WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities as well as co-chairman of the Senate GPS Caucus, spoke on the Senate floor this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of American astronauts landing on the moon and our nation’s work towards new innovation, technology, and discovery, including in Artificial Intelligence, GPS, and STEM education.

Click here or the photo above to watch the Senator’s remarks. 

Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:

”July 20th marks the 50th anniversary of the first step man took on the moon.

“For that brief moment, all mankind stood united watching an awesome spectacle transpire few would have imagined possible just years earlier. 

“It stands as one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind.

“And it cemented the United States as the world leader in science, technology, and discovery.

“In 1961, when President Kennedy boldly challenged the nation to land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade, the technology needed to do so – for the most part – did not even exist.

“That we accomplished this monumental goal is a testament to American ingenuity and innovation.

“In fact, some of the very technology developed for the Apollo missions is still having a positive impact on the lives of Iowans a half century later.

“Our first responders wear fire-resistant textiles developed for use in Apollo space suits.

“Our communities rely on water purification technology designed for the Apollo spacecraft.

“And our soldiers in the field depend on the MREs – or meals ready to eat – created to safely feed Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins on their half-million mile journey to the moon and back.

“My daughter Libby, a cadet at West Point, was recently sharing some…let’s just say…strong opinions about MREs. Maybe she’ll feel differently when I tell her it’s astronaut food!

“But in all seriousness, when the government makes wise and sound investments in the development of emerging technology, the benefits can be tremendous.

“GPS is a great example of this, especially in Iowa.

“GPS originally has its roots in the military, with a strong Air Force stewardship. And its significance only continues to grow with the advancement of satellites and development of drones.

“But GPS has evolved beyond just military use. It impacts the everyday lives of Iowans. From driving directions in rideshare services to the electric power grid, GPS is utilized by businesses and consumers across the country.

“This important technology supports new and emerging applications – including water quality, driverless vehicles, and precision agriculture.

“It is estimated that civilian and commercial access to GPS added $90 billion in annual value to the U.S. economy in 2013!

“Examples like these demonstrate why it’s so important that this body – and our nation as a whole – continue to push the envelope when it comes to science, technology, and discovery. And that’s exactly what Senate Republicans have been doing.

“As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, I have made it a priority to ensure the United States remains the world leader in the development of Artificial Intelligence – or AI.

“From novel defensive capabilities and data analysis, to the predictive maintenance of military hardware, there’s no overstating the value of AI to our national security.

“I also fought to ensure the recent defense bill prioritized the continued development of advanced manufacturing techniques – otherwise known as 3D printing.

“Look no further than Rock Island Arsenal – which employs so many of my fellow Iowans. They’re doing some truly innovative work in this arena; work that has the potential to transform the way we supply our men and women in uniform.

“As a former company commander overseeing supply convoys into a warzone, I know personally how important this is.

“And of course, there’s a consensus on both sides of the aisle that we can do more to get our students – especially young girls – excited about futures in STEM and STEAM.

“I hope we can work together to advance that effort in the near-future.

“After all, the moon landing could have never happened without the contributions of thousands of women from across the nation.

“These unsung heroes did everything from developing Apollo’s onboard software to weaving the copper wire for the spacecraft’s guidance system.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, there will be countless commemorations and tributes to this monumental event.

“We’ll look back on President Kennedy’s bold call to action, the hundreds of thousands of hard-working American men and women who answered it, and the three heroes who rode Apollo 11 to the moon and back.

“And then, in that same spirit, we’ll turn our gaze to the future – to innovation, to technology, and to discovery.

“And be it here on Earth or out amongst the stars, the United States will continue to lead the way as we look to take that next giant leap for mankind.”