Reps. Sandy Adams and Bill Posey (R-FL) must be disappointed: contrary to their desires expressed earlier this week, the president did not directly address space policy in his State of the Union address last night. (Well, maybe not that disappointed: Posey didn’t mention the omission in a statement with his reaction to the speech.) Instead, the president made only a historical reference to NASA in his speech, recalling the original “Sputnik moment” over 50 years ago that catalyzed the Space Race. And even that rhetoric wasn’t that new: he used similar language in a speech a month and a half ago in North Carolina.
Some members afterward said they wanted to hear more about space policy in the address. “Absent from the President’s speech, apart from mentioning Sputnik as a metaphor, was any vision for our Nation’s space agency,” said Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, in a statement after the speech (one that, as of this morning, is not posted on the committee web site.) “I am disappointed that the President used this moment only to reflect on NASA’s history, rather than promoting a strong vision for the future of space exploration. This Thursday is officially designated as ‘A Day of Remembrance’ for the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger tragedies; a day to reflect on those national heroes who lost their lives. We should honor them by carrying on their legacy and ensuring that America ‘keeps winning’ in space exploration and scientific discovery.”
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), a staunch critic last year of the administration’s plans to cancel Constellation, kept up the rhetoric in his response to the speech. “However, while the President is calling for ‘new levels of research and development that haven’t been seen since the Space Race’ his Administration is also calling for the termination of our nation’s manned space program – a program whose science and technology research is an essential component of our nation’s missile defense program,” he claimed. “Terminating this program, including the Constellation program, would cede our leadership in space exploration over to countries like China, Russia and India… It would be counterproductive to abandon our role as leaders in space exploration.”
As was the case last week, it was NASA administrator Charles Bolden, in a blog post, who tried to tie discussion of the agency’s past with its future. “At NASA, we’re making contributions in all of these areas,” he wrote, referring to the speech’s themes of innovation, education, and infrastructure, then citing several examples, including the agency’s support for commercial crew development. “The 21st Century course that President Obama has set our agency on will foster new industries that create jobs, pioneer technology innovation, and inspire a new generation of explorers through education – all while continuing our fundamental mission of exploring our home planet and the cosmos.”