America said goodbye last week to one of its great national heroes, John Glenn. For many Americans, John Glenn embodied the American spirit. Honorably serving his country as a fighter pilot in two wars, as a Navy test pilot, an astronaut and a United States Senator, John Glenn answered the call every time his nation needed him.
But what made John Glenn so special, was not his selfless service, or his steadfast commitment to America, but it was the way in which he inspired Americans to dream big. We are slowly saying goodbye to a generation of "Space Race" heroes — men like John Glenn, Alan Shephard, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong; men that inspired boys and girls to study math, science and engineering.
As war heroes, test pilots and astronauts, these men of the "Space Race" generation were never depicted as "nerds" or "outcasts" for perusing PhD’s in engineering and physics. In fact, these men were national treasures. They were made of the "right stuff" and were willing to strap a rocket on their back to expand the knowledge of mankind. America needs more exceptional men and women of great aptitude like John Glenn now more than ever. Sadly, sometime in the 1990s, going to space became routine. As a nation, we lost interest and became complacent with our pursuit of space, and as a result, America stopped admiring the brave men and women who flew into the heavens in the pursuit of science and knowledge. America appeared to no longer be exceptional; yet, we became fixated upon the distractions of music, movies, gadgets and social media. Now, the United States government has to depend on the Russians to transport our astronauts to the International Space Station. I believe it is time we refocus.
Fortunately, there is a new hope. With a new generation of visionaries like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson at the helm, Americans are taking a renewed interest in space exploration. Launches are webcast to millions of viewers around the globe who watch to see what new technological advancement will be unveiled next. Just as Glenn, Shepherd and Armstrong inspired a generation of scientists and engineers, Musk, Bezos and Branson are doing the same. And that is why it is crucial for Georgia to embrace the new Commercial Space Race. I want the next generation of inventors, dreamers and thinkers to come from Georgia. It is time for Georgia to become the next great space state.
States like Florida, Alabama and Texas prospered in the first "Space Race" due the good fortune of powerful delegations in Washington D.C. who steered NASA contracts their way. Fortunately, the new Commercial Space Race is driven by competition and free market principles, and as the best state to do business, Georgia has more to offer than any other space state.
We have the chance to write a new chapter in the ongoing saga of this great American tradition. That is why the Georgia Space Flight Act is so important. This policy will give Georgia the chance it needs to compete in the new Space Race. Georgia must show the space industry that we are open for business.
In the upcoming 2017 legislation session, I will be working diligently to pass common sense legislation that would provide Georgia with the necessary tools to compete for commercial space jobs. Spaceport Camden is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we cannot squander it. John Glenn had the courage to ride atop a modified Atlas missile to become the first American to orbit the earth; the Georgia General Assembly ought to be able to find the courage to pass simple legislation to encourage spaceflight in Georgia.
Let us continue to reach for knowledge and push the boundaries of human achievement with the new Space Race that is now upon us. Georgia can be a leader in this new human endeavor and inspire the next generation of exceptional American space heroes.