Campaign '04

SpaceShipOne, Kerry, and Bush

An unlikely trio, no? On Monday Kerry kicked off what he said would be a week of focusing on “his plan to make the American economy stronger at home through scientific discovery, technology and innovation” with a speech in Denver. Kerry claimed that the current administration has politicized science (the campaign also issued a letter signed by 48 Nobel laureates endorsing that claim) and that a Kerry Administration “will put America back on the path of scientific excellence with a commitment to scientific research based on fact.” The response from Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt: “Only John Kerry would declare the country to be in scientific decline on a day when the country’s first privately funded space trip is successfully completed.” Critics, I think, would argue that SpaceShipOne has little to do with science per se, but it was an interesting comeback.

While the Kerry press release didn’t mention space specifically, it did note that a President Kerry “turn to our nation’s scientific leaders and make decisions based on expert advice.” This should sound familiar: he has previously said that he would “work with the best scientists” to determine in what direction NASA should proceed. Kerry plans more announcements “in the coming days” on science and technology policy, so perhaps he will share some more specifics.

11 comments to SpaceShipOne, Kerry, and Bush

  • John Malkin

    It’s scary that the best hope of us finally going some place other than low ear orbit happens during and election year. The CAIB was the commission to recommend a long term space goal from the president and congress for NASA.

    I find it interesting that Kerry keeps talking about scientist and he didn’t mention the private sector. Doesn’t the private sector have anything to say about it? I know this isn’t really coming from Kerry but who ever is in charge of science in his campaign. Does anyone know who it is? By the way these 48 noble prize winners are unbiased? Yea right…

  • It’s just like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when you see the Ark disappear into the endless government warehouse, and the government people assure Indiana Jones that they will be putting their top men on the task of studying it.


    “Top. Men.”

    That’s how Kerry will do it. He’ll have top men–the best scientists in the country (on a subject for which science is a peripheral issue).

  • Perry A. Noriega

    Further proof, if any is needed, of the disconnect between the Democratic Party and real spaceflight objectives and goals. It reminds me of Khruschev wanting ever more spectacular space achievements, to make the Kremlin, the Communist Party, and himself look good, and forget space, much less science, for the “common good”.

    Science spending and space have, at best, a peripheral connection with each other. Science was not, is not, and will never be a prime reason to go into space and conduct operations there. At best, it is the prime mover, or more commonly, is along for the ride, but not a driver. And scienctific investigations in space are not going to excite the public and get the common man and woman into space in a big way for any reason.

    People who care about the future of space, Bush’s Vision for the same, and real change in space programs and progress should wake up, smell the coffee, and look at the half a loaf Kerry and his advisors are preparing to deliver up to the space community. And those who care about private and commercial space ventures should likewise take notice, be aware the Democratic party outside of a specific district or space state really doesn’t care about space policy or programs, much less the common man and woman getting into space for reasons that seem good to them, and vote accordingly come election day in November.

  • John Malkin is absolutely right about the private sector. The concept of private space enterprise is still an alien concept for most, including our supposed leadership.

    I’m getting tired of space being equated with science and technology. Space is the geocentric term describing all things beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Space includes all possible types of commercial, civil, military, and communal activity and should be approached as such. Though it’s a cliche, space should be regarded as a frontier into which we will bring all that we are and evolve into something more.

    Space activities deserve the attention of the President via a Senior Space Policy Advisor.

  • Yes, I think that it would be a very good idea to separate the function of space policy advisor from the president’s Science Advisor, a role that’s more simply a (bad) tradition than rational.

  • I believe Kerry was speaking more to the topic of stem cell research. This was a reaction to the death of Reagan and the dogma of religion that keeps stem cell research from proceeding. I’m a huge advocate of private space travel, but I’d rather have cures or even better treatments for Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease, etc…

  • Dwayne A. Day

    AxsDeny wrote:
    “I believe Kerry was speaking more to the topic of stem cell research.”

    Actually, it was probably broader than that. I think we have to consider the context and subtext and, well, the ubertext in these comments. First, we have to keep in mind that any opportunity to speak on a subject is primarily viewed by a campain as an opportunity to take shots at the other candidate. So whatever Bush is for, Kerry is against it. Second, it is doubtful that Kerry actually thought about or wrote about this stuff all that much. He has somebody on his staff that handles this stuff and figures out what Kerry should think and then Kerry decides if he agrees with it. The bigger context is that there have been claims in the scientific community that Bush has ignored scientific advice that does not suit his administration, particularly on environmental issues. This has been covered in both the Washington Post and New York Times. If I remember the Post articles correctly, their primary conclusion was that it is, well, complicated. The critics do have a point, but the issue is pretty complex and not as clear-cut as they claim. So when Kerry talks about “good science” this is really a reference to the larger debate about how the current administration uses or does not use science.

    There is also another bit of context here, which is that Marburger is known to not have much influence with the White House. He cannot get time to meet with the president. This is viewed by other scientists as an indication that the White House is uninterested in science issues.

    Mr. Smith wrote:
    “Space activities deserve the attention of the President via a Senior Space Policy Advisor.”

    See my article on The Space Review website about the proposal for recreating the space council:

    The problem with creating a senior space policy advisor or a space council is that this only makes sense if the president _wants_ such advice. If he doesn’t care about it, then a) he will not create such a position or organization, and b) he will not listen to them if they exist.

  • Harold LaValley

    Maybe the Senior Space Poilicy advisor council could also give the space subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, subcommittee chairman Sen. Sam Brownback and others, this same dialog in order so that they could put forth laws and other such info into the proper perspective for America’s space programs.

  • Dwayne,

    I did read your article in The Space Review and thought it was excellent. I should have been more careful with the Senior Space Policy Advisor thing and clarified: If I were President, I would appoint a POC for all space-related advice. Advisors to the President come and go at the pleasure of the President. Indeed, he can elect to ignore his entire Cabinet if he choses, though it would be suicidal.

    A unique perspective on how a senior advisor to the President can be disruptive is the appointment of Dick Morris by President Clinton. Clinton’s other advisors and Cabinet officials apparently found this disagreable, with Robert Reich (Labor Secretary) discribing him as a “whirling dervish of egocentric obnoxion.” Certainly not what we’d hope for in a senior space advisor…

  • Dwayne A. Day

    If I were king, I’d do lots of things differently too. Unfortunately, we’re faced with the problem that Presidents (and by extension their staffs) do not care about space much at all.

    On that note, I just looked through Bill Clinton’s memoir for any references to space. Nothing under “Goldin,” “NASA,” etc. So far I have found one reference, on page 795. In a single paragraph Clinton discusses a trip he made to Johnson Space Center. He said that he was always excited and supportive of space exploration. He and Dan Goldin supported John Glenn’s space shuttle trip because they were both interested in research on aging. He also said that he was interested in the “upcoming mission to Mars.”

    I’m not sure what he meant by that.

  • Dwayne,

    Ah yes, but I said “If I were President…”

    If I were King, well, that’s another story. If I could say make it so and it happened, I’d have a list a few miles long to get done.

    You are right about space not being a big factor for presidents these days. I suspect that will change in a few decades when big money starts getting made and enemies of the state get established in space. It’s not unreasonable to expect Mega-Haliburtons out there one day, raking in major benefits for processing asteroid riches. The oilmen of the past will be replaced by the non-terrestrial mining titans of the future, and the Bill Gates/Steve Jobs of early computer software fame will be usurped by the creator of AI…