Iowa Results and Space Exploration

Editor's note: Last night's Iowa election results left several messages (to me at least). For both parties, it seems that change is in the air and that manufactured candidates pushed by big party interests did not go over all that well (at least in Iowa). For the Republicans, it is unclear whether Huckabee's win is a flash in the pan or the beginning of a trend. For the Democrats, Obama's win over Hillary Clinton (Oh yes Edwards beat her too) signals a potential tectonic shift whereby traditional constituencies that common thought would suggest go for/against a female candidate and for/against a person of color where turned on their heads. Also "experience" and "change" seemed to trade places in terms of importance to voters. Again, we have only one data point thus far: Iowa. The weeks ahead will tell whether these two trends - together or individually will pan out into trends and/or paradigm shifts.

Obama clarifies his space policy,

"Obama believes we should continue developing the next generation of space vehicles, and complete the international space station. While Obama would delay plans to return to moon and push on to mars, Obama would continue unmanned missions, and use NASA to monitor the forces and effects of climate change, support scientific research, and maintain surveillance to strengthen national security. Obama also believes we need to keep weapons out of space."

Space Makes it into the Presidential Debate, earlier post

"Cooper: Governor Huckabee?

NASA pumps some -- let's see, how many -- $5 billion into Florida's economy.

Huckabee: Whether we ought to go to Mars is not a decision that I would want to make, but I would certainly want to make sure that we expand the space program, because every one of us who are sitting here tonight have our lives dramatically improved because there was a space program -- whether it's these screens that we see or the incredible electronics that we use, including the GPS systems that got many of you to this arena tonight.(Laughter)

Some of you were late because you didn't have one, by the way. Or whether it's the medical technologies that saved many of our lives or the lives or our families, it's the direct result of the space program, and we need to put more money into science and technology and exploration. Now, whether we need to send somebody to Mars, I don't know. But I'll tell you what: If we do, I've got a few suggestions, and maybe Hillary could be on the first rocket to Mars."

Election 2008, Earlier posts

Given Obama's initial and then restated policies on space exploration, and those expressed by Huckabee, what do their respective wins (and possible future wins) mean for space policy? Do they mean anything at all?

Send your comments to Your comments thus far:

"Obama would delay plans to return to moon and push on to mars" "Ares V is dead. No big surprise."

Basic science is back.
Nothing can fly after 2010. Replacement parts
for shuttles R no longer made.
Maybe an Ares I will see low Earth orbit by 2020.
There will be no cheap alternatives through dot com CEO benevolence.

"None of the candidates have taken a positive stand for the VSE. Clinton has offered strong support for manned spaceflight in general, while Obama has stated his intention to raid NASA's budget to pay for some education programs. On the Republican side, there is no clarity of vision for manned spaceflight at all beyond some generic statements about being "for" it. What is at risk here is the very life of the VSE. We've been stuck in LEO for 30 years and this is probably our only real chance to get beyond it. Assuming it survives the election (which is by no means certain), it will probably be sharply curtailed by either party, for political or economic reasons, or maybe both. And then there's the politics. Almost nobody is going to want to keep "Bush's Space Plan." The trouble is that by the time the new President takes office, it will be too late to stop dismantling the Shuttle, and we will be forced to create something new. The question is: what will it be if it's not Bush's VSE?"

"Given Obama's initial and then restated policies on space exploration, and those expressed by Huckabee, what do their respective wins (and possible future wins) mean for space policy? Do they mean anything at all?"

Not to me. I hope that no one out there is picking the President of the United States based on their policies for space exploration! Even though I work in that field, there are far, far more important issues to deal with. We should be picking the President based on their plans to attack the real problems. In my mind, examples of those are long-term energy sources and the related economic and national security issues, universal health care and the question of how Medicare will be paid for in the future, nuclear proliferation, global warming, that sort of thing. For global warming, I would expect to see some attention paid to the use of space-based observational assets as part of the attack on that problem. But other than that, space exploration is not a factor in my consideration of candidates. - Anonymous

According to CNN, coming out of Iowa Obama has 16 delegates, Clinton has 15 and Edwards has 14. At the convention one of the contenders will need 2605 delegates to get the nomination. It seems to me the Iowa result is that there will be a race, not that the race has already been won and lost.

All this talk about space and the presidential election is bemusing, but let's face itit's a waste of time.Toproject whatwill come fromthe next administration (Democrat or Republican), all one need dois look to their predecessors' actions (acknowledging, of course, that JFK's Apollo bid was an anomaly(See "Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership" edited by Launius & McCurdy).What the candidates are saying during the campaigns has no bearing on what will actually come to pass.

If a Democrat is elected, the manned space program will be descoped in terms of vision and slowed operationallyto maintain the status quo while providing just enough funding to create the impression (especially for voters in Florida, Texas, and California) that the program is alive and well.While the shuttle will retire close to on time and work on the Earth-orbiting Orion will continue,plansfor abandoning the ISS will be reconsidered...and Ares Imay get shelved in lieu of EELV launch of a "Block I" Orion.We will not begin any new manned programs, and it's a good betthat the VSE lunar developmentwould be scaled backto "advanced studies" with no real intention of cutting any metal for moving beyond Earth orbit (Ares Vwould likelybe shelved, even as part of study work).Human Mars mission workwill remain far over the horizon as we senda few(but scaled back)robotic missions.

If a Republican is elected, the space program will stay on its currentsluggish track towarddeeper exploration(the VSE hardware design & development for lunar return would continue) and the new president may even propose a new grand and reasonably visionary initiative(an asteroid visit to emphasize the economic potential of solar system exploration?) near the end of his thirdyear in office. Manned Mars mission work will remaina subject of study and evensmall-size hardware assessment, but only therobotic missions(as currently envisioned) will proceed toactual flight hardware and launch.UNFORTUNATELY,the entire program will continue to limp along on insufficient funding, killing Peter to pay Paul, because the budgets coming from theWhite Housewon't match their longer-term vision.Sincethe RepublicanOMBwon't tolerate high up-front development costs, NASA will be forced to design the hardware (including Altair)withlow-cost expediency(instead of long-term operations) as its primary "guiding" principleso we (and future generations) willget saddled with anothersuite of equipmentthat severely limits our options for future exploration & applications.

In either case, these same bemusingdiscussions will be takingplace four years, eight years, and twelve years from now...and we (the U.S., at least) STILL won't be back on the Moon'ssurface, we won't have anyoptions in placefor deflecting an asteroid or comet, and humans on Mars will remain a dream as distant as the next century.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on January 4, 2008 10:31 AM.

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