important new opportunities for us all.”

President Obama has called for American astronauts to land on an asteroid in the next decade, and for them to orbit Mars in the decade following that.