Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was speaking at a town hall in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Friday when he was asked—unexpectedly, perhaps, given the locale—about NASA planetary exploration efforts. Romney, according to CNN’s account of the event, “said he would study different options”, a response along the lines of the space policy he laid out nearly a month ago in a Florida speech. But he had a little more to add specifically about racing China for a human return to the Moon, POLITICO reported:
And I know China is headed to the Moon. They’re planning on going to the Moon, and some people say, oh, we’ve got to get to the Moon, we’ve got to get there in a hurry to prove we can get there before China. It’s like, guys, we were there a long time ago, all right? And when you get there would you bring back some of the stuff we left?
That response would suggest that a human lunar exploration effort wouldn’t be a high priority for a Romney Administration, something that’s perhaps a bit surprising given that his team of space policy advisors includes former NASA administrator Mike Griffin, who implemented the Constellation program to enable a human return to the Moon as called for by the Bush Administration’s Vision for Space Exploration. Romney, of course, has previously been critical of fellow candidate Newt Gingrich’s call for a lunar base by 2020.
It’s worth noting that various media accounts of the event described Romney as being in a light mood: the Wall Street Journal called his campaign stop “cheeky” while MSNBC called the former Massachusetts governor “just plain funny”. Some advocates for a human return to the Moon, thought, might not be laughing.