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Romney and Ryan say Obama jeopardizes U.S. leadership in space

As Paul D. Ryan campaigned near Florida’s Space Coast, Mitt Romney on Saturday released a plan for space exploration that said remaining the global leader in that arena is vital for the nation’s economic and security needs. With an eye toward impressing crucial Florida voters, Romney and his running mate also argued that President Obama has allowed the nation’s space dominance to erode.

“He has put the space program on a path where we’re conceding our position as the unequivocal leader in space,” Ryan said in Orlando on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

The campaign’s plan cited four priorities – giving NASA focus, working with the international community, increasing the nation’s capacity to defend its assets in space and easing trade limits on foreign sales of American “space goods.” Romney did not suggest increased space spending — his budget plan would force cuts in domestic programs, including space — but on increased reliance on commercial firms to get Americans and their goods into space. That mirrors the Obama administration’s plan.

Romney, who spent Saturday fundraising in California, criticized Obama in part for the fact that American astronauts have to be ferried to the International Space Station by Russia now that the space shuttle program has ended. The decision to end that program was made during the George W. Bush administration after the Columbia disaster. The Obama administration has focused NASA away from the moon in favor of programs that look at Mars and asteroids.

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“Today we have a space program befitting a president who rejects American exceptionalism, apologizes for America, and believes we should be just another nation with a flag. We have been put on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space,” the Romney plan argues. “The Russians are leading in human spaceflight right now. The Chinese may someday look down at us from the moon.”

The shuttering of the space shuttle program is a sensitive issue in Florida, where thousands lost jobs.

The Obama campaign countered by saying that Romney was a hypocrite, noting that during the Republican primaries he criticized rivals who made promises about the space program while in Florida. Democrats also noted that Ryan has voted against NASA funding.

“In the past, Mitt Romney has criticized Washington politicians for pandering to Florida voters by making empty promises about space. After his event today, it’s probably time for Romney to have a talk with Paul Ryan. Congressman Ryan has repeatedly voted against NASA funding, and the Romney-Ryan budget’s cuts – if applied across the board – would cut funding for space exploration programs by 19%,” said Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

Twitter: @latseema


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