Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Senator Clinton on space

Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton is to be congratulated on being the first of the Presidential candidates to address space policy. It's unfortunate that she didn't say much. Words like "balanced" and "robust" don't commit anyone to anything. Basically, she made a promise to each constituency - earth science, space science, and human spaceflight - to do better by them. The exception was the promise to "speed" development of the next generation of human spaceflight vehicles and launchers, but even that really commits her to nothing - you can always say something along the lines of "We sped it up compared to what the last Administration was likely to do." Finally, she gave no figures and mentioned no funding sources. It also doesn't help to recall that her husband's administration was really supportive only when it came to Earth science. That Administration was no friend to commercial space development or to human spaceflight - at one point telling NASA to halt all planning for a human presence beyond LEO.
Still, Senator Clinton deserves to be commended for two things. One is simply teeing up the space issue, increasing the chance other candidates will address it seriously. The other is her promise in the space speech to reestablish Congress' Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). Now, she can't actually do that, only Congress can. But it should be done. The OTA did some excellent work.

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