Patrick Murphy supports balance of government, private space program


U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Democratic candidate for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, said Friday that he supports broad but efficient development of a commercial space program and also thinks the U.S. government needs to keep pursuing space for military and intelligence support.

Murphy on Friday was the first U.S. Senate candidate this year to meet with Space Coast business leaders in a closed-door assessment of space policy and development, organized by the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, in Melbourne. He spoke with afterward. Meetings with other Senate candidates are in the works.

He said he came away impressed by the progress of commercial space, heavily funded by NASA and Florida, in helping companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, Moon Express and others establish programs.

“I was concerned after the shuttle program was lost that we would have a much different dynamic. But in fact, I think we’re actually going to be stronger going for it. A lot of those jobs have now gone to many great companies.”

Yet he also suggested commercial space must and likely would become more efficient.

“The next step is how do we work together in conjunction with them, make that public-private partnership a little bit better so its more efficient with taxpayer money,” he said.

He also expressed his believe that the government must do more than explore a long-term goal of sending astronauts to Mars, because of the urgent and rapidly evolving intelligence and military aspects of lower-Earth orbit activity.

“There’s so much of what being on the [House] Intelligence Committee has taught me, that is where so much of the global warfare is moving,” Murphy said.

He called it “an embarrassment” that NASA has had to rely on Russian rockets to ferry astronauts to and from the space station, and occasionally to take supplies there.

“There’s a national security pieces to this. There are intelligence components. The more we learn about any industry, it’s important to not have everything stovepipes, because everyone learns from each other,” Murphy said. “In commercial space, whether that’s satellite XM-radio or DirecTV, or whether that’s simply intelligence related, as Northrop-Grumman and Harris [Corp.] were here this morning, we have a lot to learn from each other.”

Murphy called for a balance of private space and government space operating, supporting each other.

He offered geo-positioning systems as an example of a government program that assists commerce. On Friday the Air Force launched a satellite that will both give the military much better GPS and time-synchronization support and provide the same for the private sector.

“Everything we do in space I believe will make us more competitive and keep us ahead of our competitors. What is that vision? National security. We talked to some of these companies, IBM and Apple; so much of what they are looking at and relying on is going to involve satellites and communications, and not just that, secure communications.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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