America is a global space leader and Texas has contributed in significant ways to that reality. The NASA Johnson Space Center team of civil servants and private sector contractors have taken us to the moon, operated the Space Shuttle and assembled the International Space Station. We are now reaping the benefits of those efforts through scientific research aboard the Station and the development of the Orion spacecraft capable of supporting missions to the moon, asteroids and ultimately Mars.
Our history of leadership and excellence does not, however, guarantee our future success. Indeed, periods of dynamic change - as we continue to experience as a nation and around the world - pose challenges, but at the same time present opportunities. Thus far, we are happy to report that Texas is meeting the challenge and building for the future. In Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, elected officials are working on a bi-partisan basis with NASA, industry and academia to preserve our highly-skilled engineering workforce, maintain our core mission of human space exploration, and position ourselves for opportunities in commercial space and innovative technology initiatives.
The heart and soul, the past and future of the Johnson Space Center is human spaceflight, operations and exploration. The International Space Station - an extraordinary engineering feat engaging the very best efforts of 16 nations under U.S. leadership - is a centerpiece of America’s current human space program. This unique orbiting scientific laboratory, which will operate through 2020 and beyond, contributes much to improving life on Earth and advancing the goal of further exploration. In addition, NASA is focusing on the next step in exploration with the Orion and Space Launch System, which will allow humans to travel deeper into space for longer periods of time than ever before possible.
The continuing excitement space travel holds for people is reflected in the fact that NASA recently received more than 6,300 applications to compete for a mere 9-15 positions available to be filled for the next class of astronauts. Moreover, space technology and know-how continue to transform our world in health care, recreation and quality of life improvements that create jobs and opportunities in the private business sector.
The Johnson Space Center is also supporting efforts to promote commercial space initiatives that will change the way we operate in low-Earth orbit, provide cargo and crew support for the International Space Station, and complement a national program of deep-space human exploration. Companies like Boeing, SpaceX, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origins are finding ways to partner with NASA, drawing on the expertise and facilities that reside at the Johnson Space Center.
Much like continued leadership in space exploration is critical to American security and ability to compete on a global scale, collaboration in the area of commercial space development is essential to Texas given competition from other states like Florida, Alabama, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and California.
Additional complementary efforts are underway and ramping up. For example, Senate Bill 1047 approved during the 82nd legislative session added the Johnson Space Center as a state research institution to allow scientists and researchers to receive Emerging Technology funding from the Governor’s office. In addition, the Governor’s office and state legislature have teamed with Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership to create and fund the Bay Area Houston Advanced Technology Consortium that will be a major driver of space-related innovation and technology applications.
These efforts, combined with initiatives underway at the Johnson Space Center to forge new, creative partnerships with non-space sector industries to effectively leverage our space research and testing facilities - and, more importantly, our high-tech workforce - will help protect jobs and ensure a robust program of space leadership for a new generation of explorers and scientists.
Together, Texas is making it happen. We are building on our core mission capabilities and developing new opportunities and relationships with a keen eye on what it will take to continue to succeed in space in the future.