While the Republican members of Congress retired to Philadelphia to discuss policy and listen to speeches by the likes of President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May, Rep John Culberson, R. Texas and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas held their own conversation. Culberson posted a picture of the two on his Facebook page with the cryptic but encouraging caption, “Today Senator Ted Cruz and I discussed how we will work together to restore NASA to the glory days of Apollo.”

The reason that statement is significant stems from the subcommittee chairmanships that the two men enjoy.

Culberson chairs the House appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA. Cruz chairs the Senate subcommittee that oversees the Space agency, authorizing its programs. Thus, together, the two men have the power to make a lot of things happen, especially because the United States has a president eager to find ways to “make America great again.”

It is worthwhile to note what the “glory days of Apollo” were. In the 1960s, NASA was engaged in the single-minded race to the moon, which it won on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong made that first footstep. The space agency enjoyed, at its height, four percent of the federal budget. But once the moon landing goal was achieved, NASA went into a steep decline in its funding and the scope of its activities from which it has not fully recovered.

So what did Culberson mean by “restore NASA to the glory days of Apollo?” Noting the realities of the federal budget deficit and the opportunities offered by commercial new space companies, one should conclude that Culberson should be taken seriously, but not literally. NASA is not going to get four percent of the federal budget nor is it going to be set on a singled minded goal.

Nor should it.

What will likely happen is that the space agency will be given the resources and the direction for a stepped-up program of space exploration, in partnership with international allies and commercial space companies. First on the manifest is likely a return to the moon, followed by Mars and all the other destinations beyond.

Hopefully, the program will not just consist of a few flags and footsteps but will feature human beings staying to access the commercial and scientific opportunities that the worlds of the solar system present.