In a related story to the previous post about Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) op-ed on human spaceflight, the Daily Caller reports on similar comments made by George LeMieux, the Florida Republican planning to run for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson. (LeMieux served in the Senate in 2009 and 2010, filling out the remainder of Sen. Mel Martinez’s term after he retired; that seat is now held by Rubio.) According to the report, LeMieux talked to reporters Tuesday about the importance of cutting spending—except when it comes to spaceflight:
“There are very few things the federal government should be doing,” LeMieux said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “But one of the few things the federal government can only do is space exploration. We are seeing good private sector folks that are trying to go into low-Earth orbit and that’s great and we should encourage them, but the only folks that are going to go to an asteroid or go to Mars is going to be NASA.”
The article added that LeMieux called cuts to NASA “criminal”. The Daily Caller sees a “real dilemma” for Florida Republicans on this issue. “You see, space ships are to the Sunshine State what farm subsidies are to Iowa,” the article claims: efforts politicians back even if they may clash with broader ideological principles. “Almost all potential Florida up-and-comers looking to make waves on the national scene must defend NASA to make it anywhere beyond Tallahassee.” This could also be true for a few places outside Florida, like Houston, Huntsville, and northern Utah, which all have significant local economic stakes in government human spaceflight efforts in particular; note Rep. Mo Brooks’ (R-AL) comments earlier this week.
And the irony of all this is that while LeMieux said that only NASA can go to asteroids and Mars, Elon Musk is claiming he can send people to Mars in 10-20 years.