The new congress has set about making committee assignments. According to Space Policy Online, two powerful Texas legislators have been returned to chairmanships of subcommittees that will have an increased role in determining the future of the United States space program during the Donald Trump presidency. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas will chair the Senate Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee.

Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas will continue to lead the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. Both men are champions of space exploration and, to varying degrees, commercial space. Donald Trump’s attitude toward space is more in line with that of these two Texans than was Barack Obama.

Obama, in practice, maintained an unrelenting hostility toward space exploration, canceling the Bush era Constellation program and underfunding both exploration and planetary science.

The only part of NASA that enjoyed real funding growth was Earth science, which was in line with Obama’s climate change and renewable energy push.

Even against the backdrop of Obama’s anti-space policy, both Cruz and Culberson wielded a great deal of influence. Cruz helped to craft a piece of legislation that included provisions that encouraged asteroid and lunar mining. Culberson championed a planetary probe to Europa, a moon of Jupiter, that is now part of NASA’s manifest.

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Team Trump has signaled that a new focus on space exploration and commercial space will adhere during the upcoming administration. One space policy paper suggests that Trump will set a long term goal of exploring the entire solar system with astronauts by the end of the current century. In the short term, Trump’s NASA is likely to pivot back toward sending astronauts back to the moon in advance of Mars.

Cruz and Culberson, with the power of their committee chairmanships, will have a great deal to say about how the Trump space program shapes up, including how much funding it gets. Since both men hail from Texas, the home of NASA’s Johnson Spaceflight Center, as well as commercial space facilities owned by SpaceX and Blue Origin, among others, they will have every incentive to make sure that the Lone Star State gets its share of the extra effort and the funding that comes with it.

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