One of the most well-known skeptics of climate change has been Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and he leaped at the opportunity to fight with a NASA official who appeared at a Senate subcommittee hearing, questioning why the agency should be spending money focused on such missions.
Cruz was appointed chairman of the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee this year, and Cruz’s selection as chair of this particular subcommittee raised eyebrows due to his long history of being opposed to NASA’s work.
Cruz leadership in the committee seems very at odds with NASA’s dozens of climate change focused programs and missions. And ever since his appointment to committee chair, Cruz has pushed for NASA to focus more on space and less on Earth. By not concentrating research and funding on space exploration, Cruz argues that the government is neglecting NASA’s core mission.
Many assume that Cruz, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, is eager to cut funding to NASA to help halt climate change research, and he sparred with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden over why Congress should continue to fund the agency’s dual missions of studying space from Earth and studying Earth from space, according to a Christian Science Monitor report.
At some point in the hearing on President Obama’s $18.5 billion budget request for NASA for fiscal 2016, he started out by asking NASA Administrator Charles Bolden what the core mission of NASA is. Bolden replied that the core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment.
Cruz apparently didn’t appear to agree with “Earth Environment” part, adding that most Americans see its mission as to explore space, which is “what inspires little boys and little girls across this country.” He said he was “concerned” that NASA has lost touch with that focus, and began referring to charts showing that since 2009, NASA’s budget has seen a 41% increase in funding toward Earth science, while space exploration and operations has seen a 7.6% decrease.
Bolden argued that Earth-science research had allowed NASA to better understand the Earth than ever before.
The agency has good reason to be worried about climate change because NASA has spent $1 billion each year on Earth science, as the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., is in danger of being flooded if sea levels rise. Already, 100 feet of beach next to the launch pads have been lost to rising sea levels since 2003, prompting the agency to spend nearly $3 million on a mile-long dune to protect the launch pads, with more dunes planned.