Madam Chairman, I rise to support the NASA authorization act and to thank Chairman Gordon and Representative Udall for their leadership and exceptional work on this bill.
On May 31, I experienced the thrill of attending the most recent shuttle launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As I witnessed the intense brightness of the rockets' afterburners and felt the rumble of the Earth as the shuttle lifted off, I could feel the pride and strength of American innovation and technological leadership.
I have to tell you that I was surprised at how emotional I felt watching the shuttle hurtle towards the sky, and my heart really burst with pride in the American spirit and our ability to move forward generation after generation. The continuity of the space program is critical to maintaining this leadership.
The space shuttle is scheduled to retire in just 2 years, yet a lack of funding has delayed its replacement until at least 2015. Without adequate funding, not only would we lose jobs, but we would be forced to rely on Russia to access the International Space Station.
The economic return on our investment in the space program is far greater than many realize. In fact, NASA's budget accounts for less than six-tenths of 1 percent of the Federal budget, and yet the benefits of space exploration are vital to our daily lives.
Our TVs, cell phones and computers, as well as the military and weather forecasters all rely on satellite technology developed through space exploration.
Last year, Speaker Pelosi announced ``The Speaker's Innovation Agenda,'' an action plan to keep America as the leader in global science and technology. This agenda includes educating a new generation of innovators and committing to research and development.
By supporting NASA today, we are committing to innovate, to create new opportunities and markets, to drive discovery, and to push the boundaries and limitations that are before us.
It is vital that we instill this curiosity and drive in the next generation. I know it was instilled in the next generation that I'm raising because my son announced to me after he saw the shuttle launch, he said, ``Mom, I want to be an astronaut.''
And for me, as the National Chair of the Women's High Tech Coalition and co-chair of the Young Women's Task Force, I want to express particular support for the Hodes amendment, which establishes a scholarship program in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.
The scholarships will go to women pursuing degrees in mathematics, science, and engineering, and would further support women seeking careers in fields related to NASA's mission. We really need to expand the young women's and young girls' interest in the science and mathematical fields.
As leaders and legislators, we must work to harness the talent, intellect, and entrepreneurial spirit of Americans.
I urge my colleagues to support this bill to ensure that NASA has the resources to continue to promote American competitiveness.