Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is one of NASA’s biggest advocates in Congress, and has a long track record on space policy. It’s not a surprise, then, that his office released Wednesday a six-minute video (below) of Nelson talking about space exploration, timed to the 25th anniversary of the Challenger accident this week. Most of the video is devoted to generalities about the history and importance of human spaceflight. About four and a half minutes, in though, he talks about the NASA authorization act, which calls for the development “of a new big rocket to replace the space shuttle”, as he described the Space Launch System.
Then he reiterated some tough language from earlier this month after NASA reported it could not currently determine how to develop the vehicle within the cost and schedule constraints of the act. “NASA must stop making excuses and follow this law,” he says. “I believe that the best and brightest at the space agency can build upon the nine billion dollars that we’ve already invested in the advanced technology to design this new rocket, and I think that these pioneers at NASA can also take a stepping-stone, pay-as-you-go approach.
By contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), in office only since this month, has virtually no track record when it comes to space policy. In a meeting with reporters yesterday, Rubio said that he considered funding for NASA a priority even with the need to cut spending overall. “Anything you invest in NASA is money that you are using that has the byproduct effect of creating spinoff opportunities in the private sector,” he said, as reported by Florida Today. Launching rockets, he added, is “something we do because it’s important from a military capability, from a national-security capability, and also a commercial and economic capability.” (Much of that capability, though, has little to do with NASA.)
Central Florida News 13, meanwhile, recalled comments Rubio made last fall when running for the Senate, echoing Wednesday’s comments. “Space exploration is not something we do for fun,” he said in the October interview. “It’s something this country does because it has commercial applications, it has technical applications that help us in other fields. It has military and national defense applications.” He also, at the time, pointed to China’s space activities. “Look, China has invested heavily in getting to the moon, it’s not because they want to go up there and collect rock samples. It’s because the believe space is the high ground of national defense, and they want to have space superiority over the United States.”