PORT CANAVERAL - Space industry representatives heard magic words -- but few specifics -- from presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani after they explained that the U.S. faces a five-year gap in human spaceflight.
"This is not acceptable," said the Republican, on a multiday trek through Florida to boost his flagging status in the presidential race. "America should be No. 1 and shouldn't have to be dependent on other countries."
About 35 space industry leaders met with Giuliani early Friday evening in Port Canaveral to push their vision of a well-funded space industry. Later, the former New York City mayor appeared before 200 sign-waving supporters at the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville.
Giuliani's audience at the port hopes his interest will make funding the space industry a national priority.
A lack of funding will leave a five-year "gap" between the end of the shuttle program in 2010 and the launch of the next generation space vehicle. During that time, U.S. astronauts will depend on Russian rockets to reach the International Space Station, which was largely funded with U.S. dollars.
"Our goal is, let's make sure we close this gap," Giuliani said after hearing the consequences of losing leadership in the space industry.
Among those painting a bleak picture:
- Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Rein, who said that losing the lead in the space technology would be like an army losing the high ground during battle. "Militaries and nations win wars by owning the high ground," said Rein, now communications manager for United Launch Alliance. "Space is the high ground of the future, and we must own it at all times."
- Norman Bobczynski, director of launch operation for Space Exploration Corporation, who said the United States is fourth in the number of commercial launches worldwide. "This isn't about a nice campaign issue," Bobczynski said. "This is about a national crisis."
In Titusville, Giuliani touched on several topics, including his tax proposal and the military, which he said needs to be increased to stay on the offensive against terrorists and adversarial countries. He blasted declines made during the 1990s. "We have to make up for the so-called peace dividend," he said.
June Bair of Titusville wanted to hear Giuliani speak in person so she could make up her mind about him as a candidate. "When you hear (candidates), you get a lot different idea than when you hear them on TV," she said. She said she liked what she heard, particularly his tax plan.
Hours earlier, Giuliani toured Kennedy Space Center with his wife, Judith. He viewed shuttle Atlantis, scheduled for a Feb. 7 launch after a two-month delay. "It's remarkable to see it up close," Giuliani said. "The space program is one of America's remarkable achievements."
He noted that the U.S. had reached the moon with a bipartisan program that spanned both Democratic and Republican administrations. "We have to get back to that," he said.
- SPACE.com Video Interplayer: NASA's STS-122: Columbus Sets Sail for ISS
- Test Your Smarts: The Space Shuttle Countdown Quiz
- VIDEO: ISS Commander Peggy Whitson Takes Charge
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