Sen. John Mccain (R-AZ), who lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, was campaigning in Florida yesterday in support of President Obama’s 2012 opponent, Mitt Romney, including a stop on Florida’s Space Coast. While there, he briefly offered his thoughts on the US should be doing in space, specifically, the need for a single major project that can win the support of the American public. “Let’s focus on putting a man or a woman on Mars. Let’s focus on that,” he said, Florida Today reported.
That single-minded focus on Mars is a departure from his 2008 campaign, which didn’t explicitly call out human exploration of Mars as a top goal in its space policy white paper, focusing instead on continuing Constellation, maximizing utilization of the ISS, and ensuring “that space exploration is top priority and that the U.S. remains a leader”. The Romney campaign has also not formally endorsed a human mission to Mars in its campaign statements to date. President Obama, though, did make sending human to Mars (or, at least, in orbit around Mars) by the mid-2030s once of his goals for NASA in his April 2010 speech at the Kennedy Space Center.