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A Look at John McCain’s Space Plan August 29, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Apollo, cooperation, Google Lunar X Prize, McCain, Obama, space tourism.

After recently taking a look at Barack Obama‘s detailed space plan, it’s now time to sit down and take a gander at his counterpart John McCain‘s own plan for our spacefaring future.

While McCain’s plan is only about a third of the length of Obama’s (989 words to 3,486), there’s still enough information and context that can be discerned from it to give an idea of what a McCain administration’s space policy could shape up to be like.

  • Batting leadoff is this first-sentence statement : “For the past 50 years, space activities have contributed greatly to US scientific discovery, national security, economic development, and national innovation, pride and power.” The placement of “national security” second on that list is notable, and not a surprise given McCain’s military background.
  • The plan goes on to briefly discuss Sputnik, the reaction to it, and how that led to a dominance in American science and technology, noting: “The end of the Cold War and the space race has greatly reduced the profile of space exploration as a point of national pride…”, creating a “degree of ‘mission-rut'” for NASA.
  • After noting “Much of our communications infrastructure is dependent upon space based assets that are essential to the quality of our everyday lives and the economy”, the report goes on to detail how China, Russia, India, Japan and Europe are all “active players” in space exploration.
  • McCain then writes briefly about the increasing activity in the commerical sector and mentions the Google Lunar X Prize and space tourism, specifically noting the “importance of investments in key industries such as space to the future of our national security, environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness, and national pride as a technological leader”; again, a distinct foreign policy lean with national security being first on the list and “competitiveness” and “pride” being in there also.
  • An entire paragraph is devoted to discussion of the following quote regarding the Nixon administration’s mulling of the cancellation of Apollo and non-approval of the Space Shuttle:

“[That policy] …would be confirming in some respects a belief that I fear is gaining credence at home and abroad: That our best years are behind us, that we are turning inward, reducing our defense commitments, and voluntarily starting to give up our super-power status and our desire to maintain world superiority.”

Casper Weinberger, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director, 1971

  • McCain then states, rather significantly, that “Three and a half decades later this seems equally valid, if not more so given the increased number of countries that are making significant investments in space.”

The report then concludes with a little on McCain’s contributions to the space program as a Senator and on NASA’s current policies and projects.

McCain’s last statement about Weinberger’s quote, combined with the foreign policy leaning of the plan, clearly illustrates that McCain sees Constellation and the rest of NASA’s programs as key to American international standing, prestige, and competitiveness.

This is somewhat of a contrast to Obama’s plan, which has a focus that is notably more domestic, primarily discussing the private sector. A perhaps even more notable contrast is that while Obama’s plan discusses international cooperation quite a bit, it is something that is not mentioned a single time in McCain’s plan.

The differences in the two plans are fascinating, and more than I would have expected, illustrating that this is definitely a subject that both candidates take very seriously, and that they both have their own distinctive styles towards handling.


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