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Romney Shares Nothing New About Space, Wants Advice First

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 27-Jan-2012
Updated: 27-Jan-2012 06:19 PM

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney added nothing new about his plans for the space program during a brief speech in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Romney repeated what he said during two primary debates on Monday and last night that he wants to hear advice from scientists, industrialists, defense experts and NASA before making any decisions.

Calling President Obama's space program a failure, he asserted it was time to have a "vision for a space program for the people of the United States of America."   If this was the politics of the past, he said, he would come to the Space Coast and promise billions of dollars and lay out what his mission is, "but I'm not going to do that."  Referring to his experience in the private sector, he said that before making tough decisions, work has to be done in terms of defining objectives, getting data and hypotheses to determine the choices, and only then selecting an objective and finding a leader to deliver it.  His remark about promising billions of dollars appeared to be a swipe at his rival, Newt Gingrich, who make a speech on Wednesday doing just that.

He outlined what he sees as four objectives of the space program, calling each of them a "critical priority":   the "existential" objective of understanding the universe and its effects on the Earth, such as climate or the possibility of a "catastrophic event"; commercial; the health and well-being of citizens; and defense.   Collectively, those objectives make the space program "an integral part of America's exceptionalism."

Romney paid tribute to those lost in the space shuttle Challenger tragedy, which occurred 26 years ago tomorrow.  Saying that we must not forget the sacrifices made for the space program, he told the story of visiting a Boy Scout troop in Massachusetts a couple of years ago and hearing a story about the American flag sitting in the room.    The flag had first flown above the U.S. Capitol and then the troop decided they wanted it to fly on the space shuttle.   They arranged to do that and it flew on Challenger and the scouts watched the shuttle "explode before their very eyes."  Later, the Troop Leader contacted NASA to determine if any remnants of the flag survived.   After many months, the flag was returned "in perfect condition" although some medallions that had been in the container next to it were melted and fused together.  He said "it was like electricity" when he touched the flag, thinking of the sacrifices that made been made.

Most of the rest of the speech, which lasted only about 15 minutes, was standard campaign fare.

As reported here earlier today, a letter in support of Romney was posted on the candidate's website today from a group of well known space policy veterans.  The group is led by Scott Pace, Director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, who is identified in the letter as head of Romney's space policy advisory group.   Others who signed include former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin and former astronauts Gene Cernan and Bob Crippen.


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