On Thursday Elon tweeted a link to a Senate subcommittee hearing on the future of space exploration. I don't believe it received much attention, but it could have a significant impact the future of manned spaceflight. Reopening the American Frontier: Promoting Partnerships Between Commercial Space and the U.S. Government to Advance Exploration and Settlement From the website there is a pdf file available to read the testimony given by a SpaceX VP Tim Hughes. His statement is a bit lengthy, but I believe there are a couple of points that cover new ground for SpaceX. Hughes first discusses the success of the COTS program, noting the leadership role SpaceX has taken in reducing costs, thereby saving taxpayer money. Page 7 is where it gets interesting. Hughes proposes a "COTS-like program", whereby NASA contributes a portion of the funds for commercial businesses like SpaceX to develop and compete for deep space exploration projects. He argues that in parallel with NASA's own efforts, public-private partnerships would increase the likelihood of achieving success. A new wrinkle for SpaceX is their receptiveness to the idea of returning to the lunar surface before Mars. From Hughes, "A permanent human presence on the Moon presents humanity’s next obvious foothold outside of Earth. However, rather than look back to the Moon alone, the United States should also lead the world to the next great destination: Mars." He adds, "A Moon-Mars initiative that leverages the strengths of the U.S. government and the strengths of the private sector and invests in America’s workforce will create new, high-paying American jobs in dozens of states—but most importantly, it will move the Nation’s space exploration goals meaningfully forward." And for good measure, "To run in parallel with existing programs and increase the probability of success of establishing initial human presence on the Moon or Mars within the next in eight years to ten years, NASA could build upon the already demonstrated successful COTS model" A few thoughts to ponder. Will this lobbying effort by SpaceX turn out to be effective? If Congress and NASA act on this proposal might it sooner derail the STS/Orion program? Also, perhaps building a bridge to some public funding will answer the critics who don't believe that SpaceX can go it alone in an effort to colonize Mars. Coming from the Apollo era I'm a bit biased, but if this proposal helps get us to Mars quicker, then I'm all in.