During an Oval Office ceremony on Tuesday to sign a new spending bill for NASA, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had a novel idea.
According to The Hill, while signing the bill, President Donald Trump described an admiration for “heroic” astronauts, remarking, “It’s a pretty tough job.” President Trump then turned to Sen. Cruz, who co-authored the bill with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and added, “I don’t know, Ted, would you like to do it? I don’t think I would.”
Indicating a preference for keeping his feet planted firmly on Planet Earth, Cruz shook his head in response to the president’s question. Trump offered up the same inquiry to Sen. Rubio before concluding, “I’m not sure we want to do it.”
“You could send Congress to space,” quipped Ted Cruz.
Of course Sen. Cruz was joking, but is the idea really that absurd? Sure, blasting all 435 members of the House and 100 members of the Senate into orbit might propose some logistical problems for NASA, but the idea could have popular support—given the legislative branch’s recent approval ratings.
According to the latest Gallup poll, Congressional approval ratings are still abysmally low, hovering now at just 28%. Americans seem to hate their legislators, maybe they’d prefer them as astronauts?
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a member of Congress went to space. In 1998, the late John Glenn famously returned to space at age 77 while still a sitting senator from Ohio.
Returning to space in 1998, Sen. John Glenn became the oldest person to orbit the Earth:Image Credit: Tony Ranze/AFP/Getty Images
Before serving in the Senate, Glenn had made his name as the first man to orbit the Earth, but that didn’t stop two other legislators from going to space before Glenn’s triumphant return.
Sen. Jake Garn (R-UT) became the first member of Congress to fly in space when he served as a payload specialist in 1985. Garn had logged over 10,000 flight hours between his military service and civilian flying. He also conveniently chaired the subcommittee that set NASA’s budget, a fact that did not escape critics of his trip.
Sen. Jake Garn aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery:Image Credit: MPI/Getty Images
The third and final member of Congress to go to space was actually in the room on Tuesday alongside Sen. Cruz and President Trump.
At the time a representative for Florida’s 11th Congressional District, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) followed Garn into space in 1986, also serving as a payload specialist. President Trump joked about Sen. Nelson’s presence on Tuesday, saying, “He’s a Democrat. I wasn’t going to let him speak,” before ceding the floor to Nelson to briefly praise the benefits of the new bill.
The bill signed Tuesday appropriates $19.5 billion for NASA and adds human exploration of Mars as a goal for the space agency. According to Sen. Cruz, the bill is the first appropriations bill for NASA in seven years.
And as for Ted Cruz’s joke? Trump seemed to appreciate the joke remarking, “We could. What a great idea that could be.”