Romney: NASA Needs Clear Priorities, Not More Money
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney provided a little more information about his plans for NASA in a written response to a question posed by ScienceDebate.org. President Obama answered the same question allowing a side-by-side comparison of where the candidates stand on space.
Romney has been criticized for not expressing his position on the space program. Although he praised Neil Armstrong and the Apollo program in his acceptance speech last week, there was no hint about what he would do with the space program as President. Earlier in the campaign he complained that President Obama does not have a vision or mission for NASA and said he would turn to a group of experts from science, the commercial sector and the military to establish such a vision, but offered no specifics.
He repeated that stance In his response to the ScienceDebate.org question: "I will bring together all the stakeholders -- from NASA and other civil agencies, from the full range of national security institutions, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises -- to set goals, identify missions, and define the pathway forward."
Romney went slightly, though only slightly, further this time in sharing his views on NASA, saying that "A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. I will ensure NASA has practical and sustainable missions. There will be a balance of pragmatic and top-priority science with inspirational and groundbreaking exploration programs." He also called for international cooperation, a "robust national security space program," and revitalizing the aerospace industry.
Such general statements still offer little insight into what he would do differently from the Obama Administration if he wins the election. The two most controversial aspects of the Obama civil space policy is its reliance on the private sector to build systems to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and its choice of an asteroid as the next destination for human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit. In his response, Romney seems to support the former, saying the "travel of citizens to and from space" is a major technical achievement conveying America's power and values and "The success of private sector enterprises in achieving these objectives opens a new chapter in American leadership." He is silent on the destination question.
President Obama's answer to the same question breaks no new ground. He summarizes what he feels has been achieved during his presidency and restates his goals of sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s, as well as his commitment to earth and space science programs.
The President singles out the Mars Curiosity program for special mention not only as a symbol of American leadership, but as the source of "more than 7,000 jobs in at least 31 states." He also heralds the space program's role in inspiring kids to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and says children are "telling their moms and dads they want to be part of a Mars mission -- maybe even the first person to walk on Mars. That's inspiring."
Space was one of 14 "Top American Science Questions" asked of the two candidates. The questions were chosen from suggestions put forward by scientists, engineers and concerned citizens and vetted by about a dozen scientific and engineering societies and the National Academies. The other questions were on these topics:
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