Governor Abbott launches Texas Space Commission

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Texas could be lined up as a world leader in space travel after Governor Greg Abbott unveiled the Texas Space Commission on Tuesday.

A ceremony at NASA’s Johnson Space Center included the announcement of the inaugural members of the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium (TARSEC) Executive Committee.

The expectation is that the Texas Space Commission will cement Texas’ position as a national leader in the space industry and could secure its future in space exploration and development for the next generation of Texans.

“Since its very inception, NASA’s Johnson Space Center has been home to manned spaceflight, propelling Texas as the national leader in the U.S. space program,” said Governor Abbott. “It was at Rice University where President John F. Kennedy announced that the U.S. would put a man on the moon​—​​not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Now, with the Texas Space Commission, our great state will have a group that is responsible for dreaming and achieving the next generation of human exploration in space. Texas is the launchpad for Mars, innovating the technology that will colonize humanity’s first new planet. As we look into the future of space, one thing is clear: those who reach for the stars do so from the great state of Texas. I look forward to working with the Texas Space Commission, and I thank the Texas Legislature for partnering with industry and higher education institutions to secure the future of Texas’ robust space industry.”

The Governor was joined at the announcement by Speaker Dade Phelan, Representative Greg Bonnen, Representative Dennis Paul, NASA’s Johnson Space Center Director Vanessa Wyche, and other state and aerospace industry leaders. Prior to the announcement, the Governor toured NASA’s Mission Control Center and spoke with native Texan and NASA Astronaut Loral O’Hara via International Space Station feed.

“Texas is home to trailblazers and innovators, and we have a rich history of traversing the final frontier: space,” said Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. “Texas is and will continue to be the epicenter for the space industry across the globe, and I have total confidence that my appointees to the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors and the Texas Aerospace Research and Space Economy Consortium Executive Committee will ensure the Texas space industry remains an international powerhouse for cutting-edge space innovation.”

The Texas Space Commission will work to strengthen Texas’ proven leadership in civil, commercial, and military aerospace activity by promoting innovation in the fields of space exploration and commercial aerospace opportunities, including the integration of space, aeronautics, and aviation industries into the Texas economy. The Commission is governed by a nine-member board of directors, who will also administer the legislatively created Space Exploration and Aeronautics Research Fund to provide grants to eligible entities.

The Governor, in conjunction with Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan, appointed nine members to the Texas Space Commission Board of Directors. The Governor appointed Gwen Griffin, Kathy Lueders, and John Shannon to the Board of Directors for terms set to expire January 31, 2025, January 31, 2027, and January 31, 2029, respectively. The Lieutenant Governor appointed Sarah Ann Duggleby, Kirk Shireman, and Evan Loomis, and the Speaker appointed Dr. Heather Wilson, Dr. Nancy Currie-Gregg, and Brad Morrison to the Board of Directors.

Gwen Griffin of Houston is the chief executive officer of the Griffin Communications Group. She is the executive director of Club for the Future, 2024 chair of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, and chair of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Sciences at the University of Central Florida. Additionally, she is a member of the Space Center Houston Board of Directors, Conrad Foundation Advisory Board, and trustee of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Griffin received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Central Florida.

Kathy Lueders of Brownsville is the general manager of Starbase at SpaceX. She worked at NASA for over three decades, serving in various roles such as associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, commercial crew program manager, and international space station program transportation integration manager. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineers and Space & Satellite Hall of Fame. Lueders received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Science in Industrial Engineering from New Mexico State University.

 John Shannon of Houston is the vice president of Exploration Systems at the Boeing Company, where he is responsible for all aspects of human spaceflight. Previously, he worked for NASA at the Johnson Space Center for 26 years, serving as a flight director and space shuttle program manager. He is a board member for the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration and the American Astronautical Society and member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Manned Spaceflight Operations Association. Additionally, he is an academician for the International Astronautical Federation. Shannon received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University and completed the program for management development at Harvard Business School.

Sarah “Sassie” Duggleby of Friendswood is the CEO and co-founder of Venus Aerospace Corp. She was previously a launch systems engineering and mission management consultant at Virgin Orbit. She is a girls soccer coach for the American Youth Soccer Organization and an advisor for Delta Gamma at Texas A&M University. She is also a volunteer for the children’s and youth ministries at Seacoast Grace Church, Grace Bible Church, and Northstar Church. Duggleby received a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Texas A&M University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Virginia Polytechnic University.

Kirk Shireman of Pearland is the vice president of Lunar Exploration Campaigns at Lockheed Martin. He is on the executive committee and board of directors for the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, board of directors for Space Center Houston, board of advisors for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, and board of advisors for the Texas A&M Aerospace Engineering Advisory Board. He was previously on the board of directors for the Lutheran Educational Foundation of Houston. Shireman earned a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M University.

Evan Loomis of Austin is the co-founder of ICON, a general partner in Overmatch Ventures, a founding partner of Saturn Five, a venture partner for Audere Capital LLC, and an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University. He is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations and board member of EMCJET. He is also a volunteer for Praxis Labs and a member of the Christ Church of Austin. Loomis earned a finance degree from Texas A&M University.

Heather Wilson, Ph.D., of El Paso is the president of The University of Texas at El Paso. She previously served as the secretary of the United States Air Force and as a U.S. Congresswoman for a decade. She is a member of the National Science Board and is chair of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. Dr. Wilson earned an undergraduate degree from the United States Air Force Academy and completed master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes scholar from Oxford University.

