"Is The Gap Going To Be 5-6 Years... Or 3-4?"
There's no other way to say it: NASA's planned reliance on
Russian Soyuz capsules to carry astronauts to the International
Space Station, once the space shuttle is retired in 2010, is
looking increasingly dubious in the face of that country's
continued strong-arm tactics in the former Soviet state (and US
ally) of Georgia.
But are there any other options? US Presidential candidates John
McCain and Barack Obama say yes. Obama, the presumptive Democrat
nominee, unveiled his plan for NASA this weekend... ahead of his
Republican rival's planned trip Monday to Florida's Space
Both the Democrat and Republican candidates say additional funds
must be made available to keep NASA's Constellation manned
spacecraft program on track. Just last week, NASA said it's likely
the first manned Constellation flight won't take place until at
least September 2014 -- four years after the shuttle is retired --
though sometime in early 2015 is the safer
Obama pledged Sunday to find an additional $2 billion...
somewhere... to fast-track development of the capsule and rocket
system that will replace the shuttle. In the interim, Obama said he
would also support Congressional efforts to fly at least one
additional shuttle mission past the September 2010 target, as well
as to spur NASA's efforts to help develop alternatives from the
Those positions are marked departures from Obama's previous
stance on NASA, in which he suggested cuts to NASA funding to pay
for other programs.
As ANN reported, the first signs of Obama's
policy shift -- it's uncouth to say "flip-flop" -- came earlier
this month, during his own visit to the Space Coast... a textbook
example of the old political axiom, "When in Rome... don't tick off
Those plans mirror McCain's own plans for NASA... and he made
sure reporters in Florida knew it.
"Sometimes it's difficult to know what a politician will
actually do once in office because they say different things at
different times to different people," he said Monday, according to
Reuters. "This is a particular problem when a candidate has a
short, thin record on the issues as is the case of Senator Obama...
Let me just say in case Senator Obama does decide to return to his
original plan of cutting NASA funding, I oppose such cuts."
Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who backs Obama's plan for NASA,
said the issue facing NASA workers in his state -- and America's
space policy at large -- comes down to one fundamental question:
"Is the gap going to be five or six years or is it going to be
three of four years?"
Sadly, specifics from either candidate are tough to come by.
Each pledges to throw more money at NASA to close that gap...
though neither can say where that money will come from.