The Democratic Party has scrambled to insert a paragraph into its 2016 party platform praising NASA and its Space exploration programs. A previous draft of the platform contained no mention of the space agency. No explanation has been given for the sudden inclusion, however some speculation is warranted.

The Republican Party Platform included a section on NASA and space, advocating for public/private partnerships. Eileen Collins, the former astronaut and first woman shuttle commander, addressed the Republican National Convention and praised NASA’s spirit of exploration and suggested that more efforts should be directed in that area to enhance American greatness and leadership.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel addressed the convention decrying the lack of innovation in the United States government, offering the line, “Instead of going to Mars, we invaded the Middle East.”

The Democratic Party has always tried to present itself as the “party of science.” The self-identification has often been more hype than reality, especially when one considers how President Barack Obama cancelled the Constellation space exploration program. So, it is only natural that the Democrats should rush in a paragraph about NASA into its platform.

Otherwise, they risk Donald Trump stealing away that label, combining his reputation for business acumen to the sort of high tech innovation that has become popular in American culture.

The paragraph about NASA is rather thin gruel where it comes to substance, thinner in fact that the section in the Republican platform. It does not offer any policy specifics. On the other hand, the Democrats have to walk a fine line here.

They cannot stray far from the space policy of President Barack Obama for fear of undermining him. On the other hand, they cannot be seen as supporting an increasingly dysfunctional, unpopular policy either.

Just as an aside, former astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, former member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords, is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention. The subject of their remarks is not likely to be space, but about gun control.

Giffords was shot by a crazed gunman and had to endure a long period of rehabilitation as a result. Both she and her husband have become advocates of what the Democrats term “common sense gun laws.” But it will be interesting if Kelly references his status as a former astronaut and commander of the second to last space shuttle mission ever.

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