Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s proposed space policy, introduced during a speech Thursday in Washington, has provided a lot of fodder for both people in the space industry and armchair analysts alike. Seeing any discussion of space by a candidate is newsworthy; having a candidate devote several paragraphs to the subject, months before the first primaries and caucuses and more than a year before the general election, is quite rare. So how does this policy look?
Earth science is clearly a big winner here, as Clinton devoted a full paragraph of her speech to her concerns that such programs had languished during the Bush Administration. She promises to “fully fund” Earth science programs, although she doesn’t say with respect to what (perhaps the National Academies’ decadal survey report published earlier this year). She also proposes a “Space-based Climate Change Initiative” to study global warming and “to prepare for extreme climate events”.
Aeronautics also wins in Clinton’s policy, which decries the sharp decline in funding NASA’s aeronautics program has suffered in recent years. While not making any specific financial commitments, the policy states that Clinton would “make the financial investments in research and development necessary to shore up and expand our competitive edge”.
Prize programs in the sciences in general would also appear to benefit under a new Clinton Administration. In her speech she promoted “competitive prizes to encourage innovation”, although there are no specific details about prize programs in the policy statement. It would seem, though, that she would look favorably on programs like Centennial Challenges.
Human spaceflight and exploration has mixed prospects, it seems. The policy statement calls for a “robust” human spaceflight program “to complete the Space Station and later human missions”. as well as robotic missions “leading to future human exploration”. She also calls for accelerating the “development, testing, and deployment of next-generation launch and crew exploration vehicles”, an apparent, but not explicit, reference to Ares and Orion. (Whether those programs can be substantially accelerated without massive additional funding, though, is a n open question.)
However, there is no specific mention of the Moon or Mars in the policy. According to a New York Times article today, that was not an accidental oversight:
But in a telephone interview afterward, she 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.”
That suggests that the long-term Vision for Space Exploration as laid out by the Bush Administration in 2004 would effectively be truncated with Ares and Orion (or whatever alternatives a Clinton Administration would pursue).