For good or ill, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton haven’t said much about U.S. space policy during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. SpaceNews put nine identical questions to the Clinton and Trump camps. Here’s what they had to say.
1. In 2016, NASA’s $19.3 billion budget represents a little less than 0.5 percent of the federal budget. Does that sound too high, too low or like an appropriate level of funding?
There is no way to answer this question based on the current state of the space program and the problems facing us. My administration will examine spending priorities and will make adjustments as necessary. However, as a businessman, I am mindful of the many benefits, inventions and scientific breakthroughs that would not have been possible without the space program, and that has to be thrown into the calculus, as well.
An investment in NASA is an investment in our future. The United States reaps tremendous tangible benefits from the just over one-half of one percent of the federal budget that is spent on NASA.
As president, I will give my full support for a NASA budget that invests in innovative, meaningful programs that are managed wisely and efficiently, in order to grow our 21st century space and aeronautics portfolio.
It is critical that we ensure NASA has the resources and the predictable funding it needs to achieve the goals of its missions and programs. Maintaining American leadership in space will take strategically partnering with American companies on certain near-term needs, freeing up NASA to focus on the toughest technical challenges as we continue to explore at an even more rapid pace.
2. Much of the U.S. military space budget is classified. Analysts believe that spending has been rising in recent years. Is that a good idea? Why or why not?
As stated above, we will examine the budgets of the various departments and determine if our resources are being spent appropriately. Our national defense is the federal government’s primary responsibility under the Constitution and, thus, should be our first priority, but with due deference to cost effectiveness.
Space infrastructure plays an increasingly important role in our national security. Today, we depend upon an extensive array of space assets that strengthen our military and defense capabilities. Given the critical nature of our space infrastructure, it is appropriate that some programs remain classified, in order to protect our interests.
As a former Secretary of State, I know firsthand how important America’s military and intelligence space capabilities are to our national security. The men and women in our national security space programs do not always receive the same recognition as their colleagues in the civil space program — and I am grateful for their service.
3. What would be your priorities for the U.S. government’s military space program?
We should concentrate on making sure that we enhance combat lethality and increase situational awareness, and expand our intelligence capabilities. We must also guarantee our early warning capabilities remain strong, as well as our ability to communicate and navigate in war and peace.
Space is a critical component of our efforts to keep America safe, encompassing communications, missile-warning, navigation, and reconnaissance. We must both advance our technological capabilities and ensure the operational readiness of our military space efforts, while keeping costs down. As president, I will support reforms to make the procurement process more efficient, partnering with industry to advance innovation wherever possible.
Resiliency and redundancy for our most critical military space assets will also be a priority. For example, investing in small satellites and disaggregating our capabilities across multiple platforms helps disperse the risk of failure or attack.
I am encouraged by the innovations we are seeing from the private sector when it comes to reusability and other measures that can reduce the cost of launch. These efforts will contribute to space resiliency and enhance competition — benefitting our national security space sector and the security of our nation.
4. What would be your priorities for the U.S. government’s civil space program?
Our civilian space program should reflect the scientific priorities and aspirations of our society. Congress will be a full partner in shaping those priorities as the people’s representatives.
If elected, I will support NASA’s efforts to drive innovation and advance the technology that expands our understanding of the Earth, the solar system and the universe, and provides global leadership that enables humanity to explore beyond our home planet. NASA’s missions must both bring scientific, economic and educational value to our country and capture our imaginations.
Since the success of Apollo, NASA has not focused on a singular goal, but has involved instead to serve a wide range of national functions. We must increase investments in science, technology and infrastructure, in STEM education, and in public outreach to ensure that NASA continues to capture our imaginations, contribute to our economy, and drive human understanding forward.
5. NASA has invested heavily in Earth observation satellites in recent years due, in part, to concerns about climate change. Would you continue to make Earth observation a priority?
Earth observation serves many purposes and has many benefits in addition to climate change. Again, we will work with Congress to set priorities for the full complement of America’s space operations and endeavors.
NASA has played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of climate change and in developing the approaches we need to mitigate its impacts. Earth-observing satellites are our nation’s eyes in the sky, and allow us to see the undeniable reality of how climate change is real and why we must address it. Earth observation is also critical to our ability to monitor and predict the weather, including severe events and natural disasters.
