An artist’s conception shows Axiom Space’s commercial space station. (Axiom Space via Vimeo)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of Congress spoke to space industry leaders on Capitol Hill last week to show their support for the private sector, but both sides expressed frustrations as well.
At the sixth annual Future Space conference, U.S. Rep. Brian Babin, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on Space, spoke highly of private partnerships in space.
He referred to the promise of asteroid mining twice during his talk, which is good news for Planetary Resources, a space startup based in Redmond, Wash. But Babin also told the gathering of more than 100 space industry professionals that the federal government should be cautious about backing private ventures.
“We must ensure that any public-private partnerships don’t lead to dependence or monopoly,” he said during his opening keynote. He also said that if the government invests in a space venture that’s “not worthy,” it could corrupt the market altogether.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., also said he’s interested in space mining and gave a shout-out to the Evergreen State’s aerospace community. “We are quickly gaining a reputation as the Silicon Valley of space,” he said.
Kilmer was more effusive than Babin about public-private partnerships, but he voiced his own frustrations – about governmental gridlock rather than the private sector.
Although Congress has been generally supportive of giving NASA a bigger budget, progress has stalled in the past due to budget sequestration. “It’s Latin for ‘stupid,’ he joked.
The American Space Commerce Free Enterprise Act, introduced last month, is a step in the right direction, Kilmer said. The legislation would shift most of the federal government’s authority for overseeing commercial space activities from the Federal Aviation Administration to the Commerce Department’s Office of Space Commerce.
Kilmer said the act encourages transparent regulation for commercial space …read more