The Battle for the Space Vote

Remember a few months ago when “space” seemed to be a non-issue for the candidates in this year’s US presidential election? But now space seems to be a hot topic. John McCain was in Florida today where he met with 20 leaders from the space industry for a roundtable discussion, and Barack Obama was in Florida last week, to stump for votes. Perhaps both candidates are recalling the 2000 presidential election that hinged on the Florida vote. Hanging chads aside, an important issue in Florida these days is the projected job losses that will be incurred in the gap after the space shuttle is retired in 2010 and before the Constellation program makes its first flights in about 2015, and both candidates have met with members of NASA’s workforce and other NASA officials to discuss this issue. Also, both McCain and Obama recently updated their positions on their space-related agendas on their websites, with both devoting quite a bit of “space” to space.

If you’re still undecided, or haven’t seen the candidate’s latest views on space, take a look at Barack Obama’s position paper on space and John McCain’s space policy statement. If that’s too much reading for you, the folks at Florida have outlined the major points of each candidate’s space policies:
• Major points of Obama’s space policy:

1. Re-enacting the National Aeronautics and Space Council to oversee and coordinate the civilian, commercial and military space programs and report to the president.
2. Closing the gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the introduction of its successor through adding another Shuttle flight, accelerating the development of the next generation vehicle, and working with the industry to retain our workforce and technical capabilities.
3. Completing and enhancing the International Space Station so it can host the innovative scientific and technological research projects it was intended to facilitate.
4. Embracing human and robotic space exploration with a goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.
5. Emphasizing NASA’s research function to study climate change and advance aeronautics research.
6. Expanding public/private partnerships to develop cutting-edge technologies.
7. Inspiring the next generation through expanded education programs.

Major points of McCain’s space policy:

1. Ensure that space exploration is top priority and that the U.S. remains a leader.
2. Commit to funding the NASA Constellation program to ensure it has the resources it needs to begin a new era of human space exploration.
3. Review and explore all options to ensure U.S. access to space by minimizing the gap between the termination of the Space Shuttle and the availability of its replacement vehicle.
4. Ensure the national space workforce is maintained and fully utilized; Complete construction of the ISS National Laboratory.
5. Seek to maximize the research capability and commercialization possibilities of the ISS National Laboratory.
6. Maintain infrastructure investments in Earth-monitoring satellites and support systems.
a. Seek to maintain the nation’s space infrastructure.
7. Prevent wasteful earmarks from diverting precious resources from critical scientific research.
8. Ensure adequate investments in aeronautics research.

News Sources: Florida Today

16 Replies to “The Battle for the Space Vote”

  1. With space technology being the most important thing we can develop, why do space industries get pandered to last?

    A few months ago Obama was converting rockets into children’s books and McCain couldn’t find the space coast on a map.

    Now they both want us to believe they are astro-nuts?

  2. I suspect that history will be a good guide here. The European powers didn’t agressively explore the new world until one country laid claim to a significant amount of resources – and then Spain controlled virtually half of the entire new world.

  3. Andrew:
    That is a good point to make. The gold rush for space tourism money that came in the wake of Spaceship one hints that what your saying is true.

    The problem I see is NASA has become a new friend to both campaigns now that its apparent Floridian votes are at stake, and not because of the wish to conquer space or make a few bucks off of space based industry.

    This sounds more like a Clintonian space program where we promise the sky, then let it all slip away when no one is watching.
    How do we know these new promises represent a renewed zeal for exploration rather than a shallow attempt to buy votes?

  4. I agree with all of the above comments.

    Indeed, how do we know that the space exploration aspects of their campaigns are not just facades to get votes? I really do think that we (humanity) should concentrate on space exploration more so then we do now, it should really supersede anything else as it is our ‘light in the dark’, to survive we need to expand, to expand we need an excellent (space council renewal?) space program/s that are not hampered because they’re not getting enough funding and authorization. And what’s up with the gap… why > ‘nothing to worry about, we’ll have a five or so year break’  I’m baffled; some politicians just care more about money and votes then anything else. America needs to not rely so much on foreign countries (Russia etc) and give NASA the funds and authorization they need. I hope Orion gets up and running soon.

    Let’s just hope that they are sincere in their statements.

  5. I am actually quite excited that both candidates are focusing on space.

    While the focus may not be 100 percent on target, we can at least help guide them to some “hard” reasons for settling the Moon (or at least going there) by citing energy concerns (helium-3, and perhaps solar power satellites).

  6. Leaders hardly listen to their people, so we can only but try our utmost best to steer them towards the soon experimentation and use of helium 3 and solar power satellites 🙂 The Orion project needs more funding so that there is little to no gap and NASA should retract their involvement in the ISS, get compensation for their part and make their own space station.

  7. I live in Florida and I work at the Space Center. I can tell you that many of us feel that once the election is over, the winning candidate will be saying, “Florida? I never heard of Florida. What’s a space program?”

    NASA needs a steady budget that they can count on. I would love to see Congress give NASA a 10 year budget that adequately covers both programs and helps close the gap. That way NASA can concentrate on its tasks instead of worrying about next year’s budget and next year’s election.

    Be safe and well.

  8. I don’t want to see either candidate making promises on what it will do with any space program. I want them to provide funding, allow for oversight, perhaps create challenges, but not interfere too greatly. Allow the professionals to decide what and how.
    When a polictician starts talking like they know the business, I’m going to wonder about them.

  9. Its really simple.

    1. Obama – Fund Space Program
    2. McCain – Not Fund Space Program.

    If you want NASA to last another 4 maybe 8 years vote Obama. If you want Nasa to crumble and fall vote McCain.

    Neoconservatives will preach tax and spend but in the case of Nasa its a worth while investment if you ask me.

  10. Not just Florida votes, the Phoenix Mars Lander has generated considerable interest in space exploration. Even my 8 year old granddaughter suggests diverting our global warming emissions to terraform Mars.

    Obama states the importance of vision to motivate and captivate youth toward building a better future — he actually
    mentions the link between education and exploration.

    McCain’s vision seems to dovetail on the current administration’s — short-sighted.

  11. Personally, I admire that spaceflight is so deeply rooted in the U.S., that even the two presidential candidate can’t avoid to court for voters with space-related issues. Not only that the U.S. space industries are a firm part of the economy with ten thousands of jobs. The space program also gives American citizens inspiration and dreams, that Germans have to miss.

    Im Germany I have never noticed that during any election campaign any party tried to score with propaganda for robotic or manned spaceflight. The German voter’s attitude toward high-tech today is sorts of “no thank’s”. Scepticism is a big deal for Germans. Of course we have big dreams of a just world and social benefits for all and everyone. But instead of dreams that put one’s heart and soul in it there is nebulous rhetoric like “education for everybody” (“Bildung für alle”) although Germany has an all-encompassing educational system since decades.

    I guess that especially those among the Germans who are politically left and do admire Obama while normally being notoriously hypercritical against the U.S., do not a bit understand what his space policy is about.

  12. The number one issue facing manned space exploration must be the gap between the retirement of the Shuttle and the commencement of Constellation missions. While the effort to cooperate with foreign space programs during this lapse is commendable, it is not exactly reliable. The recent spat between Washington and Moscow over the status of Georgia’s seperatist provinces illustrates this. Also, it seems irresponsible on the part of the Bush Administration to put the space industry and its workers in this position. Aren’t they supposed to be protecting American jobs and industry?

    P.S. I will be slightly embarrased if we don’t get back to the Moon anytime soon!

  13. Couldn’t you use equally flattering photos of the two candidates? Or failing that, equally unflattering photos?

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