Buzz Aldrin to Headline First Senate Commerce Committee Space Hearing of 2015

Buzz Aldrin to Headline First Senate Commerce Committee Space Hearing of 2015

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will hold his first space-related hearing next week as chairman of the Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.  Among the six witnesses is Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin along with another Apollo veteran, Walt Cunningham, and space shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino. 

The hearing is entitled “U.S. Human Exploration Goals and Commercial Space Competitiveness.”  In addition to the panel of former astronauts, a second panel includes representatives of industry and academia:   John Elbon, Vice President and General Manager, Boeing Space Exploration; Scott Pace, Director, Space Policy Institute at George Washington University; and Eric Stallmer, President, Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle’s Eric Berger last month that Cruz posted on his office website, he said that he is “an enthusiastic advocate of competition and allowing the private sector to innovate.”  He also signaled support for Orion and the Space Launch System and said he wants to refocus NASA on its “core priority of exploring space.”

Cruz is an ardent advocate of cutting federal spending and is widely credited (or blamed) for the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 and delaying Senate adjournment in December 2014 due to his strong views on budgetary and other issues.  What that will mean for NASA is anyone’s guess this early in deliberations.

Democrats recently announced that Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) will be the ranking member of this subcommittee.   Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who chaired the subcommittee in the last Congress when the Senate was under Democratic control, is now the ranking member of the full committee.  Sen. John Thune (R-SD) chairs the full committee.

This is the committee that will consider the President’s nomination of MIT Professor Dava Newman to be NASA Deputy Administrator.   No date has been announced for a confirmation hearing.   Under usual procedures, it is also the committee that would consider a new NASA authorization bill, although the House has already passed such a  bill and it could go directly to the Senate floor for debate if desired.  The Senate never took up the House-passed NASA authorization bill last year.  This year’s House bill is virtually identical to last year’s although it contains funding recommendations based on FY2015 rather than FY2014 appropriations levels.   It does not make recommendations for future year funding.

The hearing is on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 2:00 pm ET in 253 Russell Senate Office Building.


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