The beginning of the 2008 U.S. Presidential Primaries is now only three days away (Iowa on January 3, 2008), yet one topic we have heard almost nothing about is that of space exploration. Based on an extensive content review I have just completed — examining the candidates’ official campaign websites, published speeches and public comments — the topic of space exploration rarely comes up, and it is even more rare for a candidate to have stated any sort of formal position.
Based on campaign websites and published speeches, here are the candidates’ positions and viewpoints on space exploration (listed alphabetically by party)
Democratic Presidential Candidates:
(For Republican Candidates, click here.)
Senator Joe Biden - Biden’s campaign website states no formal position, opinions or viewpoint regarding space exploration. All Biden’s speech references to outer space, stretching from 2001 to the present, appear to be tied to “the weaponization of outer space” (toward which Biden repeatedly states his opposition).
Immediately following the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire on September 26, 2007, an audience member asked several candidates the question, “What is your vision for America’s space program?” Biden responded, “I like the robotic programs.” The audience member then asked Biden, “How about the manned missions?” to which Biden replied, â“With clear leadership we can do anything, good luck.”
Senator Hillary Clinton - Clinton’s campaign website details her vision for “enhancing American leadership in space through investments in exploration, earth sciences, and aeronautics research.” A press release issued on October 4, 2007, the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, states that Clinton will enhance Americas space leadership by:
- “Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities.”
- “Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, including full funding for NASA’s Earth Sciences program and a space-based Climate Change Initiative that will help us secure the scientific knowledge we need to combat global warming.”
- “Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA’s and FAA’s aeronautics R&D budget.”
In a follow-up interview published in The New York Times on October 5, 2007, Clinton said that “in the short term she would subordinate Bush administration proposals for human exploration of the Moon and Mars to restoring cuts in aeronautics research and space-based studies of climate change and other earth science issues. Travel to the Moon or Mars ‘excites people,’ she said, ‘but I am more focused on nearer-term goals I think are achievable.’ ”
During her campaign speeches, Clinton has told the story of how, “As an eighth grader I was captivated by space-travel,” and that she even, “wrote to NASA asking how to apply to be an astronaut.” (According to Clinton, NASA replied to her that astronaut positions weren’t open to women.)
Senator Christopher Dodd - Dodd’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars. A search of Dodd’s published speeches also found no references.
Immediately following the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire on September 26, 2007, an audience member asked several candidates the question, “What is your vision for America’s space program?” Dodd responded, “I think we’re doing okay — thanks a lot for the question.”
Former Senator John Edwards - Although the topic of space exploration pops up occasionally in the blog on Edwards’ campaign website (usually tangentially in connection with historical references or related science topics such as Earth-monitoring satellites), the main website provides no official position or viewpoint from John Edwards on the topic. In a July 2007 interview with ScienceBlogs, however, Edwards said:
“I am a strong supporter of our space program. It reflects the best of the American spirit of optimism, discovery and progress. We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several. And we need to invite other countries to share in a meaningful way in both the adventure and the cost of space exploration.”
Former Senator Mike Gravel - Gavel’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars. A search of Gravel’s published speeches and public comments also found no references.
U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich - Kucinich’s Presidential campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars. His 2006 Congressional campaign website, however, has a detailed position statement on space exploration. Kucinich states:
“As a member of the generation that came of age watching the first humans soar into the outer reaches of our atmosphere, then to Earth orbit, and then to the moon, I am keenly interested in continuing the peaceful exploration of space ... I believe that one of the best investments we could make for the future of America would be to triple the budget for NASA. The current budget for NASA is far from adequate ... Initiatives such as designing new spacecraft, inventing new propulsion systems, and planning international missions into space will help to renew national interest in NASA and its programs. Like hundreds of millions of people worldwide, I stood in awe of the remarkable pictures beaming back to earth from NASA’s Mars Rover, Spirit. We should promote a bold and sustained human space flight initiative of scientific exploration that will build on the amazing accomplishments we have already seen.”
Immediately following the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire on September 26, 2007, an audience member asked several candidates the question, “What is your vision for America’s space program?” Kucinich responded, “I think we should double spending across the board on civilian projects and privatize where we can.” The audience member then asked Kucinich, “How about the manned programs?” to which Kucinich replied, “I would double that too, I think we can do much better than we are. By the way Glen Research Center is in my district. Did you know that?”
Senator Barack Obama - Obama’s campaign website doesn’t appear to contain a position on space exploration. (Note: At the present time, the links to the “Technology and Innovation” Issues page on the Obama campaign website all are broken. It cannot be determined whether that page contains any information regarding Obama’s stand on space exploration.) Obama’s speeches frequently reference the 1969 moon landing as one of America’s great accomplishments (i.e., “We are a land of moon shots and miracles of science and technology ...”), but those references are almost always part of a larger context describing how America should tackle current environmental and energy issues.
