Thank you, Judge Carter. I appreciate you yielding a few moments on this very important issue.
Of course being from the Houston area and growing up with NASA, I have seen the success of this wonderful program. And like you and many others, as a mere child in 1969, I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon. And, of course, the first word when man landed on the Moon was "Houston," because that is where NASA was at the time and still is headquartered.
A lot has come from space travel. A lot of our technology, our electronic technology, our computer technology, scientific knowledge, medical knowledge, all has come because America went to space. And as you mentioned, Judge Carter, we did so in just a few years with the challenge laid before us by President John F. Kennedy. Back in the sixties and the seventies and even in the eighties, and before that, Americans, when determined to do something, they could do it. And that is why we went to space, because nothing was going to get in the way of America going to space and landing people on the Moon.
But for some reason, and I think political reasons, we see the end of that wonderful glorious exploration, the last frontier. America has always led in the space program except, as you mentioned, when the Russians put the first Sputnik in space. And the benefits that have been received from NASA's spaceflight have been shared all over the world, from weather satellites on.
But now, because of a change in philosophy, the administration wants to go a new direction. That direction, of course, is not to space, not to the Moon, not to using the shuttle, not to keeping manned spacecraft available for Americans to go to the space station, because when that last shuttle flight is over with, we are done. We are out of spacecraft. We have no way to go into space.
So if we want to put an American in space after that last shuttle flight is over, we are going to have to hitchhike, and we are going to have to hitchhike with our good buddies the Russians. And right now the Russians charge us to fly with them as a passenger in one of their spacecraft. It started out at $45 million, and then $50 million, and then $55 million, and now it's $60 million to go into space with the Russians. But when they get the monopoly on spaceflight, when that last shuttle has finished its flight, who's to say what they'll charge us to go into space or if they'll let us even be a passenger in one of their spacecraft.
And then you have got the Chinese over here, you know, the people we owe our lives to and our debt to. They are working on a space program as well. And now there's that little tyrant in the desert, Ahmadinejad. The Iranians are working on spaceflight. They have already sent a spacecraft into outer space. I think it carried a frog, a snake, and two turtles. But now they want to go into space.
So while other countries, not really our buddies or our friends, are moving forward in space exploration because they understand the importance of it, we are backing off. America is just waving the white flag and giving up its leadership in space. That ought not to be. And we're going to lose technology. We're going to lose the education that our scientists have because it's going to disappear. And these jobs that are going to be lost, these are good jobs. These are scientists, engineers, and they've worked on the space program for years. And now the Federal Government's coming in and saying we're going to turn all of this over to private industry.
Myself, like you, Judge Carter, I'm a capitalist. I believe in free enterprise. But the private space exploration is 10 to 20 years behind the United States NASA program. They have 10 to 20 years to catch up to right where we are now. Can we afford to give up the leadership? Some say, well, it's to save us money. It isn't going to save us any money. We're just transferring Americans' wealth to an unproven entity, and that being the private sector. Let the private sector compete, but don't subsidize those programs.
And it's unfortunate that we're seeing the demise of NASA, a self-inflicted wound by our own Federal Government. That's unfortunate, and we should not give up our space leadership to anybody for any reason. After all, it's also a national security issue.
With that, I yield back to the gentleman from Texas.
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