So much for a quiet weekend. On Saturday the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a space policy white paper. The eight-page document (available on Scribd; it’s listed as a “private document” but you can freely view it at the link or embedded on Romney’s site) is a mix of the campaign’s own views on space policy and criticism of the Obama Administration’s approach to space. That’s best illustrated by two paragraphs in the paper’s introduction, a page bearing Mitt Romney’s signature and today’s date:
Unfortunately, President Obama has failed to deliver a coherent policy for human space exploration and space security. As a result, he has created uncertainty and confusion within U.S. industry and the international community. The President’s disjointed collection of scientific projects lack guiding principles, plausible objectives, or a roadmap for long-run success. They also have left American astronauts to hitch rides into space on Russian spacecraft. America’s capabilities are eroding, and with each passing year will become more difficult to rebuild.
I will reverse this course and set a clear roadmap for space exploration. NASA will retain the intellectual capital to conduct research and to develop new generations of spacecraft for government missions that are not commercially viable, but it will promptly transition out of routine space operations in low Earth orbit as private sector capabilities mature. In improving the competitiveness of U.S. industry, government can play important supporting roles as a steady patron of R&D, an enlightened regulator, and a first buyer or anchor tenant for space goods and services. We will have a space program worthy of a great nation — one that strengthens our national security, builds peaceful engagements with other space-faring nations, and promotes the creation of a growing private sector for space commerce that will make America even stronger in the 21st century.
in the paper, Romney outlines four priorities he would have for space policy if elected, many of which are similar to comments his campaign provided to ScienceDebate earlier this month. One would be to give NASA “clearer priorities”, reiterating previous comments in his ScienceDebate answer that NASA does not require more money. Romney would also place an emphasis on international partnerships by being “clear about the nation’s space objectives and will invite friends and allies to cooperate with America in achieving mutually beneficial goals.” He includes an emphasis on national security space, calling for a “robust” program including “ehe development of capabilities that defend and increase the resilience of space assets,” again paralleling his ScienceDebate comments. A final priority will be to revitalize the space industry; he “will work to ease trade limitations, as appropriate, on foreign sales of U.S. space goods and will work to expand access to new markets.”
The document also includes a specific discussion of commercial space activities. In it, the Romney campaign says NASA will lead the way in human space exploration, but “will look whenever possible to the private sector to provide repeatable space-based services” like cargo and crew transportation to low Earth orbit. The private sector will concentrate on “commercially viable activities — from satellite launches to space tourism to new businesses and industries that U.S. entrepreneurs will no doubt create if provided a friendly environment for doing so.”
The white paper reiterates a proposal that Romney first discussed in Florida in January, that he would bring together experts from various disciplines to develop new goals for NASA. “He will bring together all the stakeholders — from NASA, from the Air Force, from our leading universities, and from commercial enterprises — to set goals, identify missions, and define a pathway forward that is guided, coherent, and worthy of our great nation.’
The document features as much attention to the perceived failings of the Obama Administration’s space policy as its own plans, however. “Over the past four years, the Obama Administration, through poor policy and outright negligence, has badly weakened one of the hallmarks of American leadership and ingenuity — our nation’s space program,” it states. Among its other claims: “For the first time since the dawn of the Space Age, the United States has no clear plan for putting its own astronauts into space.” (Presumably it considers neither Orion and SLS, nor commercial crew efforts, as “clear”; neither are discussed in the document.) The White House is also blamed for cost and schedule problems with national security space programs and for “poor management of programs, its indifference to the industrial base, and the lack of investment in leading edge technological improvements” that have eroded the capabilities of the aerospace industry in the US.
Along with the release of the white paper, the campaign issued statements of support from Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL), former astronaut Gene Cernan, and Scott Pace, chairman of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group.