Despite all the chatter in recent weeks about lunar colonies and space mirrors and whether or not candidates think the current administration’s space policy is a “stupid move”, it’s worth keeping in mind that space policy is, in the grand scheme of things, a very low priority in this campaign, as it has been in the past. A couple of recent articles help put that into perspective.
An Orlando Sentinel article published today concludes that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich would have “the greatest effect” on NASA simply because he “would pay attention to it.” The article contrasts Gingrich, a “self-described ‘space nut'”, with Romney’s criticism of Gingrich’s past support for concepts like lunar colonies. Marshall Heard, chairman of the Florida Aviation Aerospace Alliance, warns in the article that it would be a “disaster” if Romney said he was opposed to space exploration in general, although there’s no evidence that Romney is in fact opposed to space exploration.
A Florida Today article (via the Tallahassee Democrat, and now available on Florida Today’s own site) argues that it’s unlikely there will be “big changes” in space policy even if one of the Republican candidates wins the presidency in November. For example, given the administration’s support for commercial crew transportation, “it’s hard for a Republican to get on the other side of that position,” claims Howard McCurdy of American University. In the article, I argue that Gingrich may offer the biggest change from the status quo, given his disdain for NASA’s bureaucracy and his long-held support for large prizes as an alternative to government-run programs. However, a President Gingrich would likely face an uphill battle to implement any major changes, just as President Obama encountered in 2010 when he introduced his space policy.