SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launched from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for their fourth official Commercial Resupply (CRS) mission to the orbiting lab on Sunday, September 21 at 1:52am EDT.
Photo: SpaceXPhotos | FlickrCC.

The United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology has demanded to know why NASA is not heading the investigation into a SpaceX rocket that exploded during flight before reaching the International Space Station.

SpaceX is heading that investigation internally, although NASA, the Air Force, and the Federal Aviation Administration are all involved. Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) expressed concern over NASA’s decision to investigate a similar explosion during an Orbital ATK Inc. launch several months earlier, but not to investigate the SpaceX incident.

If NASA performs like the Air Force or the FAA, they are trusting SpaceX to handle the investigation. While it would seem weird that a Republican representative not trusting a private corporation over the government, it makes more sense after some consideration.

Lamar Smith, despite being the head of a committee responsible for science funding in America, has expressed skepticism at both evolution and climate change, both of which have been proven time and time again by countless studies. He’s not the first person with questionable science credentials to head important, science related committees, and he likely won’t be the last.

It’s also worth noting that some of the 14 members of the committee represent districts with connections to United Launch Alliance, a join venture by Lockheed Martin and Boeing Corp. United Launch Alliance has already complained about SpaceX being allowed to compete for military launch contracts.

Those complaints don’t come out of a concern about SpaceX’s ability to handle the launches, as they have an incredibly strong record, but out of a concern for their profit margins. Lockheed Martin and Boeing have held a near monopoly on rocket launches in the US, and don’t want to lose them.

It’s unclear what the point of questioning NASA is in this situation, but the people doing the questioning seem, well, questionable.