Campaign '08

More on Obama’s Wyoming statement

I exchanged emails today with Greg Zsidisin, who was not only at the Obama rally yesterday in Casper, Wyoming, but asked Obama the question about space policy that was mentioned in the previous post. Greg told me exactly what he asked Obama:

“My question is about the human space program. You say you’d delay NASA’s program to build a Space Shuttle replacement for 5 years, in order to increase the education budget a grand total of 7 percent. But everyone knows that this effectively ends the US human space program. Why are you specifically pitting the space program against education, and where’s the vision in shutting down the [human] space program?”

He wasn’t able to give the exact response Obama provided, but was able to fill in a few extra details:

He didn’t really address the space vs. education aspect – that is, why he is singling out human spaceflight to de-fund for education. He did say he was born in 1961, and that space inspired him in his youth. He then mentioned Star Trek and the other quoted parts (‘NASA doesn’t inspire now’). He also said that NASA can’t get the engineers now that the increase in education would fund (!).

He never specifically mentioned delaying a Shuttle replacement or the return to the Moon, saying he’d defer ‘certain segments’ of the space program. (Single quotes – I don’t remember the phrasing well enough for doubles.)

Later on, talking about energy issues, he did say that we needed an Apollo Program for energy. He did so rather pointedly, saying (referring to me), “And THAT, sir, should be our next Apollo Program.”

30 comments to More on Obama’s Wyoming statement

  • Al Fansome

    The hard truth (for big government space advocates) is that large majority of Americans, and politicians, agree with him.

    I have now heard many Presidential candidates say “we should have an Apollo program for energy”.

    Every month we get an electric bill, and many of us get a second home heating bill. Those bills are getting larger and larger.

    Every week we fill up the gas tank at the pump. We are all having sticker shock.

    These are pocket-book issues, and we are now probably in the middle of a recession.

    Senator Clinton is aggressively looking for opportunities to go on the attack against Obama.

    PREDICTION: She will NOT attack him for his position on NASA.

    – Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

  • I have now heard many Presidential candidates say “we should have an Apollo program for energy”.

    Yes, John Kerry said the same thing. Like him, Obama apparently wants the moral equivalent of a space program.

  • Andy

    Sigh, guess I will be voting for McCain… dammit!

  • The People

    Obama is not unique. His views reflect those of most americans. If you don’t believe me, wait until November.

    Government-funded human spaceflight is likely on the way out, except in socialist states. In the capitalist, freedom-loving domains, it’s time to let the entrepreneurs take over.

    Besides, energy is a much more critical issue than space. I would gladly euthanize NASA to free up funds for more investment in nuclear and renewable energy.

  • Anon4

    People, the Obama fad has run its course. He won’t get the nomination as the public is getting wise to the real Obama. Here’s an example why no one but the video game kids take him serious:

    “He joined a bipartisan group, which included Senator John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and Mr. Kennedy, that agreed to stick to a final compromise bill even though it was sure to face challenges from interest groups on both sides. Yet when the measure reached the floor, Mr. Obama distanced himself from the compromise, advocating changes sought by labor groups. The bill collapsed.

    To some in the bipartisan coalition, Mr. Obama’s move showed an unwillingness to take a tough stand.

    “He folded like a cheap suit,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, a close ally of Mr. McCain. “What it showed me is you are not an agent of change. Because to really change things in this place you have to get beat up now and then.”

    And this is the guy that will lead this country to change. I don’t think so. Its one thing to campiagn on it. Another to have the strength of character to do it.

    He will fold in this campaign the same way as he did in the Senate when the press starts asking him real questions. I notice even Bill Whitle isn’t even coming to his defense any more. Guess he learned who the true Obama is.

    BTW More good info on the real Obama in this NY Times Article

    But really his NASA policy is as irrelevant as he is. The question now is of the two viable candidates which is best for VSE, Clinton or McCain.

  • MarkWhittington

    “PREDICTION: She will NOT attack him for his position on NASA.”

    However, irony or ironies, Bill already did.

  • Albot

    Besides, energy is a much more critical issue than space.

    You’re on the wrong blog.

    Here ya go:

    The Energy Blog

  • Ray

    I just can’t make any sense out of Obama’s human spaceflight statements. He wants to fund Ares 1 and Orion, but “delay for 5 years” (i.e. cancel) the lunar program. That makes no sense at all, and represents about as little “change” as anything I’ve heard except for Weldon’s “continue the Shuttle” idea. Even Administrator Griffin says that building Ares 1 and Orion makes no sense without continuing to Ares V. There are much easier and cheaper ways to develop and operate human transportation to the ISS than Ares 1 and Orion, which Administrator Griffin has presented as a feature, not a bug, because it allows commercial operators to fill that niche while Ares 1 works with Ares V for the lunar program. Without Ares V, and without another assignment (which Obama hasn’t hinted about) Ares 1 has to politically crush the potential U.S. commercial operators to keep its job of expensively maintaining the ISS.

