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Obama's hostility to NASA wanes

Tom Jackson • Mar 23, 2010 at 6:27 PM

Sen. Barack Obama has flip-flopped on another issue -- and I couldn't be happier.

As I wrote in this newspaper some months ago, Obama had promised to gut NASA's big new effort in space, Project Constellation.

Specifically, the senator had unveiled an $18 billion plan to boost federal spending for education. To pay for the early education component of the plan, Obama proposed "delaying the NASA Constellation program for five years."

NASA's Constellation program, which is supposed to be the next big space program after the space shuttle is phased out, aims to return astronauts to the Moon, with an eye toward sending them eventually to Mars.

If Obama won, and carried out his plan to delay Constellation for five years, it would have been bad news for Erie County, which is counting on continued development of NASA Plum Brook Station to help produce new jobs. It also would have been bad news in Cleveland, where NASA Glenn Research Station is a major employer.

I held out hope, though, that if Obama had no trouble dumping his public promises on public financing for his election and opposition to immunity for telecoms that he'd be willing to reverse course on space, too. He hasn't really focused much attention on space, anyway.

Sure enough, an e-mail from the Obama campaign sent to me Wednesday says that he loves the space program after all.

"Obama supports the Constellation program. Last year, as part of his effort to provide full offsets for all his spending initiatives, he proposed delaying later stages of Constellation to help pay for his early childhood education program. However, he understands how critical NASA is to America's scientific and economic edge and that is why he has found alternative offsets to cover the costs of his early education plan," the statement said.

Meanwhile, John McCain has supported the space program and Project Constellation all along. Details here.

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