By Jenny Hottle and Clare Skelly
Jan. 6, 2016
Originally published on nasa.gov

Sen. Barbara Mikulski visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, on Jan. 6, 2016, for a ribbon cutting and town hall event with center employees.

“What I saw at Goddard, every time I visited, was people who dare, discover and are willing to risk their careers for an idea for the good of science and mankind,” Mikulski said. “It’s always been all about you.”

Goddard Center Director Chris Scolese thanked Mikulski for her unwavering support of NASA projects.

“Sen. Mikulski has been a true champion of the space program and a true champion of Goddard Space Flight Center,” Scolese said. “She has supported us over many years and over many projects.”

Since her election to the U.S. Senate in 1986, Mikulski has served on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, whose oversight includes NASA. In that role, Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the history of the U.S. Congress, has been an influential leader in space policy. She advocated for the NASA budget, championed new NASA projects and missions, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

“I believe that Hubble is one of the greatest contributions America has made to mankind,” Mikulski said. “Any rich nation can build a space telescope, but only a great nation gives its information away to the world to be used for the common heritage and betterment of mankind.”

Mikulski was at the forefront for obtaining funding for Hubble’s first servicing mission. Two decades later, she fought for the full funding of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to Hubble.

“Our next big public investment is in the James Webb Space Telescope,” the senator said. “It will continue the preeminence of the United States in astronomy for the next decades.”

Prior to the town hall meeting, Mikulski viewed the clean room where engineers and scientists are assembling the Webb telescope. Webb Telescope Project Manager Bill Ochs shared his team’s progress and upcoming milestones for the program.

Mikulski also participated in a ribbon cutting to officially open the Robotic Operations Center, where scientists will test technologies and operational procedures for science and exploration missions. While touring the facility, she saw an early version of a robotic arm that is testing the ability to grasp and refuel a satellite in orbit.

“Behind every technology is a human being that invented it, tested it and got it going. Behind every new idea there is a human,” Mikulski said. “Right here at Goddard, 9,000 people are working in a unique partnership with innovation and discovery.”

In 2016, Goddard will be involved with several launches, including the start of a three-year journey by a spacecraft to an asteroid to pluck samples, a joint astronomy mission with Japan and the next generation of geostationary Earth-observing systems.

Mikulski, whose congressional tenure began in the House of Representatives in 1977, announced last year that she plans to retire at the conclusion of her current term in 2017.

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