Published: March 12, 2015
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz told NASA Thursday to stop worrying about global warming and focus on its “core priority of exploring space.”
“Since the end of the last administration, we have seen a disproportionate increase in the amount of federal funds that have been allocated to the Earth sciences program at the expense of” programs that support space exploration,” Cruz, chair of the Senate subcommittee responsible for overseeing NASA, said in a Senate hearing Thursday on NASA’s 2016 budget request.
“In your judgment, what is the core mission of NASA?” Cruz asked NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.
“Our core mission from the very beginning has been to investigate, explore space and the Earth environment, and to help us make this place a better place,” Bolden answered.
“Almost any American would agree that the core function of NASA is to explore space,” Cruz retorted. “That’s what inspires little boys and little girls across this country… and you know that I am concerned that NASA in the current environment has lost its full focus on that core mission.”
In recent years NASA has allocated more money to its Earth sciences program, which includes funding research on global warming and other planetary issues. NASA is asking for $1.9 billion for Earth sciences in its 2016 budget request, a $100 million increase from 2014.
Cruz said funding for space exploration and operations has been cut by 7.6 percent.
“In my judgment, this does not represent a fair or appropriate allocation of resources, that it is shifting resources away from the core functions of NASA to other functions,” Cruz said. “Do you share that assessment?”
“Mr. Chairman, I am very interested in your chart,” Bolden answered. “I will say one thing—it is interesting to note that there is a decrease in exploration and human spaceflight when, in fact, that was somewhat intentional because we were trying to get the cost of exploration down as we reach farther out into the solar system.”
The National Journal reports that defunct space shuttles cost NASA $2 billion a year to keep, and now the agency has a $6.6 billion contract with Boeing and SpaceX for 16 human space flights over a time span of up to four years.
“So I think the decrease is actually a little bit of what we’re trying to do to get the cost of flying humans into space down,” Bolden said. “That’s what’s driving the market, is reducing launch costs.”
“The fact that Earth-science has increased—I’m proud to say that it has enabled us to understand our planet far better than we ever did before,” Bolden added.
NASA scientists have been a major force in global temperature analysis and trends in recent decades and have contributed a lot to climate science. But some NASA scientists have also been at the forefront of calling for reductions to carbon dioxide emissions — a policy Cruz opposes.
“Eventually this is going to be a problem that is so large that we will transition to a more renewable” energy system, NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt told Fox’s John Stossel – who also refused to debate a scientist skeptical of man-made global warming on television.
NASA climate scientists have warned that global warming will cause global temperatures to rapidly increase, sea levels to rise and weather to become more severe. Scientists have recently pointed to places like Florida as areas in danger of being overwhelmed by sea level rises.
“We can’t go anywhere if the Kennedy Space Center goes underwater and we don’t know it—and that’s understanding our environment,” Bolden said. “It is absolutely critical that we understand Earth environment because this is the only place that we have to live.”