    I have to say, as much as I criticize the ESAS plan, this is worse. Either cancel Ares I AND V, give Ares 1 another job, or implement the Griffin 1/V program.

    Here’s another. NASA can’t get the engineers it needs now? Yes, there is a demographic issue in the overall aerospace industry with coming retirements, but I hardly think NASA will have a problem getting engineers to work on the lunar program, or that the general education program will make a difference to it. I know there are lots of qualified early-career engineers looking for jobs. Now, if Obama had said NASA needs to use existing aerospace capabilities and employees wisely, and make sure its efforts are compatible with commercial interests that address other needs, that might make sense. If Obama had said that he has an educational plan that specifically inspires students to pursue space science and aerospace education (for example, by ensuring a vibrant commercial and government space industry they could aspire to, space-oriented scholarships, interaction between students/universities and NASA, etc) that might make more sense.

    If Obama wants an Apollo program for energy (by which I hope he doesn’t mean an exciting but expensive government program that gets cancelled), why doesn’t he use the organization that knows all about the Apollo program? Do an SPS demo. Get NASA to improve power-related satellite components that have applicability to terrestrial components. etc… The same goes for other areas Obama’s website emphasizes (under “ISSUES”), like economy, education, environment, technology, and (under “ISSUES”/”ADDITIONAL ISSUES”), disaster warning/response (i.e. “Katrina”), and science. NASA (to say nothing of commercial space and other space-related government agencies) could play an important role in any or all of these areas, if the right policy is implemented to do that. However, the way to do that isn’t to build Ares 1/Orion and at the same time trim NASA’s budget.

    Since Obama has an “OTHER ISSUES” section on his campaign web page, I hope to see a space section there that’s at least logical and internally consistent. If it surprises us by emphasizing commercial space, great. If it directs NASA to help (with effort, not funds) solve some of those other problems, great. Then we have something to compare against the other candidates. Right now his plan just seems confused and disasterous. Even the Space Cynics that want NASA human spaceflight shut down would be disappointed because the plan still includes major league Ares/Orion spending for almost no results.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is where the question of Mr. Obama’s “inexperience” comes into play. I think it would be best, considering resent trends, to have a “scientifically literate” president. What will be the political/science relationship in four or eight years? Can we afford to have a president who’s ignorant about science and science related issues? I don’t think we can. However, I think it’s also important to remember that Obama is possibly one of the more “open minded” candidates. Would he be a president who’s willing to learn from his mistakes? More importantly, would he be willing to listen to alternatives, possibly better alternatives to the policies he’s proposing? While we can’t have a science dummy later, I don’t think we can have closed minded stick-in-the-mud now. I think the real question is what’s better: a possibly open-minded, but inexperienced Obama, or a more narrow-minded, but stubborn McCain or Clinton? Would a stubborn, narrow-minded president lead us down I similar path as George Bush and Bill Clinton did? It’s a tough call, and I don’t think it’s one I’m qualified to make at this time.

  • Al Fansome


    I do agree that this is a sign of Obama’s inexperience — more of an inexperienced staff whose job it is to vet policy positions and statements on narrow issues like space. If the Obama campaign had a Lori Garver on their team, they almost certainly would have realized that sticking with stick (Ares 1), while cancelling the Ares V, did not make sense.

    Some things are pretty clear. From this we can logically derive a series of falling blocks. For example, if Obama becomes President, it is very clear from his statements that the Ares V will almost certainly be dead. At a later date an Obama NASA Administrator will almost certainly cancel the Ares 1 also — for the same reason … if you don’t do Ares V, then you can’t justify Ares 1.

    The funny & logical step?

    The Orion will probably fly to orbit on an EELV in 2012 or 2013.

    – Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics”

  • Al and anonymous,

    That was part of the reason I’ve been helping with the Space Activists for Obama – so that he can pull from his grassroots someone who understands the situation.

  • Bill White

    Obama appears to be the one most likely to do what the Internet Rocketeers have been calling for for years, an EELV CEV, and yet he is vilified for a lack of vision.


    McCain & Clinton? If you wish to “stick with the Stick” and an underfunded ESAS they should get your vote.

