— Both major party candidates for
president have pledged a $2 billion increase to NASA’s budget to help shorten the gap between the retirement of the space shuttle and the fielding of its successor, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 rocket.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain made his pledge Oct. 17 during a campaign rally in
Brevard County
, home of NASA’s

Democratic presidential candidate BarackObama’s $2 billion pledge, originally made in August, was ridiculed by the Republican National Committee in early October as part of the “liberal fiscal agenda” the Illinois senator would pursue if president.

Speaking to
voters, McCain suggested Obama adopted a pro-NASA stance for political gain.

“If I’m elected president I won’t cut NASA funds like Senator Obama did then reverse myself here on the
for political benefit,” McCain said. “My friends, we just saw the Chinese, saw them in space. We’ve got competition. We’ve got to stay ahead. We will be the first nation to Mars. We will continue … to lead in space. I’ve always been a strong supporter of manned spaceflight and NASA. I will fund NASA including the $2 billion needed to minimize the gap between the retirement of the shuttle and the movement to a new vehicle.”

proposed early in his primary contest against Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) cutting NASA’s budget to pay for early childhood education programs, but eventually changed his stance. Obama reiterated his $2 billion pledge in an Oct. 21 statement calling
‘s successful launch of the Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter a reminder of “just how urgently the
United States
must revitalize its space program if we are to remain the undisputed leader in space, science, and technology.”

The Obama campaign released a radio spot in
the day before McCain’s
rally charging that McCain’s plan to freeze domestic spending would amount to a cut for NASA. “So layoffs would loom larger, and NASA would continue to be starved of funds for future exploration,” Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said in the ad.