US Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona believes space exploration remains vital for country

May 20, 2023, 7:15 AM

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)...

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona is understandably biased when it comes to space exploration, but it’s a venture he believes needs to continue.

Kelly, a former astronaut, said the industry provides “a big return on that investment,” a selling point as the country prepares for its first moon crew in 50 years.

“We get that money back into our economy,” Kelly told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Friday. “We lead the world in aerospace exploration and technology.”

Kelly said the return on investment comes from job creation for the space program.

Kelly, also a former Navy pilot, was a NASA astronaut from 1996 to 2011 and is a recent inductee into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

He completed four Space Shuttle missions, two as a pilot and two as a commander.

“That money isn’t spent in space, it’s spent here on Earth and we grow industries that creates hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs that you can actually raise a family on,” Kelly said.

Space fans will have to wait a bit to see the next astronauts, who Kelly met with earlier this week, launch away from Earth.

The moon crew will launch from atop a Space Launch System rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November 2024.

The four astronauts will be the first to fly NASA’s Orion capsule. They will not land or even go into lunar orbit, but rather fly around the moon and head straight back to Earth, a prelude to a lunar landing by two others a year later.

The mission’s commander, Reid Wiseman, will be joined by Victor Glover, an African American naval aviator; Christina Koch, who holds the world record for the longest spaceflight by a woman; and Canada’s Jeremy Hansen, a former fighter pilot and the crew’s lone space rookie. Wiseman, Glover and Koch have all lived on the International Space Station. All four are in their 40s.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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US Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona believes space exploration remains vital for country