Gov. Greg Abbott on March 26 announced the board members of the state’s new Texas Space Commission as well as the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium.

Officials across federal, state and local agencies, as well as commercial space leaders, said they hope the new boards will help advance Texas’s aerospace industry in a variety of ways, including economically and technologically.

What you need to know

At a speaking engagement at Johnson Space Center on March 26, Abbott, along with Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Texas state Rep. Greg Bonnen and Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, announced the new members of the commission and consortium.

The commission is made up of nine members, with three being appointed by Abbott, three appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and three appointed by Phelan, according to a March 26 news release from the governor’s office.

According to a news release from Abbott’s office, the nine members are:
  • Gwen Griffin, of Houston, CEO of the Griffin Communications Group
  • Kathy Lueders, of Brownsville, general manager of Starbase at SpaceX
  • John Shannon, of Houston, vice president of Exploration Systems at the Boeing Company
  • Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby, of Friendswood, CEO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace Corporation
  • Kirk Shireman, of Pearland, vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin
  • Evan Loomis, of Austin, co-founder of ICON
  • Heather Wilson, of El Paso, president of The University of Texas at El Paso
  • Nancy Currie-Gregg, of College Station, director of the Texas A&M space institute
  • Brad Morrison, of Boerne, founder and CEO of Atlantis Industries
In addition to the commission, Abbott’s office announced the nine new members of the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium. Those individuals are:
  • Stephanie Murphy, of Seabrook, CEO and executive chair of Aegis Aerospace
  • Matt Ondler, of Houston, president and former chief technology officer at Axiom Space
  • Bill Weber, of Austin, CEO of Firefly Aerospace
  • Jack “2fish” Fisher, of Houston, vice president of production and operations at Intuitive Machines
  • Brian Freedman, of Friendswood, president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership
  • Shey Sabripour, founder and CEO of CesiumAstro Inc.
  • Robert Ambrose, professor of mechanical engineering at Texas A&M University
  • Daniel Jaffe, vice president for research, professor of the office of the executive vice president, and provost of the department of astronomy at The University of Texas
  • David Alexander, professor of physics and astronomy, and director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University
The background

The commission and consortium were created after the Texas Legislature in June 2023 approved House Bill 3447.

The bill allocated $350 million to create the commission and the consortium as well as the Space Exploration and Aeronautics Research Fund, Community Impact previously reported.

Of that $350 million, $200 million was allocated to create Texas A&M’s new space institute, which will be built at Johnson Space Center’s new Exploration Park.

The commission, as described by HB 3447, is meant to “strengthen this state’s proven leadership in civil, commercial and military aerospace activity,” and “promote innovation in the fields of space exploration and commercial aerospace opportunities” within the economy.

Abbott on March 26 called the commission a more “profound effort” to involve the state in aerospace developments.

Meanwhile, the consortium will look for research opportunities within the state as well as provide funding and research recommendations to the Texas Space Commission, according to the news release from Abbott’s office.

What they’re saying

Abbott said at the event the commission will help with workforce training, boost the economy and, among other things, be a key component of future space travel.

Abbott also challenged state colleges to create new space engineering programs, referring to it as a new “space race.”

“Texas has always been the leader in the United States space program, since its inception,” Abbott said. “Texas will be the launchpad for Mars.”

Bonnen, who was a primary sponsor of the bill, talked about the value the commission will bring.

“This is the most talented and experienced group you’re going to find when it comes to space,” Bonnen said. “It really is a great day for what we’re going to do.”

What else?

Prior to the announcement, Abbott stopped by Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control room and had a phone call with an astronaut who is in space.

The astronaut, Loral O’Hara, from Houston, is on a mission titled Expedition 70, JSC News Chief Kelly Humphries said. She is set to return April 6 after spending roughly six months on the International Space Station.

“We’re very, very proud of all that you are doing, very proud of the way that you represent the state of Texas, and we wish you a very, very safe return,” Abbott said in the phone call.