Despite showcasing America’s funniest white person costumes, and practicing racist epithets, the GOP is also trying to get something done at this year’s Republican National Convention. As my colleague Brian Merchant pointed out, the aggressively right-leaning platform the party has presented sets the course goals for the entirety of Mitt’s potentially forthcoming presidency. Somewhere between the promises of deregulation, respect for Native Americans, and the GOP’s goal to make the Internet Family Friendly, is a brief two paragraphs about space travel.
I don’t mean to make it seems that the GOP doesn’t consider space important. Clearly they do, to the point where it was in one candidate’s long-term vacation agenda. I doubt you need be reminded, since this is the kind of news story that you’ll tell your grandchildren about, but Newt Gingrich wanted/wants to colonize the moon, and if all goes according to plan, make it our 51st state. This isn’t necessarily a novel idea from Gingrich; Dubya proposed a similar space initiative in 2004, with one of several goals being to establish a base on the moon. Bush’s reasoning was focused primarily around the idea that it would cut costs of further space travel, like when we needed a couch to crash on while in transit. Gingrich has more Machiavellian intentions for his space ambitions, saying that allowing the Chinese to dominate space is a “a path of national decline,” since we were the country who got there first. Either way, however unpractical, it’s obviously something that the GOP wants.
Unfortunately for the moon’s tourism industry, Gingrich isn’t whom the GOP wants to run their country, and this is reflected in the platform where there are no mentions of lunar golf courses whatsoever. Instead, under the title “America’s Future in Space: Continuing this Quest,” the GOP’s official platform’s space section (PDF, page 28) basically asks NASA to stand and take a bow, while using generic sentences to say ‘we should keep doing space stuff.’ While other sections of the doctrine make pejorative threats to the current administration’s supposed hatred for private enterprise, the GOP’s official opinion on the space industry obsesses over NASA, which is indeed a part of the Big Government the GOP hates, while totally ignoring the booming private space industry. What?
It’s written with the same generically economic themed language that Romney uses in all of his speeches, saying things like “Through itss achievements, NASA has inspired generations of Americans to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, leading to careers that drive our country’s technological and economic engines.” As far as the definitive statement on intent, the best we get is an equally as soulless and verbose concluding sentence: “To preserve our national security interests and foster innovation and competitiveness, we must sustain our preeminence in space, launching more science missions, guaranteeing unfettered access, and maintaining a source of high-value American jobs,” of course ending the sentence with the official punctuation of the 2012 Republican party, “jobs.” I wonder how long the writer knew he should address space before this thing was printed.
So it seems that the GOP platform really doesn’t have a well defined opinion on space travel and further space exploration, except for maybe ‘do it better than other countries.’ This kind of blanket patriotic approach makes sense though, since in all reality, there are other more pressing issues that the GOP is concerned with. But even for a blanket statement, it’s a lazily considered blanket statement.
In response to the platform, the Space Frontier Foundation issued a statement stating that "NASA seems to be the one big government program many Republicans love. "This is strange considering that one of the GOP’s favorite things in the entire world, privatizing industry, is completely unconsidered, which is particularly odd given how much growth we’ve seen in the private space industry recently. Obviously Newt Gingrich wasn’t allowed to help write the platform. The Space Frontier Foundation goes on to make several other valid points about how the universal GOP stance on industry and government directly contradicts their hardon for NASA, but the points aren’t really worth repeating since the resounding theme is that whoever wrote this platform really doesn’t even know there is such a thing as a ‘NewSpace’ sector.
The SFF statement ends with an interesting, bipartisan comment: “NASA needs the kind of overhaul Gov. Romney has brought to other dysfunctional organizations if it is to pass his test for all government programs: is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for it? Only when NASA ceases to be a white-collar jobs program and starts nurturing entrepreneurs in new industries will the answer be yes.”
While admittedly broad, the 2008 DNC platform
(PDF) seemed to sum up that sentiment in their comparable statement of intent, "In sum, we will strengthen our system, treat science and technology as crucial investments, and use these forces to ensure a future of economic leadership, health well-being and national security. I can imagine a similar goal moving forward from the Democrats. The Republicans on the other hand, just want their kids to play with American made astronaut figurines, and win things.