I believe climate change is one of the most serious challenges we face, and I am committed to making sure America leads global efforts to combat climate change and to deepen our scientific understanding. For instance, there is a great deal we don’t yet know about how the natural carbon cycle may change in light of increased carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, in the oceans and sequestered in land, and additional Earth observations will be vital to cracking the code. My administration will tackle the urgent threat of climate change through combined domestic efforts to increase and strengthen our clean energy infrastructure, slash carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions, and empower federal agencies like NASA to work with the global community.
6. NASA currently plans to send astronauts to an asteroid in the mid-2020s and to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s. Do you support those plans? Why or why not?
After taking office, we will have a comprehensive review of our plans for space, and will work with Congress to set both priorities and mission.
Today, thanks to decades of successful American robotic explorers, we know more about the universe than ever before. We have learned that asteroids have shaped life on our home planet and will likely affect our future. Their scientific value and their potential as a resource make them valuable targets for further exploration. Many of the technologies we need to send astronauts to an asteroid can also serve as foundational technologies that will be necessary to make human exploration of Mars possible.
While President Kennedy set NASA on a course to win the race against Russia to get to the moon, today, human spaceflight is a global endeavor, with astronauts and cosmonauts living and working together on the International Space Station — a remarkable facility developed with 15 international partners. America should continue to push the boundaries of space and lead a global effort of exploration.
I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of human space flight. My administration will continue to invest in this worthwhile endeavor. Mars is a consensus horizon goal, though to send humans safely, we still need to advance the technologies required to mitigate the effects of long-duration, deep-space flight.
7. You have been an advocate for public-private partnerships. Could those be used to support space exploration? If so, how would those public-private partnerships work?
I think there would be ample opportunity for public-private partnerships in the space program, and it is already occurring to some degree with private flights of supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. Again, we would work with Congress to determine what structures would serve the interests of the country best.
The public sector’s role in civil space exploration is to drive technological and scientific advancements — focusing the public’s investment on the most challenging missions where there is no near-term commercial applicability. Without those public investments, our knowledge of space, space technologies and Earth observations would languish. NASA contracts with the private sector for nearly all of its missions, and can support a more competitive industry by buying commercial services and establishing new public-private partnership opportunities.
It is in NASA’s interest to work with the private-sector innovators who are opening up new opportunities. We can harness the private sector to give taxpayers the best return on investment, provide crew and cargo access to the International Space Station, and open up new commercial opportunities in communications, Earth observations, and suborbital human spaceflight.
Getting the public-private relationship right is essential to sustaining America’s leadership in space. I am encouraged by the success NASA has seen in accelerating innovation with its new approach to commercial space partnerships under the Obama administration. These public-private partnerships have brought an exciting entrepreneurial spirit to the space industry and should be continued.
8. Do you have any memory of the Apollo moon landing you would like to share?
If you are talking about the first moon landing where Neil Armstrong made “one giant leap for mankind,” I remember it distinctly. It was a great day to be an American. It was the culmination of a determined and noble effort to achieve the outer edge of our capabilities as a nation. There is nothing more American than that.
Like many Americans, our country’s space program has been a tremendous source of inspiration throughout my life. When I was thirteen, I even wrote to NASA to ask how I could become an astronaut — though at that time, there were no female astronauts. When I graduated from Wellesley College in May 1969 — two months before the moon landing — I highlighted in my commencement speech the inspiration I took from the space program.
As First Lady, I had the pleasure of spending the 25th Anniversary of America’s landing on the moon at a celebration with the Apollo 11 astronauts. It was a wonderful celebration, and by that time, there were already more than a dozen American women who had achieved my childhood dream of being an astronaut.
9. Any other comments you would like to make?
In recent years, we have seen tremendous progress in space, with exciting scientific discoveries, and the development of new technologies, architectures and operational concepts. I believe we are entering a golden age of space activity. In order to succeed, we must foster an ever more collaborative space program that takes advantage of the best our country has to offer and that keeps learning from new ideas.
During the Apollo era, NASA partnered with dozens of industries — extending far beyond aerospace — to gain the best ideas and spark innovation across many economic sectors. Federal agencies like NASA, the Department of Defense and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must keep strengthening this model of engagement to ensure the finest minds work together to foster technological advances. These advances will not just benefit space exploration, but will spread through industry and society to improve all our lives. Federally funded space research and exploration, at its best, brings us peace and prosperity, while contributing scientific, economic, educational and inspirational value to the nation and the world.