By U.S. Representative Kay Granger

The Hill
June 03, 2020  7:00AM CST

The space launch a few days ago marked more than just America’s return to space; it marked a new chapter in the story of America’s national security.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center after years of testing, development, and training. And their achievement will impact American security for years to come.

No issue is more important than national defense. And I am keenly aware of the role that space dominance plays in protecting our nation and our people. For far too long, we have allowed China to challenge American space dominance with negative implications to our economy and national security. Since China’s first satellite launch in 1970, the Chinese have continued to develop a competitive space exploration capability that was on track to rival our own space program until this very mission.

I have always supported our national space program. That’s why the Trump administration asked me to help champion NASA’s Artemis project that aims to land the first woman and other U.S. astronauts on the south pole of the Moon by 2024. Since then, I have fiercely advocated for the administration’s space strategy to include last week’s Demo-2 launch and the creation of both the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command. A strong national space program, when augmented with the benefits of private industry, bolsters our economy, fortifies our national security, and guarantees America’s future relevance. I work closely with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and corporate leaders to provide our nation’s space program with the support and resources needed to lay the foundation for current and future successes.

Since its earliest days, our nation’s space program has relied upon Texas as a key foundational center of its existence. Although this most recent space operation launched from Florida, thousands of Texans had their fingerprints on this successful mission. Notably, rockets like the one used to propel astronauts Bob and Doug to the International Space Station are tested at a facility in McGregor, about 20 miles west of Waco. Recently, I had the privilege of touring this facility, and I was proud to see firsthand the role Texans were playing in our nation’s space program. Additionally, Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston has always had a historic role in our space program since the earliest Apollo missions in the 1960s. Today, the Johnson Center still serves as the hub of space communications given its pivotal role as the lead center for the Commercial Crew Program and International Space Station operations. Johnson will be in contact with the crew of this mission to facilitate success and ensure the safety of our astronauts.

From the earliest stages of planning, to mission execution and recovery, countless Texans have and will continue to be involved in every step of this mission and all future American space endeavors. The Texas aviation, space and defense industry supports and benefits from space-related research, development, and production work directly connected to this most recent space flight. Many of our nation’s most innovative and cutting-edge space companies are based here in Texas, providing the components and engineering expertise needed for a successful space program. Texans should be proud of the significant role that our state plays in our national space program—I know I am. Our state’s frontline role in space exploration not only solidifies Texas as a hub of innovation and employment, it also serves as a cornerstone of our common defense.

Being the world leader in space will be expensive; but it won’t be nearly as costly as letting China dominate in space. That’s why I am committed to our national space program. We must be the leader in space. And to be the leader in space, we must utilize Texas assets and Texas companies.

Last week’s successful mission will be the first of many as America reasserts its dominance, and we continue our quest to return to the Moon and look beyond Mars.