  • Ray

    To those that hope Obama will replace Ares I, the following is from Spaceref, and I haven’t seen anything to contradict or revise it:

    “Develop the Next-Generation of Space Vehicles: The retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 will leave the United States without manned spaceflight capability until the introduction of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) carried by the Ares I Launch Vehicle. As president, Obama will support the development of this vital new platform to ensure that the United States’ reliance on foreign space capabilities is limited to the minimum possible time period. The CEV will be the backbone of future missions, and is being designed with technology that is already proven and available.”

    I encourage those of you trying to get through to the campaign on the contradiction of doing this but not continuing with Ares V, but my guess is that he’d be reluctant to drop this part because it’s wanted in Florida, a swing state.

  • Al Fansome

    ANDY: Sigh, guess I will be voting for McCain… dammit!

    Actually McCain kind of sounds like Obama on this issue (or maybe Obama sounds like McCain). About a year apart Senator McCain gave almost the same speech.

    See here

    and here:

    both of which concluded with the following language:

    MCCAIN: Answering great challenges is nothing new to America. It’s what we do. We built the rockets that took us to the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard. We’ve sent space probes into the distant reaches of the universe. We harnessed nuclear energy, mapped the human genome, created the Internet and pioneered integrated circuits that possess the computing power of Apollo spacecraft on a single silicon chip you can barely see. We can solve our oil dependence and become more energy secure. We can leave a cleaner planet for the next generation. You can’t sell me on hopelessness. You can’t convince me the problem is insurmountable. I know my country. I know what we’re capable of. We’re capable of unimaginable progress, unmatched prosperity, and vision that see around the corner of history. We’ve always understood our times, accepted our challenges and made fr om our opportunities, another better world. My people are Americans. Our time is today. That is the country I ask to lead.


    – Al

  • vze3gz45

    I think if he delays Ares 1 and V for 5 years to fund education, this will allow China to become, atleast, equal with the United States in payload weight to orbit. By 2014, China will have the Longmarch 5 rocket, which will be able to put 50,000lbs in low earth orbit. If we dont have the space shuttle by 2014, which I believe we will not, we better have the Ares V so we can be ahead of China in launch weight capability to orbit. Either Obama is ignorant about NASA or he is a traitor to NASA and United States capabliity in space. I believe the majority of democrats in the congress and sentate would not support delaying the Ares and moon programs for 5 years, Hillary would not.


  • vze3gz45

    “If we dont have the space shuttle by 2014, which I believe we will not, we better have the Ares V so we can be ahead of China in launch weight capability to orbit.”

    I realize the US will not have Ares V until 2018, but we better be starting to build it by 2014.

  • If we dont have the space shuttle by 2014, which I believe we will not, we better have the Ares V so we can be ahead of China in launch weight capability to orbit.

    Why is it important to be “ahead of China (or anyone, for that matter) in launch weight capability to orbit”?

  • Al Fansome

    VZE: By 2014, China will have the Longmarch 5 rocket, which will be able to put 50,000lbs in low earth orbit. If we dont have the space shuttle by 2014, which I believe we will not, we better have the Ares V so we can be ahead of China in launch weight capability to orbit.

    I have the same reaction is Rand.

    Europe already has the equivalent of the Long March 5. It is called the Ariane 5.

    Russia already has the equivalent of the Long March 5. They have had it for over FORTY (40) years. It is called the Proton.

    The United States has two Proton//Ariane 5//LongMarch 5 equivalents — they are called Atlas 5 and Delta IV.

    So, why do we need the Ares V?

    In fact, the Russian’s had an Ares V-class booster not too long ago. It was called Energia. They killed it because it was unaffordable.

    – Al

    PS — This is a really weak argument for spending tens-of-billions-of-dollars of taxpayer money. If this is the only argument you can make, then you have nearly zero chance of persuading the next President, whoever it is. You think President Obama is a tough sell? President McCain is likely to be even tougher. Just ask Boeing about their 767 aerial tanker concept.

  • Ron


    As I understand it, McCain wasn’t averse to the USAF acquiring a new tanker fleet. He was just averse to some of the tactics being employed by Boeing (tactics which led to 2 DOD officials going to jail) to acquire the contract for that new fleet.

    So now the Air Force will be getting it new fleet. Not courtesy of Boeing, but courtesy of Northrup Grumman and AirBus.

  • Anon4

    Don’t bet on it. The Tanker War has only started. This was only Round 1.

  • Ron

    I don’t doubt it.

  • vze3gz45

    “Why is it important to be “ahead of China (or anyone, for that matter) in launch weight capability to orbit”?”

    Because the US should be number 1 in space, and launch weight is part of that. Ares 5 will allow us to build a spacecraft to send people to Mars.


