Cape Canaveral, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has convened a hearing titled, “Moon Landings to Mars Exploration: The Role of Small Business Innovation in America’s Space Program.”
The hearing is being live-streamed on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship’s Facebook page.
Rubio’s opening remarks as prepared are below:
Rubio: “Thank you all for being here, and thank you especially to our witnesses, and to Senator Scott and Representative Waltz, who are serving as honorary members of the Small Business Committee. 
“I would also like to welcome state Senators Tom Wright and Debbie Mayfield, and State Representative Thad Altman—who is CEO of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation, which is hosting us today.
“I am so pleased you could be here today.  
“A special thank you to the Kennedy Space Center for welcoming us.
“Today’s hearing is titled, ‘Moon Landings to Mars Exploration: The Role of Small Business Innovation in America’s Space Program’.  
“Since the 1960s, the Kennedy Space Center has served as the world’s leading human spaceflight launch center.  
“There is no place more appropriate, or more fitting, to mark the 50th anniversary of humanity’s first steps on the moon than the place from which the Apollo 11 mission launched our brave American astronauts. 
“There is also no better place to look forward to what the next fifty years of space exploration will require than here at the nation’s premier spaceport.
“This is where America launched the first human to the lunar surface, solidifying the United States’ dominance as the world leader in space achievement. 
“And there is certainly no better place to examine the critical role of small businesses in American space exploration than the State of Florida—the space capital of the world and America’s gateway to the stars.
“Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left mankind’s first steps on the moon. 
“The Apollo lunar landing, and returning the astronauts safely back to earth, was the greatest technical achievement the world had ever seen.  
“It was an astonishing testament to the spirit of American ingenuity, exploration, and courage. 
“It was also a testament to the strength of America’s commitment to national development.
“It took a nation-wide dedication to our own innovation and advancement to power an achievement as monumental as the lunar landing. 
“It took partnership between the government and private businesses, working together to build possibilities that did not previously exist.
“The shared commitment that took us to the moon is essential if we are to remain the global leader in space exploration. 
“And it is essential that America does remain the leader in space. There is a lot at stake.
“Our national security depends on American leadership in space and on continued innovation in space-based technology.
“The success of American space exploration is shared with our local communities. 
“The Kennedy Space Center alone is responsible for approximately 23,000 jobs in Florida. 
“It contributes more than $3.9 billion in total economic impact in Florida.
“When we consider aerospace in the context of national defense, the economic impact is even larger.
“Patrick Air Force Base, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Naval Ordnance Test Unit together account for over 47,000 jobs and over $5.3 Billion in total economic impact in Brevard County alone.
“Florida is a global leader in the aerospace industry, with dozens of innovative companies focused on manufacturing, commercial spaceflight, and aeronautics.  
“Finally, I believe that great nations do remarkable things.  
“My grandfather was born in 1899 in Cuba, before the airplane had even been invented. 
“In 1969, he watched an American walk on the moon.  
“He believed Americans could do anything. 
“I think he was right.
“We have an obligation to our children to ensure we are living up to that potential. 
“Getting it right is not inevitable.  
“Leading in the advanced industries of the 21st century is a necessity. 
“Innovating our way back to the moon, to Mars, and beyond must be prioritized.
“Since the last time we visited the moon, R&D spending has fallen meaningfully. 
“Our economic status quo has allowed too many advanced manufacturing jobs to depart our shores to China, and elsewhere in the world.   
“China has dedicated itself to dominating the critical industries of the 21st century – including in space. 
“We need to commit ourselves to catalyzing the kind of innovation that will maintain our technological edge and leading role in space exploration.  
“We need to commit to the big ideas that may seem impossible, but are worthy investments, much like the one made that took us to the moon fifty years ago. 
“Small businesses have always been critical to our efforts in space, and will continue to be in the future.  
“Numerous small businesses throughout the history of American space exploration have done the research and development to provide critical components that have enabled Americans to safely launch and return, to the moon and back. 
“NASA has expressed this commitment to partnerships with small and medium-sized businesses since its early days, and continues to do so now.
“I applaud NASA’s recent decision to invest more than $45 million in innovative small businesses through its Small Business Investment Research (SBIR) program.  
 “NASA also recently announced it has awarded $106 million for 142 Phase II proposals covering 28 states.  
“These awards will help develop technologies that, among other things, will help humans live on the moon and Mars.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are critical tools in strengthening the partnership between the federal government and innovative small businesses.
“These programs have been proven time and time again as impressive examples of what investment in research and development by small businesses can accomplish.
Because of these programs, firms like Made In Space, who we welcome as a witness today, has been able to pioneer the development of 3-D printers to manufacture structures in microgravity.
“The Navy found, in a study of their SBIR/STTR programs from fiscal year 2000 to 2013, that $2.3 billion in investment generated an economic output of $44.3 billion.  
“That kind of return in investment is astonishing and something that we should be encouraging as policymakers.
“The committee is currently working hard to reauthorize our nation’s Small Business Act (SBA) and modernize the programs of the SBA, including the SBIR and STTR programs.  
“Chief among these improvements is making these outstanding programs permanent in law, which will provide certainty and improve performance.
“Using the SBA to promote innovation, including in space-related technology, is indispensable if we are to return American development to where it needs to be.
“At home and in space, America’s future will be the result of ingenuity and investment of real assets – like the materials and components that small businesses have been innovating for the space program since its fledgling days.
“If an American is to be next to walk on the moon, Mars, or beyond, he or she will do so as a direct result of our investment in small businesses and technologies they can create.”