Science and Exploration

Bipartisan Legislation Sets NASA’s Focus on the Moon

By Keith Cowing
April 11, 2013
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Bipartisan Legislation Sets NASA’s Focus on the Moon
Lunar Lander Concept

U.S. Representatives Bill Posey (R-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), John Culberson (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Ted Poe (R-TX) have once again reintroduced bipartisan legislation directing NASA to develop a plan for returning to the Moon and establishing a human presence there. The RE-asserting American Leadership in Space Act, or REAL Space Act, sets a clear course for NASA toward human space flight while keeping within current budgetary constraints.
“The Moon is our nearest celestial body, taking only a matter of days to reach,” said Rep. Bill Posey, who as a young man worked on the Apollo Program at the Kennedy Space Center. “In order to explore deeper into space–to Mars and beyond–a moon presence offers us the ability to develop and test technologies to cope with the realities of operating on an extraterrestrial surface.”

“Space is the world’s ultimate high ground, returning to the Moon and reinvigorating our human space flight program is a matter of national security. Returning to the moon would allow NASA to continue to develop technologies that have not only enhanced our exploration programs but have been applied across all disciplines of science,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

“Last year, the National Research Council committee charged with reviewing NASA’s strategic direction found that there was no support within NASA or from our international partners for the administration’s proposed asteroid mission. However, there is broad support for NASA to lead a return to the Moon. So the U.S. can either lead that effort, or another country will step up and lead that effort in our absence — which would be very unfortunate,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, Chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Moon missions, both human and robotic, offer the United States true international cooperation, while ensuring that we lead from the front. Other nations, private industry, and government experts all regard the Moon as the right place for NASA to direct its resources. The time to reassert the United States as the leader in space is now and the REAL Space Act is the next step,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt.

“Congress should be committed to NASA and to expanding the frontiers of scientific progress. This bill is the correct path forward to get Americans to the Moon and expand human knowledge,” said Rep. Steve Stockman who represents the John Space Center in Houston, Texas. “With a real destination and a realistic timetable, we can achieve our greatest dreams. Without it, we risk seeing our future plans perpetually delayed or cancelled, and only watching as other nations seize the lead in space exploration–and reap the benefits in jobs, inventions, investments, national pride and international respect. I urge my fellow Members of Congress to cosponsor this vital legislation, and I urge space advocates and organizations to join together in support of this bill and in support of the Moon being the stepping stone to Mars.”

Rep. Pete Olson said, “The REAL Space Act clarifies NASA’s mission, something it has been lacking in recent years. Human space exploration is critically important to America’s global future. President Kennedy understood that the real benefit of exploration to our nation was not landing men on the moon, but what it would take to get there — the technology, the initiative and the will to do it. He knew, as we know, that space exploration is both a scientific and national security priority. This legislation sets clear and achievable goals that will ensure America maintains global preeminence in both space exploration and scientific discovery.”

Rep. Rob Bishop said, “This legislation is not just about landing another human on the Moon. It is about restoring our nation’s now defunct human space flight program and setting clear and achievable goals that will lead to advancements in science and technology. If we are to be leaders in the exploration of the cosmos, to the Moon and beyond, we must have our own innovative resources to get there. It’s going to be next to impossible to maintain our preeminence in the exploration of space if we are having to hitch rides from other countries. Going back to the moon has always been an essential stepping stone for technology development for manned exploration to other parts of the galaxy. This legislation restores and clarifies NASA’s role in human space flight and sets the U.S. back on course to lead exploration of the cosmos.”

Specifically, the REAL Space Act directs NASA to plan to return to the Moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence there as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations within our solar system. The legislation also emphasizes the importance of maintaining the United States’ preeminence in space, and underscores the necessity of preserving America’s independent access to space.

Returning to the Moon presents many scientific, technological and economic benefits for the United States and the world at large. The economic contribution of NASA’s space program is in the tens of billions of dollars. The technologies developed through and transferred from our nation’s program have created advancements across all disciplines of science and advances in healthcare in particular have saved and enriched countless lives.

Aside from providing a training ground for space faring enabling technologies, humans still have much to learn from exploring the Moon. To date, twelve Americans have explored a section of our Moon smaller than the National Mall. There are many minerals, isotopes, and other natural resources that can be gleaned from the Moon’s surface such as ice deposits, which can be used to sustain an outpost or produce rocket propellant for deep space exploration.

Setting the Moon as the goal will reengage the public’s interest in the space program and inspire a new generation of American students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) where they currently lag behind students in competitor nations.

George M. Cecala
Communications Director
Congressman Bill Posey (FL-08)
120 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3671
Fax: 202-225-3516

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.