The Republican party has officially adopted its platform (warning: PDF) for the 2016 election season. And inside is some slightly surprising praise for NASA and talk of investing in it as a means to foster innovation. Specifically the GOP called the agency (along with the Department of Defense) critical to maintaining the country’s edge in space. Of course, the specifics of the language are very carefully chosen. The platform doesn’t whole-heartedly embrace a government-driven path to space-based dominance. Instead it calls out the agencies, as well as their public-private partnerships with the likes of SpaceX, that it claims have saved tax payers money.
Still, it’s worth noting that NASA’s relationship with the Grand Old Party has always been a somewhat contentious one. Sure, there’s no greater demonstration of American exceptionalism than the parade of space-based firsts that the agency has racked up. It has been at the forefront of exploring our solar system, unlocking the mysteries of the universe and generally building things that would have sounded like science fiction just a few years ago. But, it’s also an easy program to target for budget cuts. Many of NASA’s missions don’t have an immediate impact on the lives of everyday Americans, except for maybe a sense of pride and patriotism.
The agency has also frequently butted heads with Republican lawmakers over its Earth-based research programs. Especially those that support the concept of man-made climate change. Knowing that, it’s hard not to take notice of the fact while the party platform does call for “launching more scientific missions,” it limits that call explicitly to space-based ones.
There is not a single mention of research into our planet.
However, this is still a change of tone from the one established early in the campaign by the presumptive nominee Donald Trump who said that NASA was “great” but that “right now, we have bigger problems.”