About 20 attendees of a June 6 fundraiser here for Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton got a sneak peak at the candidate’s nascent space policy.
Clinton did not personally address space matters during the $1,000-a-plate “issues forum and breakfast” that attracted 150-200 supporters who gathered at the Hyatt Regency Washington hotel on Capitol Hill.
However, one of the half-dozen policy breakout sessions held after the candidate’s departure was focused on “civil and commercial aerospace.”
Led by Lori Garver, a senior NASA policy official during the presidency of Sen. Clinton’s husband, the hour-long session attracted about 20 people, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), former NASA public affairs chief Glenn Mahone, and Jake Sullivan one of Clinton’s top domestic policy advisors.
Other attendees included space professionals from industry, academia
, reached by telephone June 7, declined to discuss the policy session since it was a private event not open to media. According to attendees who asked not to be identified, Garver broadly endorsed the human space exploration goals NASA has been pursuing since President George W. Bush unveiled the Vision for Space Exploration in 2004, but stressed that NASA’s other long-standing objectives should not be sacrificed in the process.
“Their biggest issue was balance,” one attendee said. “They want a balanced portfolio for NASA. They support exploration and support the vision but they also believe that Earth science has been cut too much and they need to increase it significantly.”
Aeronautics research, the attendee said, likewise was singled out as a part of NASA’s budget in need of more money – a position in sync
with that of many U.S. lawmakers in key positions to influence NASA’s budget.
International collaboration and commercial innovation
also were talked about in the context of getting more out of the U.S. space program, attendees said.
“There was a lot of talk about space being one of the best mechanisms for strengthening international ties,” one attendee said.
Another attendee said Sullivan showed a lot of interest in commercial space companies such as Bigelow Aerospace, Virgin Galactic and others, asking questions about “how the government could incentivize them.”
Space rarely has rated a mention in recent national political campaigns, and the 2008 presidential race is proving no exception. For example, not a single space question has been asked during any of the several televised debates held so far this year.
But space advocates are taking some comfort in how space is faring in sideline events such as this.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance with her,” a Clinton supporter said, noting that the New York senator made a point of attending Elmira, N.Y., native Eileen Collin’s return-to-flight space shuttle launch in 2005 and tacitly endorsed the Vision for Space Exploration when the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the NASA Authorization Act of 2005.