Saturday evening, the Romney campaign released its space policy white paper, Securing U.S. Leadership in Space. As Obama showed on Aug. 3, 2008 when he told the Space Coast of his unwavering support for NASA’s Constellation program, hope can be an important selling point to the Space Coast, and to winning the eastern anchor of the I-4 Corridor and Florida in 2008. Compared with what President Obama has in the last four years given the space community in general and the Florida Space Coast in particular, Romney’s space policy appears downright reassuring.Unlike the President’s 2010 space policy, Romney will, as he first discussed in Florida in January, bring together experts from several disciplines to develop new goals for NASA. This point alone would differentiate in a large way a Romney Administration in developing a roadmap for NASA from that of the Obama Administration. As Neil Armstrong noted in his May 12, 2010 testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee:
“Rumors abound that neither the NASA Administrator nor the President‟s Science and Technology Advisor were knowledgeable about the plan. Lack of review normally guarantees that there will be overlooked requirements and unwelcome consequences. How could such a chain of events happen? A plan that was invisible to so many was likely contrived by a very small group in secret who persuaded the President that this was a unique opportunity to put his stamp on a new and innovative program. I believe the President was poorly advised.”
Moments after the Romney campaign released its space paper, GOP Vice-Presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan gave a space policy speech at the University of Central Florida. During his speech, Ryan noted,
“It’s important that we have a space program that has a clear mission, a space program where we know where we are heading in the future, and a space program that is the unequivocal leader.”
The Obama re-election campaign quickly responded that the Romney campaign was only pandering to the Space Coast while giving no specifics. But as Space Coast residents will recall, in early August 2008, candidate Obama came to the Space Coast to make many specific promises, very nearly all of which were subsequently broken in February 2010.
President Obama’s Promise To The Space Coast
Aug. 2, 2008, Titusville, FL
Transcript of video
All those things are just in the short term to tide people over. But we’ve got to rebuild our economy in a much more fundamental way. We’ve got to secure our long-term prosperity and strengthen our economy for the 21st Century. This is where the issue that Bill Nelson brought up is relevant. One of the areas in which we are in danger of loosing our competative edge is in science and technology, and nothing symbolizes that more than our space program.
I’ve written about this in my book. I grew up in Hawaii. And I still remember sitting on my Grandfather’s shoulders as some of the astronauts were brought-in after their capsules had landed in middle of the Pacific. I could barely see them; I was waving at an American Flag. I remember my Grandfather explaining to me this is what America is all about. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. We can do anything when we put our mind to it. And that was what the space program described, that sense of possibility, of always reaching-out to new frontiers. When I was growing-up, NASA inspired the world with achievements that we are still proud of. Today we have an Administration that sets ambitious goals for NASA without giving NASA the support it needs to reach them. As a result, NASA has had to cut-back on research and trim their program, which means that after the Space Shuttle shuts down in 2010 we are going to have to rely on Russian spacecraft to keep us in orbit.
Let me be clear…
we cannot cede our leadership in space. That’s why I will help close the gap and ensure that our space program doesn’t suffer when the Shuttle goes out of service by working with Senator Bill Nelson to add at least one additional Space Shuttle flight beyond 2010 ; by supporting continued funding for NASA; by speeding the development of the Shuttle’s successor; and by making sure that all those who work in the space industry in Florida do not lose their jobs when the Shuttle is retired – because we cannot afford to lose their expertise.
More broadly, we need a real vision for space exploration. To help formulate this vision, I’ll reestablish the National Aeronautics and Space Council so that we can develop a plan to explore the solar system – a plan that involves both human and robotic missions, and enlists both international partners and the private sector. And as America leads the world to long-term exploration of the moon, Mars, and beyond, let’s also tap NASA’s ingenuity to build the airplanes of tomorrow and to study our own planet so we can combat global climate change. Under my watch, NASA will inspire the world, make America stronger, and help grow the economy here in Florida.
Today, there is little debate within Congress that NASA is not better off today than it was four years ago. NASA people at JSC, MSFC, LaRC, and KSC all say the same thing; that NASA’s spaceflight engineering talent is slowly being disassembled.
Voters now have two visions for NASA. One that seeks to strengthen the Agency so that it can lead, with the help of the commercial space companies, the march outward from low-Earth orbit. The other will see the continued transformation of NASA into a mere contracting agency for companies whose own technical skills and understanding of human space flight do not match that of NASA circa 1964, much less today. The latter vision is one that will not get us to the Moon, asteroids, and beyond and was the reason that in 2010 Neil Armstrong came out of retirement to oppose President Obama’s vision for NASA.
[Update: Transcript of Obama "Titusville Space Speech" added with remarks.]