Nancy Currie-Gregg, Ph.D., of College Station is the director of the Texas A&M Space Institute. She is a former NASA astronaut and accumulated over 1,000 hours in space over the course of four missions. She also served NASA in various roles including as deputy director of engineering, chief engineer, and principal engineer. Dr. Currie-Gregg earned her Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Houston.

Brad Morrison of Boerne is the founder and CEO of Atlantis Industries. He is a member of the Boerne Kendall County Angels Network and the Texas National Security Innovation Council. He is also a former chair of the Cybersecurity Committee for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, former member of the Business Executives for National Security, former member of the Texas Business Leadership Council, and former chairman of the Texas Lyceum. Additionally, he served as business accelerator chair for the Entrepreneurs Organization and as honorary commander for the United States Air Force 67th Cyberspace Wing. Morrison earned a Bachelor of Science in Management from the United States Air Force Academy and a Master of Science in Telecommunications from Southern Methodist University.

Governor Abbott, in conjunction with Lieutenant Governor Patrick and Speaker Phelan, appointed six members to the TARSEC Executive Committee. The Governor has appointed Stephanie Murphy and Matt Ondler for terms set to expire at the pleasure of the Governor. The Lieutenant Governor has appointed Bill Weber and Jack Fischer, and the Speaker appointed Brian Freedman and Shey Sabripour for terms set to expire at the pleasure of the appointing officer. Additionally, the chancellors of Texas A&M University and The University of Texas systems and the president of Rice University named Dr. Robert Ambrose, Dr. Daniel T. Jaffe, and Dr. David Alexander to serve on the TARSEC Executive Committee.

Stephanie Murphy of Seabrook is the CEO and executive chairman of Aegis Aerospace, Inc. She is a board member of Space Center Houston and the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and member of the Women in Aerospace and Texas A&M Engineering Advisory Council. She is a board member and past president of the Aggie Women Network, former board member of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership, and former member of SBA Small Business Development Center Advisory Board at the University of Houston. Murphy received a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business and an MBA from Texas A&M University, and an executive development program certificate from Dartmouth University.

Matt Ondler of Houston is the president and former chief technology officer at Axiom Space, building the first commercial space station and the next generation space suit. He has nearly 40 years of aerospace and technology experience, including over 28 years serving at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. He is chairman of the Industry Advisory Board of the Texas A&M Multi-Disciplinary Engineering program and an annual invited speaker for the NASA Intern Programs. Previously, he served as a sponsor and advisor to FIRST Robotics, an international youth organization that operates robotics competitions. Ondler received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Colorado and an MBA from the University of Houston.

Bill Weber of Austin is the CEO of Firefly Aerospace. He is vice chairman of the board for America’s Warrior Partnership, former board director of Buchanan and Edwards, former board director of Modus eDiscovery, and former board director and advisor of Thraxos. Additionally, he is a scoutmaster, district chair, and council advisor with Boy Scouts of America, past president of Little League Baseball, and a former sponsor and advisor for Girls on the Run. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington University, St. Louis.

Jack “2fish” Fisher of Houston is vice president of production and operations at Intuitive Mechanics. He is a former NASA astronaut with over 130 days in space, including two spacewalks, and former vice commander for the United States Space Force. Additionally, he is a member of the Space Force Association and the United States Air Force Academy Association of Graduates and associate fellow for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. Fisher earned a Bachelor of Science in Astronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and a Master of Science in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Brian Freedman of Friendswood is president of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. He is the vice chairman of Wellby Financial and a board member and former chairman of the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce. He is also a former delegate for the American Council of Young Political Leaders, former board member of the North Texas Commission, former trip chairman for Citizens for Space Exploration, and former secretary and membership chairman for the National Management Association. He is also a member of the University of Houston-Clear Lake member council and volunteer for Girl Scout Troop 143176, Boy Scouts Pack 442, and the Friendswood ISD Westwood/Bales PTO. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Mississippi State University and a an MBA from Colorado State University.

Shey Sabripour is the founder and CEO of CesiumAstro, Inc. He previously worked for Lockheed Martin Space Systems for over 24 years, serving as a design engineer, technology innovator, program manager, and director of Spacecraft Design. Shey earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from North Dakota State University and other higher education degrees in electrical engineering and executive business management from institutions such as the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Carnegie Melon University, Santa Clara University, and the University of Maryland.

Robert Ambrose, Ph.D., is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University. Previously, he worked for NASA for over 20 years, holding various positions such as the division chief for Johnson Space Center and the principal technologist for NASA Headquarters. He is vice president of Industrial Activities for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Robotics and Automation Society. Ambrose earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis, and Ph.D., in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas.

Daniel T. Jaffe, Ph.D., is vice president for research, professor of the Office of the Executive Vice President, and the provost of the Department of Astronomy at The University of Texas. His work includes developing instruments and conducting observations aimed at understanding how stars and planetary systems form and evolve. He has contributed to the construction of the silicon diffractive optics for NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory and the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as several ground-based instruments. Jaffe earned his Bachelor of Arts and his Ph.D., from Harvard University.

David Alexander, Ph.D., is a professor of physics and astronomy and director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University. He is a member of the board of the American Astronomical Society, the Houston Spaceport Development Corporation, SpaceCom, Deep Space Industries, and the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. Previously, he served on the NASA Advisory Council’s Heliophysics Subcommittee, the NASA Solar Heliospheric Management and Operations Working Group, the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter Payload Committee, and the Science Advisory Board of the High-Altitude Observatory Coronal Solar Magnetism Observatory. Alexander earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the University of Glasgow, a Bachelor of Science in Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow, and a Ph.D., in Relativistic Cosmology at the University of Glasgow.

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