Washington, D.C. - Now that the space shuttle program is retired, lawmakers want to make sure America isn't falling behind in space exploration.
Lawmakers say the future is bright for the private commercial space flight industry.
Today at a Senate hearing Retired Astronaut Captain Michael Lopez-Alegria testified the private sector can not only save money, but work faster than the government.
"We hope that commercial space flight will bring launches, which means people, which means jobs,” Lopez-Alegria said.
In just two weeks, assembly will begin on a big rocket needed for deep space exploration.
The first test flight is set for 2014.
The State of Oklahoma has its own Space Industry Development Authority designed to foster the private commercial space industry, including its own spaceport, one of only six in the United States to be licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The spaceport is located in the tiny southwest Oklahoma town of Burns Flat and at last report was still operational, but it hasn’t had any publicized activity in recent years.