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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are ready to fight for government money to fund space exploration projects in their districts as the space tourism industry gains momentum.

Why it matters: The recent launches by Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have Americans looking skyward again. Lawmakers are hoping to take advantage of it by raising awareness of potential space projects in districts outside Houston and Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is arguing his Long Island district is ripe for space research and development.

  • All of the Apollo program's lunar modules were built at Grumman's famed Bethpage plant on Long Island.
  • The F-14 fighter jet, flown by Tom Cruise's character in the movie "Top Gun," was built nearby at Grumman's plant in Calverton.

Suozzi believes Bezos and Branson's successes were rooted in ideas developed through government seed money and research in rocketry and space.

  • He's hoping for new research grants and projects in his district to propel the next best idea — which he believes is a broadening of space tourism.
  • Business leaders in Suozzi's district are pushing for billionaires like Branson and Elon Musk to consider the area for additional development.

Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Texas), who represents the Austin, Texas, capital area, also said he’s heard from people in his district interested in opportunities that might come from space tourism.

  • “I’ve been a big advocate for NASA’s collaboration with the private sector,” he told Axios.

Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) said he'd "be open" to creating a government subsidy for space research by private industry, though he's not convinced it's necessary. He sits on the House Appropriations subcommittee overseeing NASA.

  • "I don’t know if it’s No. 1 on my agenda," he added. "The people who are funding it now seem pretty well-off.”

Thought bubble: Space tourism won't necessarily be a huge driver of money for the broader space industry, which includes satellite launches and trips to the International Space Station, the moon, Mars and beyond.

  • That said, the flights by Branson and Bezos and others like them can help bring more visibility to this industry on the rise, attracting new talent and interest from the public, writes Axios' space reporter Miriam Kramer.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 13, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches William Shatner, 3 others to space

The crew of NS-18, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, with CrewMember 7 Sarah Knights. Photo Courtesy of Blue Origin.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully flew William Shatner — Captain Kirk himself from "Star Trek" — and three other astronauts to space for its second human mission on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch was another step toward proving the company can safely launch people to suborbital space and bring them back to Earth.

11 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.