Cruz: NASA has lost focus on space

Cruz: NASA has lost focus on space

NASA is too focused on Earth and needs to turn its attention toward exploring the deepest reaches of space, according to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House Senators confirm Erdoğan played 'propaganda' video in White House meeting MORE (R-Texas).

“It is time for man once again to leave the safety of the harbor and to further explore the deep uncharted waters of deep space,” Cruz said on Thursday, during a hearing in the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space.

Cruz, the subcommittee’s chairman, has repeatedly hammered the Obama administration for diverting resources toward research on Earth sciences, away from exploration of the space beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s no doubt there are multiple important priorities within NASA, but I would suggest that almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space,” he said. “I am concerned that NASA, in the current environment, has lost its full focus on that core mission.”

Democrats on the subcommittee defended the administration’s current approach and pushed back against Cruz on Thursday.

“Earth science directly relates to everything that we’re doing in exploration,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), the top Democrat on the full Commerce Committee. “I would draw that distinction for folks who think it’s not fashionable that NASA be a part of Earth science.”

NASA’s budget request for 2016 includes $1.9 billion for Earth science programs, which Cruz called a 41 percent increase since 2009. Space operations, meanwhile, would take up $4 billion in the 2016 budget, a drop of 7 percent since 2009.

“That it is shifting resources away from the core functions of NASA towards other functions,” Cruz said.

Defenders of the administration have said that the funding changes represent a return to normalcy since science funding decreased during the Bush administration. Additionally, they say that being able to spend less money on exploration is a sign of efficiency, not neglect.

Both Earth-focused science and deep space exploration are important, they say.

“We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater, and we don’t know it,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told senators. “That’s understanding our environment.”

“Science helps exploration, exploration helps science.”