Trump vs. Clinton: Who's Better on Space?

A Motherboard report card.

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Sep 26 2016, 8:20pm

Editor's Note: In anticipation of the presidential debates, Motherboard has graded Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on the depth of their insight, and the viability of their policies, regarding the subjects near and dear to us: cybersecurity, health, energy, space, environment, telecom and, of course, marijuana. Spoiler: It's not always pretty.

Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump have issued comprehensive platforms about their approach to NASA, or American space policy more broadly. That said, it's possible to make some educated guesses about the candidates' positions based on some offhand remarks on the campaign trail.

Clinton seems generally in favor of continued investment in American space leadership and often cites an anecdote about her early aspirations to become an astronaut. She is supportive of the emerging private space sector in the US, represented by the leadership of companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Moon Express, and regards commercial spaceflight as an important avenue for applied sciences like asteroid mining and space tourism. In contrast, she envisions NASA's role to be more "in the discovery and research arena" that she thinks "only the government can support."

Clinton has also expressed support for better tracking and research into potentially hazardous near-Earth objects, as a planetary defense measure. She is open to the possibility that alien life not only exists, but may have visited Earth, and hasexpressed interest in declassifying Area 51 documents and "get to the bottom" of UFO rumors.

Trump, meanwhile, has said very little about his plans for NASA or his vision for American spaceflight, though he has expressed support for the private space sector.

Publicly funded spaceflight, however, seems extremely low on his list of priorities. When asked about his plans for NASA in November 2015, Trump said, "You know, in the old days, it was great. Right now, we have bigger problems. You understand that? We've got to fix our potholes. You know, we don't exactly have a lot of money."

Trump has also criticized the Obama administration's handling of NASA by tweeting in 2012 that President Obama "gutted the program and made us dependent on the Russians," presumably referring to budget-related delays of the American Commercial Crew Program which would end US reliance on Russia for transporting American astronauts to and from the International Space Station. But given his recent statements about allocating money towards infrastructure or economic issues over public spaceflight, it's hard to know if he would have funded major NASA projects like the CCP.