PORT CANAVERAL - Spaceindustry representatives heard magic words -- but few specifics -- frompresidential candidate Rudy Giuliani after they explained that the U.S. faces a five-year gap in human spaceflight.
"This is notacceptable," said the Republican, on a multiday trek through Florida to boost his flagging status in the presidentialrace. "America should be No. 1 and shouldn't have to be dependent onother countries."
About 35 space industryleaders met with Giuliani early Friday evening in Port Canaveral to push theirvision of a well-funded space industry. Later, the former New York City mayorappeared before 200 sign-waving supporters at the American Police Hall of Fameand Museum in Titusville.
Giuliani's audience at theport hopes his interest will make funding the space industry a nationalpriority.
A lack of funding willleave a five-year "gap" between the end of the shuttle program in2010 and the launch of the nextgeneration space vehicle. During that time, U.S. astronauts will depend onRussian rockets to reach the International Space Station, which was largelyfunded with U.S. dollars.
"Our goal is, let'smake sure we close this gap," Giuliani said after hearing the consequencesof losing leadership in the space industry.
Among those painting ableak 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, Giulianitouched on several topics, including his tax proposal and the military, whichhe said needs to be increased to stay on the offensive against terrorists andadversarial countries. He blasted declines made during the 1990s. "We haveto 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 himas a candidate. "When you hear (candidates), you get a lot different ideathan when you hear them on TV," she said. She said she liked what sheheard, particularly his tax plan.
Hours earlier, Giulianitoured Kennedy Space Center with his wife, Judith. He viewed shuttle Atlantis, scheduledfor a Feb. 7 launch after a two-month delay. "It's remarkable to seeit 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 andRepublican 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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