U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) spoke on the Senate Floor this morning on the bipartisan NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016 he introduced with Senate Commerce Committee colleagues to ensure the stability of NASA’s missions and purpose. The legislation passed the Senate Commerce Committee last week. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery and a link to the video:

“I rise today to speak about NASA, and the future of our nation’s human space exploration program.

“NASA and our industry partners have made incredible progress in space exploration. We are now closer to human missions to deep space than we have been since we last left the moon – nearly 45 years ago.

“We have set a lofty, but achievable goal – we are going to Mars, and we are building the rockets and infrastructure to get us there.

“Achieving a complex, long-term goal can be a challenge for the government – and this is especially true during an Administration transition. But we can’t let up on development if we are going to put a human on Mars.

“That is why I, along with a number of my Commerce Committee colleagues, recently introduced the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2016. This bipartisan bill will ensure NASA maintains a continuity of purpose over the next year.

“The NASA Transition Act will give NASA the stability needed to keep the agency’s important missions moving through 2017. And that’s not just important to the agency – it’s something that’s particularly important to the thousands of small- and medium-sized businesses across the country where dedicated men and women are working hard to move our space program forward.

“With this bill, we are sending a strong message to companies like Futuramic Tool and Engineering in Michigan – who are so proud to help build the rockets that will take us to Mars – and all of us in the United States Congress must stand solidly behind their efforts.

“A few weeks ago, I visited the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft – a science mission that will take a sample from an asteroid and return that sample to Earth.

“I saw the launch infrastructure taking shape for the massive SLS rocket, and the assembly and testing of the Orion crew capsule that will launch in 2018 aboard SLS. I also saw amazing work by Boeing, SpaceX, and the United Launch Alliance on their rockets and spacecraft – which will start sending US astronauts to the International Space Station in a couple years.

“When you see the scale of these gigantic structures and the intricacy of the machinery, you really get a sense for how much power, energy and precision it takes to do these ambitious missions. And you see why we can’t stop this momentum towards space. We are going boldly – and we are going to stay – and this legislation makes that point very clear.

“Importantly, this bill authorizes the entire agency – reaffirming that NASA is a multi-mission agency, with important missions in space technology, aeronautics, exploration, and education.

“I am particularly pleased that the legislation underscores the importance of NASA’s science programs.

“Investing in NASA’s science mission leads to the research and development of new technologies. These technologies increase the competitiveness of our space program and – at the same time – shed light on ways we can protect and improve our Earth. I cannot overstate the importance of this work – to our nation, our planet, and humanity as a whole.

“I agree with many in the scientific community who believe we need to increase our investments in NASA’s science mission, aeronautics, and other areas of the agency – and I will work to improve these programs more comprehensively in future legislation.

“I am also pleased this bipartisan bill reinforces the importance of NASA’s ongoing efforts to educate the scientists and astronauts of the future. Earlier this year, Senator Gardner and I introduced legislation to promote American competitiveness through investments in research and STEM education.

“NASA’s inspiring exploration and science missions make the agency uniquely positioned to engage students in STEM subjects – as witnessed when former astronaut Charlie Precourt joined me in speaking to a group of Michigan students last year. I can assure you the students were much more excited to talk to a former astronaut than a U.S. Senator.

“It is also my hope that we can move forward and pass the space weather bill that Senator Gardner and I introduced earlier this year.

“This legislation assigns roles to the various federal agencies involved with space weather, and improves the research and observations needed to better predict a space weather event.

“The space weather bill together with this NASA bill represent a strong and positive bipartisan consensus for our space program, including space science. Heliophysics, or the study of the sun, is a critical component of NASA’s science research, and has major implications for life on Earth.

“I was also pleased to see that NASA’s new Associate Administrator for Science, University of Michigan professor Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, has a strong background in space weather. I wish Dr. Zurbuchen the best of luck in his new role at NASA.

“I want to thank Senator Cruz, Chairman Thune, Ranking Member Nelson, Senator Wicker, Senator Rubio, Senator Udall, and Senator Cantwell for their hard work on the NASA transition act, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that NASA has a steady path forward to keep making groundbreaking discoveries and inspiring Americans for years to come.”