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.
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."
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.