Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made his first trip to Florida in a year on Wednesday, including a stop in the central Florida community of Kissimmee. Obama, like other Democratic candidates, had steered clear of Florida after national party officials put the state in the penalty box for moving up its primary to late January. Visiting central Florida makes it more likely that Obama will get questions on space policy topics, and sure enough, the topic came up, Florida Today reports:
“I want us to understand what it is we want to accomplish, so we can continue to build this program,” the Democratic presidential candidate said, as he spoke during a “town hall-style” meeting Wednesday in Kissimmee. “Other countries are in position to leapfrog us if we don’t continue to make this investment.”
Obama said he would fund a strengthened space program, including the Orion program, which is designed to return Americans to the moon and later get them to Mars.
Obama said he wanted to revive the energy the country had for the space program during the Mercury and Apollo programs. The Mercury program launched the first Americans into space, and the Apollo program landed Americans on the moon.
“Now, even though lots of good work is being done with the shuttle program, I don’t think people have as deep of a commitment to the space program,” he said.
There’s not a lot of new concrete policy insights there, and it does continue the theme he laid out in earlier speeches that NASA is no longer inspirational and there is a need to figure out what NASA should be doing. But, in the words of aerospace engineer Angel Andujar, who asked Obama the question about NASA, “At least he’s looking into it.”
Update: as noted in the comments, the video accompanying the story has more direct statements from Obama regarding his approach to space policy:
One of the things I want to do is review, with NASA, what are we doing in terms of manned flights to the Moon or to Mars, versus are we better off using, for example, things like Hubble, that gives us, yields us, more information and a better bang for the buck. I am absolutely committed to making sure that we’ve got a space program that is second to none in the world. That is my absolute commitment. But, what I want to do is I want to sit down with NASA and figure out what’s our focus and make sure that that focus is clear and that it is yielding the kinds of benefits over time…
[The video cuts transitions at the end to a concluding statement form Obama, so we don’t know exactly the kinds of benefits over time he was referring to.]