Election 2016: March 2016 Archives

Hillary On Area 51 Secrets: 'I Think We Ought To Share It With The Public', Daily Caller

"Hillary Clinton says barring any national security risk, she would like to open up the government files on Area 51 to the public if she is elected president. "I would like us to go into those files and hopefully make as much of that public as possible," she told Jimmy Kimmel Thursday night on his late night ABC talk show. "If there's nothing there, let's tell people there's nothing there." When Kimmel followed up by asking what she would do if she discovered there was actually something alarming in the files, Clinton replied: "Well, if there is something there, unless it's a threat to national security, I think we ought to share it with the public."

Keith's note: This video from last week's Goddard Memorial Symposium features Marcia Smith, Editor, SpacePolicyOnline.com; Lori Garver, General Manager, ALPA; Chris Shank, Policy Director for the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee; Sandy Magnus, AIAA Executive Director; and Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Director, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration. The real discussion - bordering on a debate - was between Lori Garver and Chris Shank. You could say it was the opening salvo of space policy in the 2016 election.

The most naive thing to be said came from Mary Lynne Dittmar when she got to talking about a mandate to explore space (around 1:10:00) "Why is space held to this sort of standard that we - in this country - have to come to some single consensus about what the mandate needs to be in order for us to go forward? We don't do that for almost anything else." In other words, who needs a clear reason to go build SLS (i.e. a mandate)? We should just build it and then find something to go do with it - because we want to do something, somewhere - eventually - because that's what space people do - build new things that go into space. Oh, and just send us everyone else's money when we need it. In other words space IS special - to space people. They are just are blind to the obvious and feel no compulsion to make what they are doing actually relevant to the people who pay for their party.

Space Policy White Paper = Shopping List For The Journey to Nowhere, Previous post

"On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community."

- White Paper Lays Out Steps to Ensure U.S. Leadership in Space, AIAA, earlier post
- NASA Begins Its Journey To Nowhere, earlier post
- ASAP: NASA Has No Plan or Firm Funding For Its #JourneyToMars, earlier post

Keith's note: Last week a group of space-related organizations rented the National Press Club so they could announce a white paper on space policy. Why bother? Space is not going to be an issue in the 2016 campaign.

At the press event Elliot Pulham from The Space Foundation said "We thought it would be a good time to have a platform of information out there that all candidates could refer to, learn from and take to heart as they plan their campaigns" but moments later he also said "To some extent, the purpose of this is not to have space become a big presidential issue". Pulham added "Let's not undo anything." Sandy Magnus from the AIAA said that this coalition wanted to take the issue of space policy "off the table" but at the same time she said that this group wants to "stress the importance" of space.

Such is the problem with these sort of documents from the space community. On one hand the space groups want to have a say in the political decisions that affect their members (and donors). But on the other hand they'd rather not have the politicians pay too much attention to space such that the current status quo is not upset. In other words "write us the checks but don't rock the boat" - or more bluntly "look but don't touch". This is, at best, naive thinking on the part of the space community.

If you read the white paper it becomes immediately apparent that this coalition wants everything that they are doing to be supported and in some cases, they want even more money. They also want a stable funding environment (makes sense). The two main programs being supported by this coalition are SLS/Orion and Commercial Crew and Cargo with gratuitous mention of other projects that are important to the members of this coalition. Indeed that is all that this white paper is actually about: supporting specific big aerospace contracts. There is no similarly identified support for specific space, planetary, and earth science. Small wonder that the Planetary Society, American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, et al are not among the members of this coalition.

While a lot of prominent names are affixed to this white paper it is clearly being driven by the so-called "four amigos": Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Orbital ATK - the builders of SLS/Orion. Look at the organizations listed and ponder who the prime donors/members are. Its not that hard to fill in the blanks amidst the smoke and mirrors. No surprise folks - this is how these things always work.

Buzz Does CPAC

Buzz Aldrin Addresses CPAC; Urges Continued Space Exploration, Town Hall

"Retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin received a standing ovation at CPAC on Thursday, speaking "not as a Republican" or as a Democrat, but as someone who is concerned that America needs to maintain its space exploration program."

The 2016 Presidential Candidates' Views on NASA and Space Exploration, Gizmodo

"Want to get to Mars? Well, NASA needs money to do it, and the president, along with Congress, mostly calls the shots. But NASA has been consistently underfunded over the last decade, and only saw its budget restored to healthier levels in 2016, when Congress carved out $19.3 billion for the agency. With missions to Mars and Jupiter on the horizon, and ambitions of curbing US dependency on Russian launches to the ISS, NASA's no doubt hoping that the next president keeps the money flowing."

Keith's note: Space is just a blip on the political radar. Rarely, if ever, has it had any influence on a presidential election whatsoever - and then, it was fleeting and usually on late night comedy shows. Nor is it likely to change during this election. Besides, whatever you hear during the campaign will be revised and reinterpreted after the election. The candidates forget the issue 2 minutes after they answer a question about it.

Nothing on the horizon suggests that there will be a large increase in NASA's budget. Nor is anyone really targeting NASA for drastic cuts. Given the large commitments the agency is already in the middle of, and the prospect of flat budgets, it is unlikely that there will be any seismic shifts. As for the #JourneyToMars - absent a large infusion of money (again, not likely) the current pay-as-you-go, we-don't-need-a-plan approach is simply not going to get us to Mars any sooner.

The most that space advocates should hope for after the dust settles is that the agency will be held more accountable for its performance and that some budgetary and policy stability will be injected into things already underway so as to make them progress more efficiently.

Kicking The Can Down the Road to Mars, earlier post


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This page is an archive of entries in the Election 2016 category from March 2016.

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