  • Because the US should be number 1 in space, and launch weight is part of that.


    I see.

    It’s a religious belief.

    Ares 5 will allow us to build a spacecraft to send people to Mars.

    Ares V is neither necessary, or sufficient to send people to Mars.

  • vze3gz45,
    You should go read up on a ship called the Vasa. Here’s a reasonable link:
    Bigger isn’t always better. Most of the time bigger just ends up being stupid.


  • Bob Mahoney

    Don’t know why, but the picture & article of the Vasa brought to my mind the unflown Saturn Vs in their protective display/conservation buildings. Hope they don’t find any remains of missing Apollo workers in there!

    Not only is bigger not necessarily better, but wise engineers recognize that sometimes better is the enemy of good enough.

  • I don’t know why we’re worrying about the Chinese; we’ve handed the commercial launch and much of the satellite industry to the Europeans lock stock and barrel. Now we are handing them what is left of our commercial airline industry. It galls me to see my tax dollars subsidizing somebody else’s industry, but I don’t fault the Air Force, the problem was when we allowed Boeing to buy McDonnell Douglas, thus eliminating internal competition and guaranteeing the Europeans a minimum of half the commercial market (since smart buyers will never allow a monopoly). As far as I can see, “consolidation,” far from generating efficiency, has been largely a disaster, at least for our aerospace industry.

    We also used the Space Station project to pay other countries to learn how to build spaceworthy modules, and guess who is building much of the new infrastructure, e.g., the modules used by OSC’s COTS proposal? Boeing has used the 787 to teach everyone else how to build large composite aerospace structures; the Air Force is behaving no differently. Is it too much to ask that we allow ourselves to remain competitive in at least one industry?

    If this continues, who will be left to pay the taxes that fund much of spaceflight, human and automated alike? Who will pay for Grandma’s retirement?

    Sorry, rant over.

    — Donald

  • Kevin Matalin

    “Now we are handing them what is left of our commercial airline industry.”

    Huh? How is that happening? Because of the tanker decision? Five years ago everybody was pulling out their hair because Airbus was building the largest commercial airliner in the world and Boeing was in disarray. Then Airbus failed to find many customers for the A380 and Boeing unveiled the 787 and started taking orders like they were Starbucks. Until last year, the news out of Airbus was terrible (A380 delays, an inability to come up with a reasonable competitor to the 787) and the news out of Boeing was great (huge backlogs). Then Boeing ran into delivery problems on the 787, but they will solve these and they will still sell a lot of these planes.

    Now Boeing produced a lousy proposal for the tanker (maybe some leftover arrogance from when they tried to _buy_ the contract illegally?) and you’re predicting doom?

    This is competition. This is what it looks like. When Boeing gets lazy and arrogant (tanker) Airbus wins the contract. When Airbus gets stupid and incompetent (A380, A350) Boeing kicks their butts.

  • Kevin, I don’t disagree with any of that, and I said I didn’t fault the Air Force. Boeing’s competitive performance on the Delta-IV versus the Atlat-V has been just as bad. My argument is that it would have been far better for the United States if the tanker competition had been McDonnell Douglas vs. Boeing vs. Airbus, rather than just Boeing vs. Airbus.

    Nonetheless, this contract _does_ represent a subsidy to the commercial production line of whatever company wins it. Airbus is already threat to be reconned with, half through their achievements and half through our mistakes. Do we really want to help them along to greater achievements?

    Also, this is not exactly a two-way street. As I recall, an American company would have won the contract to build the engines for their military freighter, but the job was given to a European “champion.” That freighter, if it ever gets off the ground, will be a direct competitor to Lockheed. The fact that engine has caused no end of grief is no consoluation to the Americans who may have lost their jobs, or not gained jobs, because of that decision. In fact, maybe we should make this sale conditional on the Europeans cancelling that contract and giving it to the better bidder. . . .

    — Donald

  • the.royal.pant

    How has it eluded a rhetorically gifted candidate; at any level of the political system; to point out that there can be no single more important thing for the human race to do besides establishing an independent presence on another planet?
    The math is clear: a mass-extinction level event _will_ occur on this fair Earth.
    How can anything possibly be more critical than the survival of Man?
    Why would anyone choose to allow the death of our species for such a transient thing as an ideology or an economic system?
    Individual death and suffering is horrible, but it pales besides the spectre of extinction.
    Each and every one of our political, economic, and spiritual leaders _fails_ the Human race each and every time they choose to walk the path of that does not lead to the stars.

  • when i look at environmental news these days, they are not always good-‘.

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