Colorado U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper will chair a new Senate subcommittee on science and space, his office announced Friday.
The newly created panel — part of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee — will oversee legislation and federal policy related to a broad portfolio covering science, technology, research and engineering.
It's a fitting post for the freshman Democrat, who worked as a geologist before helping launch Colorado's brewpub industry and later running for mayor of Denver, the lawmaker said.
And it stands to have an impact on Colorado's burgeoning, $15 billion aerospace industry, the second-largest in the country, a spokeswoman said.
“As a former geologist, I’m excited to serve as chair of the Subcommittee on Science and Space — you might even say we’re over the moon,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.
“Done properly, science helps us observe the world around us and use those observations to plan a better future. It’s a key ingredient for getting the pandemic under control and building our clean energy economy. In Colorado, our aerospace industry is one of the top economic drivers, employing around 200,000 people."
Added Hickenlooper: "If we can land on Mars, even bigger things are close at hand. Colorado will play a leading role in making those big things a reality.”
The NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance rover that landed on the surface of the Red Planet Thursday was built and operated with the help of two Colorado companies — Centennial-Based United Launch Alliance, which built the rocket that launched the mission last summer, and Jefferson County-based Lockheed Martin, which built the protective shield for the device.
Colorado's space industry counts more than 400 companies employing an estimated 200,000 people.
The subcommittee will have a hand in everything science-related, from national and civil space policy to mathematics and standards and measurements. It will have oversight duties for NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Hickenlooper's office said.
The new subcommittee is concerned with civilian space policy, not military, so won't be involved in a push by Colorado officials — including Hickenlooper and U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican — asking the Biden administration to reconsider a decision moving the permanent headquarters of U.S. Space Command from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Alabama.
Hickenlooper, who took office at the beginning of January, also sits on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Energy and Natural Resources; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.
This article has been updated to include information about Space Command.