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Marco Rubio's invoking of Apollo to tout NASA space exploration draws criticism

Sen. Marco Rubio
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

According to a Thursday story in Florida Today, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida ventured to the Kennedy Space Center and reacted to the recent announcement that SpaceX would build a commercial space port in Texas. He touted Florida’s potential for supporting commercial space operations. But it was his touting of an upcoming flight test of NASA’s Orion deep space craft that elicited harsh reaction from opponents of the agency’s space exploration plans. Rubio choose to summon the spirit of Apollo.

"When people see that capsule exit the Earth's atmosphere and reenter once again, they'll remember what we used to do in the 70s and 60s during the Apollo program, and they'll be motivated to tackle that again in a new frontier, a new challenge for our country, and that is placing boots on the ground in Mars.”

Space blogger Stephen C. Smith expressed disagreement that Apollo was any sort of inspiration or that the current space exploration program is viable. He suggested that the Orion test and NASA’s space exploration program, aimed at first capturing an asteroid and exploring it before heading to Mars, is nothing more than a make work program for displaced space shuttle workers. Rand Simberg, another space blogged and another opponent of NASA’s space exploration program, suggested that Rubio is an “Apollo cargo cultist.”

President Obama’s space exploration policy, cobbled together in the wake of the cancellation of the Bush era Constellation return to the moon program, has come under harsh criticism from some quarters, from the National Research Council, to members of Congress, to some parts of the commercial space community. The consensus is that NASA lacks both a sensible direction and an adequate budget to get anywhere. There is no consensus as of yet on how to change this situation, though giving up and abandoning all space exploration efforts, at least as currently envisioned, does not seem to be seriously considered.

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