With all the debate in the presidential campaign to date about outsourcing jobs to other nations, it was only a matter of time before space policy got pulled in. Appearing on CNN on Monday, John H. Sununu, the former New Hampshire governor and national co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, brought up the issue and argued that President Obama had indulged in it himself while in the White House:
There is a huge difference. In fact, we had an event yesterday that wasn’t well-reported. We launched a U.S. astronaut up to the space station. But you know how they were — he was launched? She was launched?
She was launched on a Russian spacecraft because President Obama has outsourced a major portion of the U.S. space program to the Russians. That’s national policy. Taxpayer money.
Sununu was referring to Saturday night’s launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS, whose crew included NASA astronaut Sunita Williams. And, in fact, Soyuz is the only means for NASA astronauts to access the ISS with the retirement last year of the Space Shuttle. However, as the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org describes in great detail, that policy predates the Obama Administration, outlining the decisions made by the George W. Bush Administration and NASA leadership of the time to retire the shuttle and create a several-year gap in human spaceflight. The Obama Administration continued part of that policy—the retirement of the shuttle—but the origins of the “outsourced” human spaceflight program Sununu complained about predate the current administration.