WASHINGTON — Democratic White House hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) pledged Oct. 4 to enhance U.S. leadership in space by speeding deployment of the space shuttle’s successor, sending more unmanned probes into the solar system and launching more satellites to study the Earth’s climate.

Speaking at the Carnegie Institute of Washington on the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, Clinton outlined the science agenda she would pursue as president, vowing to end what she termed the Bush administration’s “war on science” by lifting a ban on embryonic stem cell research, pursuing a more rigorous climate change research initiative and barring political appointees from altering scientific conclusions in government publications – something the administration has been accused of.

Clinton offered a number of specific proposals related to NASA, including a pledge to increase funding for the U.S. space agency’s Earth science and aeronautics research programs, both of which have seen their budgets decline in recent years.

“I will fully fund NASA’s Earth sciences program, launch a new comprehensive space-based study of climate change, and reverse the deep cuts NASA’s and FAA’s aeronautics research and development budgets have endured in the last few years,” she told the invitation-only crowd.

Clinton said restoring U.S. leadership in space is “personal” for her because she was captivated by the U.S. space program during her junior high school years.

“It caught my imagination,” she said. “There was such a great burst of interest that I did my 8th grade science project on space medicine. Some of you know I wrote to NASA asking how I could apply to be an astronaut and got back an answer saying they weren’t taking women.”

In a related policy paper released following her speech, Clinton pledged to “pursue an ambitious 21st century space exploration program” that includes completing construction of the international space station, “speed[ing] development, testing, and deployment of next-generation launch and crew exploration vehicles to replace the aging space shuttle,” and “expanded robotic spaceflight probes of our solar system leading to future human exploration.”

The paper makes no specific mention of sending astronauts to the Moon by 2020, the

goal President George W. Bush set for the U.S. space program in his 2004 Vision for Space Exploration speech.