On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle formally endorsed Mitt Romney for president, four years after the paper had endorsed Barack Obama. The Chronicle’s editorial focused on a few major issues, including its disappointment with the Obama Administration’s approach to space:
It has been an insult to the memory of American heroes like Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride to allow manned spaceflight to languish in the country that put men on the moon. The notion of paying $50 million a seat to Russia for commercial taxi service to the International Space Station is galling.
Obama has failed to articulate a bold vision of his own for the agency. That failure forsakes a legacy of scientific achievement that has showered benefits on the nation. This approach to NASA has abandoned the American imperative of lighting out for the territory and exploring new worlds. NASA’s legacy must be reclaimed.
In recent days we have seen a welcome return of popular enthusiasm for space exploration, thanks to the success of the Mars rover Curiosity. When NASA stuck the landing in a tour de force of technical precision, the international excitement was palpable. Let’s seize upon it.
That will require more effective presidential leadership.
The editorial follows on the criticism in recent days by Republican candidates like Reps. Paul Ryan, running for vice president, and Connie Mack, running for the Senate in Florida, that the administration has no plan for NASA. And, like Ryan and Mack’s earlier comments, some of the criticism of the Obama Administration’s policies levied in the endorsement, most notably the reliance on Russian vehicles to transport American astronauts to and from the ISS, dates back to policies of the Bush Administration and the original rollout of the Vision for Space Exploration.
Most curious, though, is the passage that it is “an insult to the memory of American heroes like Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride to allow manned spaceflight to languish” in the US. Armstrong was a critic of the administration’s plans, to be certain, as he did in testimony before the House Science Committee in September 2011. Ride, though, was not a critic of the Obama Administration’s approach: she served on the Augustine Committee in 2009 that studied NASA’s human spaceflight programs and developed several options, including the “Flexible Path” approach the administration adopted. As presidential science advisor John Holdren noted in May 2010, Ride was included in a “large array” of astronauts who supported the Obama Administration’s policy. Ride also endorsed Obama in 2008.
Beyond “more effective presidential leadership,” the Chronicle endorsement doesn’t explain what it thinks a Romney Administration would do differently so that “NASA’s legacy,” is it puts it, is “reclaimed.”