One of the biggest problems for NASA as a government agency is that their focus on human spaceflight seemingly changes with every new president. While presidents always try to act like they have the space agency’s best interests at heart, when it comes time to make the budgets, NASA seemingly has to fight tooth and claw to just keep it at a steady level. Well, this is an election year, and now the Republicans have released the 2012 GOP Republican Platform, which, interestingly enough, actually has a section talking about America’s space program. Don’t get too excited though, it’s about what you’d expect.
America’s Future in Space: Continuing This Quest
The exploration of space has been a key part of U.S.global leadership and has supported innovation and ownership of technology. Over the last half century, in partnership with our aerospace industry, the work of NASA has helped define and strengthen our nation’s technological prowess. From building the world’s most powerful rockets to landing men on the Moon, sending robotic spacecraft throughout our solar system and beyond, building the International Space Station, and launching space-based telescopes that allow scientists to better understand our universe, NASA science and engineering have produced spectacular results. The technologies that emerged from those programs propelled our aerospace industrial base and directly benefit our national security, safety, economy, and quality of life. Through its achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.
Today, America’s leadership in space is challenged by countries eager to emulate—and surpass—NASA’s accomplishments. To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs.
Notice anything interesting in all of that? Yeah, me neither. While you have to give the Romney campaign and the GOP credit for actually mentioning space interests in their party platform (something that’s usually ignored until they are campaigning through Texas or Florida), the whole passage doesn’t tell you anything about what they would actually change or improve about America’s space program. Now, if you follow politics at all, then you know that the Romney campaign has been pretty vague about just about everything he would plan to do in the White House, so this may not be a surprise to you. Judging from Romney’s own words, though, I believe we know exactly where he stands on America’s future in space.
A lot of people wrongly blame President Obama for cancelling the space shuttle program, and he is also unfairly judged for ending the incredibly delayed, over-budget, underfunded mess that was the Constellation program. But on the other hand, the president’s supporters seem to have an overly rosy view of his part in NASA’s new direction. Obama chose a nebulous path for space exploration that would be finished well after he was out of office and has not successfully made or fought for any appreciable difference in its budget. His hands-off approach to America’s future in space has absolved him of any responsibility over what happens in the long term. These aren’t the actions of a president that has NASA’s best interests at heart.
When you are headed to the voting booth in November, please remember that neither the GOP nor the Democratic Party are America’s space party. If America’s position as one of the leaders in space is something that’s important to you, then you will have more luck sending your opinions to your representative than hoping that the next President of the United States will give the human spaceflight program the attention it deserves.