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In Florida, Romney calls for 'new mission' for NASA

January 27, 2012|By Maeve Reston
  • Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno appears with former Massachusetts Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Orlando, Fla.
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuno appears with former Massachusetts Gov. and… (Brian Blanco / European…)

Reporting from Cape Canaveral, Fla. — Taking his campaign to Florida’s space coast, Mitt Romney used the backdrop of an obsolete space module that once flew on the shuttle to call for a “new mission” for the U.S. space program and to accuse President Obama of failing to spur job growth as NASA initiatives have been scaled back.

But the former Massachusetts governor offered few specifics about what that mission would be or how his approach would differ from President Obama’s – beyond assembling a group to discuss the possible ideas. And he has mocked some of Newt Gingrich’s more ambitious notions, such as setting up a colony on the moon by 2020. But Romney has drawn strong support in this region of Florida because of his business background, and on Friday night, in an implicit dig at Gingrich, he told the cheering crowd in an empty hangar of Astrotech Corp. that he wasn’t going to pander to win their favor.  

“In the politics of the past to get your vote on the space coast, I’d come here and promise hundreds of billions of dollars,” Romney said, “or I’d lay out what my mission is – ‘Here’s what we’re going to accomplish.’ I’m not going to do that… It’s not the way that the best decisions are made."

“Politicians love the idea of coming in and saying what they are going to do without having studied it, without having carrying out the analysis, and gotten the data, done the hard work,” he said. “I spent my life in the private sector. Before you made tough decisions … you did some work.”

Romney said, however, that he believed space exploration was part of America’s exceptionalism and would gather a panel of experts to consider the possible missions for the space industry, including national defense.

Earlier this week, Newt Gingrich proposed a permanent colony on the moon. During Thursday night’s debate, Romney described the idea as “an enormous expense” and said he’d rather rebuild housing in the U.S.

Gingrich has argued that the government could use prizes and other incentives to draw investment in a spaceport that would be available for commercial use.

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