In October 2007, according to Wired, Obama told a representative of the Mars Society, “I’m inspired by the idea of going to Mars. I’m also mindful of the budgetary constraints. So I won’t give you an answer right now.” As part of Obama’s Education Plan released on November 20, 2007, he proposed delaying NASA’s Constellation program (the flight system intended to replace the space shuttle) for five years in order to fund his $18 billion Education Plan. Obama said at that time, “We’re not going to have the engineers and the scientists to continue space exploration if we don’t have kids who are able to read, write and compute.”
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson - Richardson’s campaign website doesn’t contain a position on space exploration. Similar to Barack Obama, Richardson’s speeches frequently reference the moon landing as one of America’s great accomplishments (i.e., “We landed a man on the moon. We have beaten back fascism and Communism ...”), when evoking the approach he believes America should use to tackle current large issues.
As the Governor of New Mexico, Richardson has been a very visible supporter of Spaceport America, the private spaceflight center currently under construction in his state. According to a May 2007 article in Space News, Richardson told about 50 space professionals at one of his campaign fundraisers that he would use Spaceport America as a model of the national-level projects he would enact as president, and that he sees space as “a bona fide area of economic growth and opportunity.”
Immediately following the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire on September 26, 2007, an audience member asked several candidates the question, “What is your vision for America’s space program?” Richardson responded, “It’s important. We need it for the health of the nation and I want more Apollo style projects and not just for space. I think we should also encourage private companies. We have a great program like that in New Mexico.”
Republican Presidential Candidates:
(For Democratic Candidates, click here.)
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani - Giuliani’s campaign website contains contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars.
In interview with Giuliani published on April 5, 2007, the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper stated, “he (Giuliani) said he supported continuing to aggressively pursue space exploration.”
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee - Huckabee’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars (although the question is raised several times on the website’s blog).
During the CNN/YouTube Republican debate in St. Petersburg, Florida on November 28, 2007, Steve Nielson from Denver asked candidates Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo (who has since dropped out of the race), “is there a candidate amongst you willing to take a pledge on behalf of the Mars Society of sending an American to the surface of Mars by 2020? If not, what is your vision for human space exploration?” Huckabee replied:
“Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make, but I would certainly want to make sure that we expand the space program, because every one of us who are sitting here tonight have our lives dramatically improved because there was a space program — whether it’s these screens that we see or the incredible electronics that we use, including the GPS systems that got many of you to this arena tonight.”
“Some of you were late because you didn’t have one, by the way. Or whether it’s the medical technologies that saved many of our lives or the lives or our families, it’s the direct result of the space program, and we need to put more money into science and technology and exploration. Now, whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what: If we do, I’ve got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket to Mars.”
U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter - Hunter’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars.
Senator John McCain - McCain’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars.
Sen. John McCain, speaking in Florida back in February, said he “strongly supports” missions to Mars and Florida’s role in space exploration, noting the “infrastructure that’s very expensive and very extensive there.”
U.S. Representative Ron Paul - Paul’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars.
Although Paul’s recent speeches haven’t touched on the topic, he spoke out against NASA and space exploration in general several times during his 1998 presidential campaign as the Libertarian candidate. “NASA has cost our nation a full twenty years in space development, twenty years that has seen the Soviet Union surpass us to an extent that may well be irreparable,” Paul states in a position paper from that 1988 campaign. “It is inconceivable that a private firm could have committed such follies and survived. NASA deserves no better.”
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney - Romney’s campaign website doesn’t contain a position on space exploration. Similar to several others, Romney’s speeches frequently reference the moon landing as one of America’s great accomplishments (i.e., “... to be our generation’s equivalent of the Manhattan Project or the Moon mission ...”), when evoking the approach he believes America should use to tackle energy issues.
Romney, speaking in early August on Florida’s Space Coast, provided a tepid endorsement of space exploration, saying that he hadn’t decided if he would continue the Bush Vision for Space Exploration plan if elected, but “I have no reason to change that at this point.”
Former Senator Fred Thompson - Thompson’s campaign website contains no policy references to space exploration, America’s space program, NASA, or manned missions to the moon or Mars.
Back in late November, Marc Kaufman from the Washington Post also looked into the candidates’ views on space exploration and found a similar lack of information. (Read Kaufman’s original article, reprinted on the Houston Chronicle website.) At that time, there was even less information from the candidates about their respective stands on space exploration.
Although KaBlog normally doesn’t cover politics, I believe it is important for American voters to know where each of the candidates stands those key issues that are discussed in this blog, including space exploration. Let me know if you found this (somewhat longwinded) overview of the candidates’ viewpoints to be informative and/or helpful.
Finally, I’ve send inquiries to all of the current candidates for both major political parties asking for clarification and additional details about their respective stands on human and robotic space missions, NASA’s current Constellation program with it Moon/Mars objectives, and the role they believe the government has in future space missions. I’ll share any responses I receive, so watch for follow-up posts on this topic.