Ted Cruz equals catastrophe for U.S. scientific future

Earlier this month, Senator Ted Cruz was named chair of the newly renamed Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness. He is expected to be confirmed in the coming days. The subcommittee has several major responsibilities. These include deciding where to allocate money for science and overseeing several government organizations with scientific goals, most notably NASA.

This appointment led to a simultaneous cringe from much of the country, as Cruz is a noted science denier who believes in neither climate change nor government spending in general. However, while his appointment is certainly a mistake, the true disaster of it lies in Cruz’s publicly-stated goals that some consider reasons for cautious optimism.

Loudly, Cruz is in favor of giving NASA the power to explore space and establishing the United States as the world’s foremost space power, according to The Huffington Post. He constantly trumpets the need for more space exploration. He has two major policy goals in this regard. The first is that — due to America’s icy relationship with Russia — he wants to reduce reliance on Russian space stations, an aim that has more to do with politics here on earth than space itself.

Another reason is that Cruz is a senator from Texas and has always been a fighter for his home state’s interest. Texas benefits massively from the aerospace industry, home to many giants who receive large contracts from the government such as the Dallas-based Lockheed Martin Aeronautics unit. Reduced reliance on Russia would help the local industry operate at maximum efficiency since there are fewer outside barriers and international tensions.

The second policy goal is to cultivate private space exploration companies such as SpaceX. Cruz believes that these companies are good for both the efficiency of space exploration and the country’s economy as a whole.

All of this sounds encouraging, but a slightly deeper reading shows that Cruz might have an ulterior motive. Space exploration is largely apolitical, which seems to be why Cruz is so intent on it. His exact words did not mention providing additional resources to NASA in order to achieve his policy objectives; they were about focusing NASA’s goal.

That means something has to be cut out of the picture, and that thing appears to be climate change research, which NASA has been at the forefront of for a decade now.

Space is not Cruz’s only responsibility, but it seems to be his entire focus. Funneling money into a particular area of science not only fails to meet his job description, but given Cruz’s permanent battle to slash funding in all ways possible, indicates that he is actively shirking his responsibilities for political gain.

It’s always good to have a powerful advocate of space exploration fighting for money to explore space, as acquiring any sort of budget is always a battle. However, it is dangerous to confuse being an advocate of space exploration with being an advocate of NASA. Based on Cruz’s voting record and failure to champion the causes he is now in charge of, his appointment casts a gloomy shadow over the immediate future of scientific research, NASA included.