After Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan gave a speech in Orlando where he briefly discussed space, a local television station, WKMG, sought more details from him about what a Romney Administration might do in space, but didn’t learn much. “We want to engage with NASA, commercial technology, the private sector, and our national security to come up with a space program mission,” Ryan said when asked about what the campaign’s policy meant for programs like Orion, SLS, and commercial servicing of the ISS. When pressed further about whether SLS and ISS servicing in particular could be cut, Ryan answered, “I don’t know the answer to that.”
The journal Nature, meanwhile, has taken a lengthy look at science policy during the Obama Administration, including, briefly, space policy. “Human space flight and many other elements of NASA’s mission were never priorities of the Obama administration,” the article concludes, citing cuts in astrophysics and planetary sciences programs (compared to increases in earth sciences). One passage in particular, about the administration’s 2010 effort to cancel Constellation and make other changes to NASA, may be of interest:
“This was a major policy pronouncement but it was revealed in a budget release,” says Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington DC. Normally, an administration prepares Congress for such a change — but Obama’s sudden move led to what Pace calls a “bruising, year-long fight” with lawmakers in both parties. Eventually, several parts of the Constellation programme were reinstated. But by then, NASA had become an agency adrift, left to the mercy of parochial interests in Congress.
The content of that paragraph isn’t particularly controversial, given the wide acknowledgement that the timing of the administration’s space policy changes was less than optimal; few would disagree that a “bruising” fight on the changes ensued in Congress thereafter. However, the article doesn’t note that Scott Pace, besides heading the Space Policy Institute at GWU, is also chairman of the Romney Space Policy Advisory Group, as noted in this statement last week tied to the release of the Romney campaign’s space policy white paper.
The Orlando Sentinel, though, is disappointed with both campaigns’ space policies. In an editorial today, it calls on both campaigns to provide more details about what they would do on the issue if elected. “Voters who consider space a national priority should demand details from both campaigns,” it concludes. However, not many voters, even in Florida, likely consider space “a national priority.”