President Obama at DNC

Obama Releases NASA Statement

The Obama campaign has released a three-page statement outlining its general support and strategy for NASA. In the statement, President Obama says that he is “100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future … because broadening our capabilities in space will continue to serve our society in ways that we can scarcely imagine.” The statement also outlines key goals met by NASA while under the general leadership of the Obama administration, including the extension of the operating life of the International Space Station beyond 2016, supporting America’s commercial space industry, as well as pushing to have more science done aboard the ISS.

The statement is divided into 4 key areas:

  • Existing space efforts 
  • Growth of commercial spaceflight
  • General investments in science through NASA, and
  • Next generation of spaceflight

In regards to existing space efforts, the Obama campaign wants us to know that the administration supported extending the Space Shuttle Program by two additional flights (STS 134 and STS 135) and worked to increase international cooperation on the ISS, thus extending the mission life of our space station. The administration also increased support for ISS science experiments by inviting government entities, non-profit organizations and the private sector to propose basic and applied science experiments for the ISS. In theory, this was an attempt to broaden participation in science for the ISS.

SpaceX Dragon capsule docks with ISS

Perhaps the most significant area of interest the Obama campaign is pointing out in this statement is its continued investments in commercial spaceflight. The administration has made efforts to support, through NASA and elsewhere, the growth of U.S. commercial space companies and encouraged them to ramp up their efforts to claim low-Earth orbit. Since Obama has taken office, several private sector space companies have made prominent strides in the commercialization of space. Most notable among these private companies is Space X . The Space X Dragon capsule docked with the ISS earlier in 2012, marking the first time that a private company has conducted a mission to low-Earth orbit. Also of note is the construction of the first commercial spaceport in the United States, Spaceport America, which has already launched 12 suborbital flights since its opening in October 2011.

The statement goes on to indicate the Obama administration’s support for continued investments in science, as well as the Space Launch System, NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket, which is still in the planning phase.

Although this statement from the Obama administration shows support and pride for the recent NASA activities, including the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory “Curiosity” rover on the surface of Mars, it does not offer any new information relating to the reduction of NASA’s budget by 0.3 percent in FY2013. This budget decrease overwhelmingly affected NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, reducing it by $261 million. Congress will begin addressing the FY2013 budget, and the NASA budget in particular, later this year. They will be approving various Obama administration budget suggestions. NASA may yet receive more cuts or more funding than expected. In the meantime, the Obama administration has apparently chosen not to mention the 0.3 percent NASA budget reduction at this point in the campaign.