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Trump: "I Will Free NASA" From Being Just a LEO Space Logistics Agency

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 25-Oct-2016
Updated: 25-Oct-2016 07:51 PM

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed today to "free NASA" from serving "primarily" as a logistics agency for low Earth orbit operations.   He also supported more public private partnerships and asserted that if he wins "America and Florida will lead the way into the stars."

Trump spoke at the Orlando Sanford International Airport today.  Originally, he planned to visit Kennedy Space Center on Florida's Space Coast, but those plans changed over the weekend.  Florida Today reported that the Trump campaign concluded there was no suitable indoor venue near KSC and outdoor locations posed security risks, but Trump did, indeed, speak outdoors at the Sanford rally.  He mentioned that it was to have taken place inside an airplane hangar, but it was too small for the crowd.

The space program came up at the end of an almost hour-long speech (available on YouTube).  The following is SpacePolicyOnline.com's transcript:

"My plan also includes major investments in space exploration, also right here [in Florida].  You know what we call this place.

"Over the last 8 years, the Obama-Clinton administration has undermined our space program tremendously. That will change. So many good things come out of it, including great jobs. That will change very quickly under a Trump administration and it'll change before it’s too late.

"Did you ever see what’s going on with space, with Russia and different places?  And us?  We’re, like, we’re like watching.   Isn’t that nice? So much is learned from that, too.

"A cornerstone of my policy is we will substantially expand public private partnerships to maximize the amount of investment and funding that is available for space exploration and development.  This means launching and operating major space assets, right here, that employ thousands and spur innovation and fuel economic growth.

"I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low earth orbit activity.  Big deal.

"Instead we will refocus its mission on space exploration. Under a Trump administration, Florida and America will lead the way into the stars.  With a victory in November, everything will change.  Just think about what we can accomplish in 100 days."

His characterization of NASA as an agency whose primary mission is providing logistics to low Earth orbit (LEO) is surprising even assuming that his remarks were centered on the human spaceflight program and not NASA's many robotic spacecraft in Earth orbit and elsewhere in the solar system.   The only logistics flights to LEO associated with NASA are the commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS).   Upcoming commercial crew flights would also fit under that categorization, but it ignores the the ISS itself and the round-the-clock, round-the-year crew presence that enables scientific experiments important to future human exploration.

His embrace of public-private partnerships, rather than being at odds with the Obama Administration, is an extension of President Obama's policy, which itself built on the George W. Bush Administration's commercial cargo initiative.

Still, these are the most extensive remarks from the candidate himself.  Two campaign advisers, Robert Walker and Peter Navarro, published on op-ed in Space News last week laying out the broad strokes of a Trump civil space policy.  They followed-up this week with a second op-ed addressing national security space, asserting that Trump would follow a "peace through strength" strategy.  That includes a recognition that "many of our military needs can be met with commercially available launch, communications and observation capabilities," an approach that will reduce costs and access new advances more quickly, they stated.  "No space goals will be more important to Donald Trump than defense of our nation and that a freedom-loving people will lead the way to the heavens above."

Walker is Executive Chairman of the Wexler|Walker lobbying firm and a former member of Congress from Pennsylvania who served as chairman of what is now the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee when Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House.  He was part of Gingrich's inner circle.  Both are avid space supporters and advisers to Trump.   Navarro is a Harvard-educated economist and business professor at the University of California-Irvine.


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