Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced on Monday that she would not be seeking a sixth term next year, bringing a 40-year Congressional career to an end and depriving NASA of one of its most powerful supporters.
Mikulski, 78, said she would rather spend the next two years working on behalf of her constituents rather than raising money and running for re-election. She has served in the Senate since 1987 following a 10-year stint representing Maryland’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mikulski is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee, which oversees NASA’s budget. She headed the Appropriations Committee from December 2012 until January 2015.
The senator has been a champion of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, which is located in Greenbelt, Md., and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. One of Goddard’s major programs is the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for launch in 2018.
Mikulski was reported to be instrumental in convincing Orbital Sciences Corporation to launch its Antares rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Wallops is managed by Goddard and the facility employs many Maryland residents.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden issued the following statement about Mikulski on Monday:
“Senator Mikulski has been a tireless champion for NASA, and has helped pave the way for future exploration and our journey to Mars.
“Her steadfast support for the Goddard Space Flight Center and its extraordinary science, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope and dozens of missions that are expanding our journey of discovery, will give current and future generations of Americans a better understanding of our world and our universe. Her candor, passion and vision will be greatly missed.
“She has inspired future generations to study science, technology, education and mathematics and helped ensure America’s continued leadership in space. We salute her service to the American people.”