At a time when many of us could use some inspiration, next week NASA will partner with SpaceX to “Launch America”. At 3:32pm CT next Wednesday, the first American astronauts to launch into space for almost a decade will blast off to the International Space Station. Just as our nation’s great space program is a strong source of patriotism, Texans should also take pride in the Texas-sized role our state plays in that story.
“Houston” is recorded in history as one of the first words spoken from the moon, with “Houston… the Eagle has landed”. Houston is the home and radio callsign of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home of America’s astronaut corps and mission control for the International Space Station. Our state also hosts SpaceX’s South Texas Launch Site, a major spacecraft production facility and spaceport, where many rockets just like the SpaceX rocket that will be used in Launch America are tested. I toured SpaceX’s Texas site last year for a firsthand look at how public-private partnerships transform the space industry to our country’s benefit, with Launch America being just the latest example.
Some of these businesses aboard our country’s space program call our District home: Fort Worth-based Bell Flight built vertical flight technology used by astronauts training for NASA’s first lunar mission. Lockheed Martin, and the thousands of North Texans it employs in aerospace, is also building spacecraft for NASA’s Artemis Program, which will land the first woman on the moon and eventually the first humans on Mars. I have long supported initiatives like the Artemis Program, which preserve America’s space dominance. I was honored by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine last year with the very first Artemis mission pin, and this January, was honored to bring a NASA astronaut who may even become the first woman on the moon, Dr. Jeanette Epps, to Weatherford High School to inspire hundreds of high school students to explore careers in science and technology.
Our state’s frontline role in space exploration not only keeps Texas a hub of innovation and employment, it also serves our common defense. As China continues to develop a world-class space exploration capability threatening to overtake our own, Texas'—and Texas 12’s—leadership in building and innovating spacecraft can keep America on track to win next great space race.
Next Wednesday’s launch is already progress. The last time our country sent astronauts to the International Space Station was in 2011, when NASA ended its space shuttle program. Now, with exciting new partnerships like those making Launch America possible, our country comes closer to ending her break as the world’s space pioneer.
Given the coronavirus pandemic, NASA has issued warnings for those planning on watching the launch over social distancing concerns. Many of us in Texas were probably not planning to travel to Cape Canaveral, as incredible as it would be to see astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley blast off to the International Space Station from the same Kennedy Space Center that launched the Apollo mission 50 years ago. However, we can watch the launch on television, just as we did in the glory days of the space program in the 1960s, and in the earliest days of our state’s legacy as America’s gateway to space.
Member of Congress