Obama On Space Coast Today Spends Little Time Talking Space
Anyone anticipating that President Obama's visit to the Space Coast of Florida today signaled renewed presidential interest in the space program would have been disappointed today. Though he did mention NASA, it was a tiny part of his half hour speech.
The President spoke in Melbourne, FL, just south of NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), which is trying to reinvent itself with the end of the space shuttle program, a shift to commercial spaceflight for trips to low Earth orbit, and a long wait for launches of NASA's new Space Launch System. KSC is the poster child for the reinvention of the nation's human spaceflight program under President Obama. Fans of the President's policies believe human spaceflight to LEO will cost less and be available to many more people. Critics complain that America has lost its leadership in space and many high tech jobs as a result.
Stumping along the Space Coast could have been an opportunity for the President to clarify his policies and build support for them, but he did so only to a small extent. Florida Today has posted a video of his entire speech. Beginning at about minute 12:08, the President, after talking about reinventing a dying auto industry, says --
"Here on the Space Coast we started a new era of American exploration that is creating good jobs right here in this county. We've begun an ambitious new direction for NASA by laying the groundwork for 21st century spaceflight and innovation and just last month we witnessed an incredible achievement that speaks to the nation's sense of wonder and our can do spirit -- the United States of America landing Curiosity on Mars. (applause) So this is an example of what we do when we combine our science, our research, our ability to commercialize, new products, making them here in America. So this is where we've got a choice."
He goes on to criticize Republican plans to cut back on research and technology and says "instead we can be at the cutting edge ... spark new discoveries, launch new careers, inspire the next generation to reach for something better. You've got that choice."
With that he returns to the theme of making products in America, jobs, and the full gamut of issues in this campaign.
Perhaps the real significance of his speech is highlighting that the space program simply is not a compelling political issue. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney similarly is saying little about his plans for NASA or any other aspect of the nation's space program.
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