The Barack Obama campaign has been quiet about its space policy plans since the release of its education policy in November, which called for delaying the Constellation program for five years to help pay for its education initiatives. I contacted the campaign last month to seek clarification and heard nothing back. However, a reader in New Hampshire, Don Doughty, did hear back from the campaign last week on the topic, and forwarded the message he received to me. In the message, Lisa Ellman, Obama’s policy director in New Hampshire, said Obama “will work to strengthen American leadership in space” and that he “believes that the United States needs a strong space program to help it maintain its superiority not only in space, but here on earth in the realms of education, technology, and national security.”
Most importantly, Ellman clarifies what Obama meant by delaying Constellation by five years:
Obama believes we should continue developing the next generation of space vehicles, and complete the international space station. While Obama would delay plans to return to moon and push on to mars, Obama would continue unmanned missions, and use NASA to monitor the forces and effects of climate change, support scientific research, and maintain surveillance to strengthen national security. Obama also believes we need to keep weapons out of space.
That is considerably different than what his original statement sounded like: rather than an additional five-year post-shuttle gap, this approach would appear to permit the continued development of a new launch vehicle and spacecraft (be it Ares/Orion or some alternative), but put on hold anything that would be used for lunar missions and beyond. That puts his approach closer to what Hillary Clinton proposed in October, although she did not endorse any specific delay in human lunar missions.