INJORepublican lawmakers have begun working to fund space exploration projects over environmental research within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on the future of NASA on Thursday morning. Two former astronauts and two other NASA experts testified before the committee.

Delivering his opening statement, Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, a former NASA astronaut, derided what he viewed as a lackluster past eight years:

“One of the key issues confronting the new Congress and the new administration will be how to go forward with restoring America’s preeminence in space after what, frankly, for nearly eight years, have been lost opportunities."

Stafford's comments align with what many Republican lawmakers argued throughout former President Barack Obama's administration. Under Obama, funding within NASA for planetary science and exploration waned while funding for the earth science program, which focuses on environmental research, grew by almost 50 percent.

Republicans, many of whom doubt the validity of concerns surrounding climate change, took issue with the move. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness, emerged as a leader in the fight to re-prioritize space exploration.

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