The major presidential candidates pummel each other daily on issues ranging from the Iraq war to health care. But when it comes to President Bush's ambitious initiative to send humans back to the moon and on to Mars, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) is all but alone in staking out a formal position -- and it's one that lends support to key aspects of the president's effort.
She initially outlined the need for a "robust" human spaceflight program last month during a Washington speech on science policy, despite being broadly critical of the Bush administration's record on scientific issues.
I'll need to rub my eyes a few more times, but did Hillary Clinton just take an actual position on something? And, more to the point, did she actually just demonstrate the courage to agree with George W. Bush on an issue, and one that I hold near and dear to my heart? Are Bush, Clinton and myself all on the same page for one brief moment in time? Hold me... I'm frightened.
The article also helpfully gives a rundown of where a number of other candidates come down on the subject.
Barack Obama: In a position paper on education unveiled in New Hampshire, [Obama] advocated delaying for five years the program to build the new multibillion-dollar Constellation spacecraft and using the savings to fund a variety of education initiatives. (Edit from Jazz - You don't think we can have both? You could fund NASA for a six months on just the pork you people have shoveled this year alone.)
John McCain: Did not respond. (Jazz - We'll be getting back to you on this, Senator. Just wait until you show up on Heading Right Radio again.)
Rudy Giuliani: (via a campaign representative) "I'm not sure anything is out there on this subject." (Jazz - Oh, wait.. I get it... "Out there." Ha ha. Ho ho. It is to laugh. You're so funny!)
Mitt Romney campaign: "During the first campaign visit to the Space Coast by a 2008 presidential candidate, Republican Mitt Romney said he supports Bush's vision for space exploration and has no reason yet to propose a new direction." (Jazz - That's pretty watered down, Mitt.)
John Edwards: "We need a balanced space and aeronautics program. We need to support solar system exploration as an important goal for our human and robotic programs, but only as one goal among several." (Jazz - Are you using Hillary's campaign writers now, John? Was that even an answer?)
Except for Clinton's, none of the official campaign Web sites appears to mention NASA or human space exploration specifically.
We haven't left low Earth orbit in the lifetime of many of our readers. And don't get me wrong - the things we are doing are important and worthwhile. Satellite technology has benefited humanity in ways we could not have imagined when I was born. I could go on for days about the wonders of the Hubble telescope, and the international space station still holds a lot of promise. But come on, already!
Those of us who believe in the Olduvai Theory are sitting on pins and needles. Any technological civilization has only one window of opportunity to make it off the planet and expand the horizons of our species before we use up all of the available resources needed to continue to expand our advancement. And that window doesn't stay open forever.
We have become overly cautious - perhaps even timid - in our attitude toward space exploration. Nobody ever wants to see people die, particularly not our greatest national heroes. But the fact is that we have always had a breed of supermen and superwomen who dedicate their lives to adventure and exploration to continue the advancement of our civilization. And these people enter into such endeavors knowing full well that their lives may be sacrificed in that noble enterprise. We've lost several astronauts since the space program began, and yet we have courageous scientists lining up to learn, train and compete against one another for the chance to reach for the stars.
We will never reduce the risk factor in space exploration to absolute zero. But we can ensure a reasonable chance of survival and the gains to be made, the history to be created, is beyond anything you can put a price tag on. We've been sitting on the sidelines since the last time we came back from the moon. The technology is here today. The needed heroes are waiting in the wings. It's time to get off the bench and back into the game. We deserve to go to Mars, and eventually beyond.