Cruz: First boot on Mars will be 'an American astronaut'

Cruz: First boot on Mars will be 'an American astronaut'
© Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump circuit court nominee in jeopardy amid GOP opposition Trump has officially appointed one in four circuit court judges On The Money: Retirement savings bill blocked in Senate after fight over amendments | Stopgap bill may set up December spending fight | Hardwood industry pleads for relief from Trump trade war MORE (R-Texas) at a hearing Tuesday on NASA said that the first person to land on Mars would be an American.

"A couple of years ago I was proud to author the bipartisan NASA authorization act signed into law," Cruz said at a hearing of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation and Space, which he chairs.

"Every member of Congress in the House and Senate in both parties united to say the objective of space exploration for NASA is to go to the red planet and land on Mars and the first boot to set foot on the surface of Mars will be that of an American astronaut."

The Tuesday hearing focused on NASA's exploration plans and was intended to mark next week's 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which first landed a man on the moon.

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Among those testifying were Dr. Christine Darden, a data analyst and aerospace engineer at NASA, one of the African-American mathematicians at the agency, a group whose work was popularized in the recent film "Hidden Figures."

In her testimony, Darden praised the Apollo program and also touted NASA's ongoing Artemis program which aims to returns Americans, including the first woman, to the surface of the moon by 2024.

"A thriving, visible Artemis Program will do much to inspire the next generation to pursue STEM careers," Darden said in her prepared testimony. "This lunar effort will engage the entire nation and the world—uniting the brightest minds of academia, industry and communities of all sizes and types, from early career professionals to our international partners."

Darden shared her high hopes for the program.

“Through Artemis, NASA will produce a sustainable human presence on the moon by 2028,” she predicted. 

Lawmakers pushed the witnesses on what they wanted to see NASA achieve in the years ahead.

“It is important for us to not just look back but to look forward,” Cruz said.

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said NASA needed to step up its goals.

“We should have and could have done a lot more,” he said. “We really need to accelerate. Maybe not in the next 50 years, but 20.”

And the witnesses pressed for more funding for space exploration and science.

“NASA is asked to do too much with too little.” Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, president and CEO of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, told lawmaker. “We underfund science in this country to an incredible extent.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE in his Fourth of July speech also lauded the Apollo 11 astronauts and vowed the U.S. would plant an American flag on Mars.

"Someday soon, we will plant the American flag on Mars," Trump said to Gene Kranz, the Apollo program flight director, who also testified at Tuesday's hearing.