Bill Nelson says SpaceX launch is the next step on getting humans to Mars
By Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald
Feb 7, 2018
Sen. Bill Nelson, the only member of Congress who has been to space, was giddy after SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket successfully launched a red Tesla Roadster towards Mars on Tuesday.
He had his entire staff watch the launch on TV and then walked to the Senate floor to inform his colleagues.
"The largest rocket since the moon program, the Saturn V, launched from the Kennedy Space Center today," Nelson said. "The test launch of the Falcon Heavy is a spectacular demonstration of the comeback of Florida’s Space Coast and of the U.S. commercial launch sector, which is succeeding in a big way. That’s good news for the civil space program. It's good news for national security. It's good news for employment in the U.S. and it's great news for jobs and the economy."
Nelson hurdled into space 32 years ago from the same launch pad in Cape Canaveral that SpaceX used on Tuesday.
"The icing on the top of the cake was the two boosters coming and simultaneously landing a hundred yards apart on two landing pads on Cape Canaveral air force station," Nelson said.
Nelson is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over the nation's space program. He said Tuesday's launch is a big step for future exploration of Mars.
"By all means when we launch in a year in a half, Americans on American rockets, that will rivet the attention of the entire country and that will help enormously as people start to focus that we're serious about this, taking humans all the way to Mars and returning them safely," Nelson said, referencing the NASA plan to get humans on Mars by the 2030s.
NASA still doesn't have a permanent director after Nelson and other Democrats, along with a few Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio, voiced concerns over Trump's pick to run the agency, Oklahoma Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine's Senate confirmation is currently in limbo, though Trump did renominate Bridenstine after his nomination expired at the end of last year.