Campaign '04

A confusing space policy editorial

The Washington Times, the smaller—and more conservative—of DC’s two major daily newspapers, published an editorial describing the differences between the Bush and Kerry space policies. The Times should be praised for taking the time, in the final Sunday newspaper before the general election, to discuss space policy. However, their editorial is a little confusing.

The latter half of the editorial is fine: it clearly states the differences between Bush and Kerry on the exploration vision. It’s the first part, where it talks about Kerry’s focus on the shuttle and ISS, that’s a little unclear. A quote:

The loss of Columbia did more than reduce the shuttle fleet; it dictated either the retirement or re-certification of the remaining shuttles by 2010. Neither alternative is wise. The shuttles have never fulfilled their promise and their primary destination, the International Space Station (ISS), has proved a costly experimental platform.

It’s not clear what the writer is advocating: he appears to be opposed to retiring (or recertifying) the shuttle in 2010, but he also appears to be unimpressed with the shuttle and ISS in general. Another quote:

“Two of NASA’s top priorities,” under Mr. Kerry, would be returning the shuttle to flight and completing the ISS, according to spokesman Jason Furman.

I think one could argue that shuttle RTF and ISS completion are two of NASA’s top priorities today, and will be priorities regardless of who wins the election. In fact, as noted in the comments of a previous post, NASA is currently studying increasing the number of shuttle flights to ensure the proper completion of ISS, a move which would further delay the shuttle’s retirement date and most likely delay the exploration initiative (as it would be deprived of that wedge of funding freed up from shuttle operations.) Perhaps, despite the Times’ headline, Bush’s space policy isn’t that bold after all.

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