I want to thank Tim Huddleston and the Aerospace State Association for hosting this panel discussion on America’s future in Space. I share Chairman Boehlert’s concern that the vision for our human space flight program must be objective and doable. As a member of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for 15 years, I have witnessed time and again NASA’s over-promising, over-marketing, and under-estimating the costs for its programs. We have reached a crossroad in our civil space program where fundamental decisions involving these issues have been put off for too long. We need to consider all viable options for returning America to its space leadership role. We simply can’t go on without the consensus of a unifying vision for the future.

I believe a vision for space must include space entrepreneurs who have and continue to inspire us with innovation and creativity seeking to accomplish affordable goals. Several years ago, the private sector attempted to develop new reusable launch vehicles technologies in the absence of federal support. Acquiring the necessary financial support in a wake market environment proved to be just as daunting as pushing the technological envelop forced this group of rebels in the space community. They were forced to discontinue their efforts. Now a second wave of space entrepreneurs has emerged to take up the challenge of space flight.

A number of these individuals like Burt Rutan, Dennis Tito and Elon Musk are championing the cause of those earlier pioneers by pushing the boundaries of building affordable space-bound launch vehicles, and changing the rules when it comes to the economics of space travel. Many of them have the financial means to move their concepts from viewgraphs to flight demonstrators, something NASA has great difficulty in accomplishing. In particular, Elon Musk is directing his efforts towards achieving orbital space flight. If successful he will have made entrepreneurial history. Others that are looking to develop suborbital spacecraft may provide us with rapid passenger and package delivery services to many points on the globe, space tourism, and other moneymaking ventures. The Lunar Prospector Project, which demonstrated the private sector’s reach beyond low Earth orbit once water was discovered on the Moon, strongly suggests that lunar exploration is not solely a government role.

We must get government out of the way by creating policies that encourage the private sector to focus on this vast stretch of the near universe. I have attempted to do this through legislation by introducing the Zero Gravity/Zero Tax Bill, and the Commercial Space Act of 2003. Both are intended to streamline the federal regulatory bureaucracy.

Human space flight is difficult, expensive and dangerous, but that should not be an excuse for remaining mired in indecision concerning what direction U.S. human space flight should take. Now is the time for the Congress to become innovative and creative in undertaking this difficult task.