A day after Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan claimed “we have effectively no plan” for NASA under the Obama Administration, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Florida offered similar criticism of current national space policy.
Speaking to reporters in Titusville, Florida, after a closed-door meeting with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL) said President Obama as well as Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who Mack is running against, had not done enough for space. “They continue to change the mission, and when you change the mission, it’s a floundering program,” Mack said, as reported by Florida Today. “The president and Senator Nelson have done nothing to set a long-term plan and mission for NASA.”
That criticism is similar to what Ryan said Thursday in Ocala, Florida: “The Obama administration came in and they inherited a plan for NASA from the Bush administration. They had a plan for space. They jettisoned that plan,” Ryan said. The Obama Administration, though, has established some long-term goals for NASA’s human spaceflight program, including a mission to a near Earth asteroid by 2025 and one to orbit Mars by the mid-2030, as outlined by the president himself in a speech at the Kennedy Space Center two and a half years ago.
So if Mack doesn’t like the administration’s plans, or perceived lack of them, what does he propose? Mack was vague on any details in his conversation with reporters on Friday. “We need to be bold,” he said, the Orlando Sentinel reported, but, the article added, Mack “was non-committal about increasing or even sustaining funding for NASA.” Mack did endorse the Space Leadership Act, legislation introduced last month that would give the NASA administrator a ten-year term and establish a board of directors (a majority of whom would be appointed by Congress) to provide oversight to the agency. Mack is one of the 16 cosponsors of the bill, HR 6491.
After Mack’s comments, the Nelson campaign responded, noting the work he and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) did in 2010 to develop a NASA authorization act. “[H]is and Sen. Hutchison’s plan keeps the U.S. the leader in science and technology for defense and national security reasons,” a Nelson spokesman said, adding that Mack was the only member of the Florida House delegation to vote against the bill in 2010.