Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, the former presidential candidate who is running for reelection to the Senate, met with aerospace business leaders in Florida and called upon both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to fully support NASA’s Space program. Rubio expressed his support for both the Journey to Mars program and commercial space ventures. The senator also denied Trump’s assertion that the American space program is “third world.”

Rubio has previously decried President Barack Obama’s abrupt cancellation of the Constellation program which many believe was high-handed and destructive.

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The cancellation coupled with the end of the space shuttle program proved to be devastating to Florida’s economy. However, the beginnings of the Journey to Mars program and the growth of commercial space in Florida, including SpaceX and Moon Express, has started something of a recovery.

Space has thus far not become a national issue in the current election, with both Trump and Clinton offering platitudes and little else.

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But NASA’s programs do provide an issue on the state level in places like Florida and Texas. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is up for reelection in 2018, has also met with space business leaders, toured the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston, and has visited SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.

The fact that space has not become a national issue is odd since Obama’s space policy remains controversial.

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Florida is a swing state and, on the surface, a coherent space policy that expresses support for both NASA and commercial space in that state should be a no-brainer. On the other hand, in 2012, then-presidential candidate Newt Gingrich proposed a moon base in a speech in Florida in a gambit to win votes that did not turn out well.

Rubio, thus far, is ahead of his likely Democratic opponent, Rep, Pat Murphy.

Murphy as well has expressed support for a “balanced” approach to space that takes into account both NASA and the commercial sector. Most members of Congress have called for “continuity” in space policy with the new administration and would oppose vigorously any abrupt change of direction, such as canceling the Journey to Mars. However, enough details of that project remain unformed so that a new president could place his or her stamp on it, say by mandating a return to the moon first.

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