As the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week put it, “My astronauts are better than yours”. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns have signed up a number of former astronauts as supporters and even campaigners. The so-called “Obamanauts” have signed up former Apollo astronaut Rusty Schweickart as well as former shuttle astronauts Kathy Thornton and Dan Barry. That’s in addition to the Sally Ride endorsement of Obama earlier this week. In addition to the endorsements, Schweickart plans to do some door-to-door campaigning Saturday in Titusville, Florida.
Schweickart isn’t the only former astronaut doing some campaigning. The Sentinel article noted that former Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham “toured cities around Florida” last weekend in support of McCain. (Cunningham, readers may recall, also represented the McCain campaign in an August debate at the Mars Society convention in Colorado.) There are other former astronauts serving as “surrogates” for the McCain campaign; I had been in contact with a campaign official to try and arrange an interview with one or more of them, but it doesn’t appear that will come through before Election Day.
Obama supporters have also picked up endorsements from space- and science-related people<, including Bill Nye, the science educator and vice president of The Planetary Society; Lon Levin, the co-founder of XM Satellite Radio; and Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X Prize Foundation. Diamandis also wrote a brief editorial supporting Obama, saying that the Democratic candidate “seems to understand the challenges we face in space, and has put forward a policy that is refreshingly broad and specific.”