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NASA and America’s leading role in space exploration: The choice

President Obama has made it clear: “I am 100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future.” Mitt Romney, however, thinks that NASA should lose financial support, and the task of space exploration should be left up to the private sector:

“I think fundamentally there are some people—and most of them are Democrats, but not all—who really believe that the government knows how to do things better than the private sector … And they happen to be wrong.”

In fact, there’s a clear contrast between the way Romney and President Obama plan to support NASA. Romney’s budget proposal would require huge cuts to non-defense spending. In fact, if cuts were made across the board, this would mean slashing funding for NASA by 25 percent in 2016—a whopping $4.5 billion.

Recent Congressional budget proposals only allocated half of the funds the Obama administration requested for commercial spaceflight of NASA astronauts, which slowed hiring at the Kennedy Space Center. The deeper cuts under Romney’s plan would set back NASA even further.

While Romney prefers to cut away at support for NASA, here’s how the President has continued to support NASA’s mission:

  • Under the Obama administration, NASA began work on the Space Launch System—a new vehicle that will be “the most powerful ever to rise from the gravitational bonds of the Earth” and will “serve as the backbone of its human spaceflight program for decades.” In March of 2012, the Space Launch System successfully completed the first in a series of milestones in its development process,  taking one step closer to its first launch.

  • In 2010, the Obama administration “announced a grant to assist an estimated 3,200 aerospace workers in training for and finding new jobs,” and the training programs began immediately. Recently, NASA also announced that Boeing and the Kennedy Space Center have entered into a partnership that is expected to produce 550 jobs by 2015.

  • The administration also awarded a clean energy startup grant to Florida’s state economic development agency for aerospace technology, known as Space Florida, that is expected “to create 200 or more jobs in two years.”

  • President Obama’s latest budget proposal includes $17.7 billion in funding for NASA,  including funding for major “flagship” projects like preliminary studies on a mission to one of Saturn’s moons. And while making difficult financial decisions, the President’s budget proposal builds on existing space infrastructure, increases funding for many of NASA’s cost-constrained priorities,  and “preserves innovative capabilities and technologies to sustain American leadership in space.”

When it comes to supporting the aerospace workers who make America the leader in space exploration, only President Obama stands by NASA, while Romney would cut it down.