Romney: Armstrong and Apollo Showed You Need an American to Do "The Really Big Stuff"

Romney: Armstrong and Apollo Showed You Need an American to Do "The Really Big Stuff"

In accepting the Republican party nomination for President last night, Mitt Romney spoke of watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and offered his views on what that showed about America.   Armstrong died on Saturday at the age of 82 from complications of heart surgery; a private memorial service is being held today.

The Republican party platform adopted at the Republican convention this week disappointed some in its discussion of the space program because it focused on NASA and not, for example, the growing contribution of entrepreneurial NewSpace companies.  Romney’s speech similarly focused on NASA’s role in space, specifically the impact of the Apollo landing.    Romney said:

I was born in the middle of the century in the middle of the country, a classic baby boomer. It was a time when Americans were returning from war and eager to work. To be an American was to assume that all things were possible. When President Kennedy challenged Americans to go to the moon, the question wasn’t whether we’d get there, it was only when we’d get there.

The soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent’s sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.

God bless Neil Armstrong.

Tonight that American flag is still there on the moon. And I don’t doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong’s spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.

Romney stopped short of explaining what his goals are for the nation’s space program.

President Obama also has made statements in recent weeks praising the Mars Curiosity landing and Armstrong.  He also reasserted his commitment to someday sending astronauts to Mars with a human mission to an asteroid as a “potential” precursor. 

The President’s February 2010 decision to cancel the Constellation program — begun by President George W. Bush to return astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and someday land on Mars — created a firestorm of controversy, the reverberations of which are still felt today.   The Obama Administration and Congress ultimately reached a compromise where NASA will continue to develop a large rocket (the Space Launch System) and a spacecraft (Orion) to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit (LEO), which Congress wanted, and help fund private sector companies to develop space transportation systems to take crews and cargo to the International Space Station in LEO, which the President wanted.   

The level of funding Congress is providing for those programs is too modest to allow either to proceed at a robust pace, however.  The funding for the beyond LEO program also does not include money for building systems that would allow astronauts to land on either the Moon or Mars, only to orbit them.

The Obama Administration’s policy is to send astronauts to visit an asteroid in 2025 and then to orbit (but not land on) Mars in the 2030s.   President Obama said in an April 15, 2010 speech that he expects astronauts to land on Mars in his lifetime, but was not more specific.

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