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Obama vs. Romney on Space Exploration

As the U.S. election season heats up, politicians have increasingly focused on important issues such as the economy, foreign policy, and Clint Eastwood's fascination with empty chairs. Today, the often overlooked area of science policy received its due attention from both President Obama and his opponent, Mitt Romney.

The non-profit ScienceDebate organization posed 14 critical science policy questions to both presidential candidates, and the candidates handed in their written homework today. Members of the public suggested questions before national scientific organizations narrowed down and refined the final list. Dozens of organizations including the American Physical Society, the National Academies of Science, and the American Association for the Advancement of science helped coordinate this year's list.

While the candidates prevaricated on most of the questions, a few of their answers were more revealing. Here's a glimpse at how each candidate responded to questions about the future of space exploration.

Romney image courtesy of Gage Skidmore. Obama image courtesy of Greg Souza.

Mitt Romney

In his answers to the space goals/funding question, Romney tended to focus on the industry's ability to create jobs, enhance national security and push technology forward. His answers, however, lacked clear goals for the space program in the near to intermediate future. His emphasis that NASA does not need more funding may raise the most eyebrows:

"A strong and successful NASA does not require more funding, it needs clearer priorities. I will ensure that NASA has practical and sustainable missions. There will be a balance of pragmatic and top-priority science with inspirational and groundbreaking exploration programs."

Barack Obama

Obama emphasized his goals to send humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars by the 2030's just as he told redditors last week during a surprise Q&A session. Although Obama did provide some hints about his goals for NASA, he focused on past achievements, particularly the recent Mars Rover mission. Obama smartly omitted the fact that the Mars Rover mission selected all of its instruments in 2004 and most software and hardware testing was done by his first year in office.

"No other country can match our capabilities in Earth observation from space. In robotic space exploration, too, nobody else comes close. And I intend to keep it that way."

You can read the entire responses from Obama and Romney at the ScienceDebate website.

You can also check out the related press release.


  1. There's no profit in NASA, the sciences or the arts so where do you think that leaves them with Romney? Is there any doubt that a Romney administration would favor the rich and increase the income gap in our country? Mitt is a pariah in Mormon Clothing and will stop at nothing to expand an empire of greed for the rich in this country by expanding tax cuts for the 1% of the wealthiest Americans. He’s out to gut the Middle Class for every red cent he can get. Will his sacred Mormon underwear grant him the protection and money to buy this election? See for yourself as Mitt dons his tighty-whities sent down from the Good Lord Himself at

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  3. New discoveries will astound us. We will discover intelligent life on other planets, and evolution will be confirmed—with unsettling implications for certain religions. We will confirm how our universe originated. Developments on Earth and on our moon will inhibit the “Man on Mars” program (causing its cancellation). Before this century ends, we will have developed spectacular new means of “transport” exceeding the speed of light. Imagine dispatching probes into the cosmos at many times the speed of light! Instrumented satellites to orbit other bodies will penetrate light-years into deep space and return the data well within the lives and careers of cosmic scientists.

    Space exploration will continue to suffer priority and budgetary restraints. The Challenger shuttle disaster of 1992 and the Columbia’s reentry disintegration in 2003 raised caution flags and fueled public doubts as to the wisdom of space exploration in view of the many unfulfilled needs on Earth. Since NASA admitted that it “played Russian Roulette with the lives of the astronauts,” neglecting deficiencies in monitoring its shuttles’ heat shields (and discovered some sabotage), much public support was lost. Nevertheless, ignoring burgeoning budget deficits, the US president proposed two new, expensive space projects, one to build a permanently manned space station on our moon and another to land a man on Mars. The moon station makes sense.

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