One of the VIPs at Saturday’s QuikTrip Air and Rocket Racing Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). (He was more than a guest, though: he flew one of the planes at the show.) When he wasn’t flying, he was talking up the prospects of Tulsa getting one of the shuttle orbiters once the fleet is retired. He could also be seen having an involved discussion with another VIP in attendance, Buzz Aldrin, about space exploration.
After he completed that discussion, I asked Inhofe his thoughts about the new plans for NASA as described in the FY11 budget proposed and President Obama’s speech earlier this month. “Well, I don’t think the president has done many things right—I can’t think of anything—and certainly cutting back on the space program, which is what he’s doing… His priorities are social engineering, they’re not the military, they’re not infrastructure, they’re certainly not the space program,” he said. “I often say to people that we’re going to change the House and the Senate in November, and a lot of these things that he’s done we can undo, and I plan to do that.”
His comments appeared to be in contrast with those of a number of other special guests at the event, including Aldrin, Peter Diamandis, and Richard Garriott, among others, who talked up throughout the day the prospects of the commercial sector taking over transportation of astronauts to low Earth orbit. So I asked Inhofe: do you support that aspect of the plan? His ambiguity-free response: “No, I do not.”