The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is relying on small businesses as it looks to the future, including returning astronauts to the moon in five years and, eventually, landing on Mars -- garnering the applause of a key committee chairman in the U.S. Senate.
Last week, NASA announced it had contracted with more than 360 small businesses in more than 40 states as part of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. NASA is planning to spend more than $45 million in those contracts.
"We are excited about the entrepreneurial, innovative ideas that these small businesses are bringing to the table,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD), last week. “The technologies show great promise in helping NASA achieve its objectives across all mission areas, including our efforts to send American astronauts to the Moon, and then on to Mars, while also providing a long-term boost to the American economy.”
NASA entered small businesses for projects involving intelligent rover wheels, spectrometers to detect intelligent life on other planets, compact solar cells, unmanned aircraft system improvements and other technology.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, applauded the contracts.
“Small businesses are the catalysts of innovation in our economy,” Rubio said on Monday. “I commend NASA for investing more than $45 million in small businesses and recognizing the limitless potential and capacity they have to support our national interests.
“I am proud to see that in my home state of Florida, eight businesses were selected to foster NASA’s efforts,” Rubio added. “The SBIR and STTR programs are critical in helping small businesses access federal research and development funding, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to strengthen these programs as we work to reauthorize the Small Business Act for the first time in nearly two decades.”