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39 Comments
Nancy Smith

Shame on Bill Nelson for Using NASA to Glorify His Accomplishments

May 30, 2018 - 6:00am
Frame from Nelson's new digital ad
Frame from Nelson's new digital ad

Who convinced Sen. Bill Nelson he can ride his NASA experience to re-election? You want to vote for this three-term Democrat, do what you've got to do -- but, please, don't vote for him because you think he's some kind of hero for NASA and the Space Coast.

Somebody in his camp apparently thinks Floridians have very short memories.

Nelson released his first digital ad of the 2018 campaign on Tuesday, with glimpses of a dashing younger man floating in a space capsule, as he giddily focused on his trip aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in January 1986.

I Beg to Differ"In Florida, we don't just reach for the stars, we travel to them. I know. I flew on the Space Shuttle," Nelson says as the old clips roll. "And when I looked back at our planet, I didn't see political divisions, I saw how we're all in this together."

Pandering for votes, using a connection that frankly should bring him shame, not admiration.

In case Nelson's advisors are right, and you do have a short memory, or weren't around at the time, let's look at a few facts. Nothing I haven't said before, but in light of the ad, it needs to come out again.

Nelson was the one senator in a position to save 7,000-plus NASA jobs for the Space Coast when President Barack Obama's  administration decreased the some $18 billion funding for space-flight vessels by splitting the money between a more Mars-centric program and an increased budget for climate research projects.

In the words of U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge at the time, "... This amounts to a slow death of our nation's human spaceflight program, a retreat from America's decades of leadership in space, ending the economic advantages that our space program has brought to the U.S. and ceding space to the Russians, Chinese and others."

President Obama's plan easily won the approval of Congress because the president promised to spread the space budget's largesse around, giving work to contractors in other states besides Florida.

Did that ring our senator's bell? Where was he while all this was going on? Where was Bill Nelson, who grew up in Melbourne, was selected as one of only two members of Congress ever to orbit the Earth, whose party label gave him frequent access to Barack Obama?

You would think, once given the honor to fly as an American astronaut, he could have saved NASA as a true government entity for the Space Coast. Or tried. You would have thought he could rise to the occasion.

It killed me that he never got in Obama's face. Never took the risk.

I remember when he spoke to a group in Brevard County -- instead of defending the Space Coast, he made excuses for the president.

“The president made a mistake," Nelson said. "He made a mistake because he did not stand up and lay out his budget for the Space Program and outline what his goal is, which is Mars, and how we should go about getting there for the Space Program. The president should have used the word 'restructure' not 'cancel' with regard to Constellation.”

The thousands of jobs that evaporated because we were no longer looking to set up science labs on the Moon, we were going to Mars ... and Nelson knew by the time we got there, most of the jobs that send up the rockets would have gone to other states. As Obama said in 2009, Florida can't have it all, "everybody wants a piece of the action."

Who cares what other states want when Florida is the world leader?

It took the Sunshine State more than five decades to build its network of know-how. You're looking for aeronautical and space development? The Space Coast has the finest skilled labor in the world. It has bought-and-paid-for infrastructure, hundreds of supporting businesses and industries, and it has communities that understand how to ride out the rough weather that military rigidity and political whim sometimes whip up around them.

Nobody, no region in America or in the world, does space better. And Bill Nelson knows that.

Now, in a better economy, NASA is rebuilding, if only slowly, thanks to international business and private-venture space projects. But none of it is thanks to Sen. Bill Nelson.

There was a time when I thought Sen. Nelson was going to come through. In 2010 he and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas supported Sen. John Rockefeller's bill to pump more money into the Space Program and keep the International Space Station open until 2020. But that was it. That was his whole offense. He was shooting a cap pistol when he needed an Uzi.

And in the end, Obama never wavered from his decision to end NASA's moon program, turn over space transportation to commercial companies, jump-start technologies needed for future human exploration of Mars and redirect some of the former space funding to climate change.

The bottom line for me is, when an elected official knows the fight is right, when the stakes are as high as they were on Florida's Space Coast in 2010 and 2011, and when Bill Nelson had more power than anyone else to fight and win, he owed his constituents everything he's got. Nothing less.

Bill Nelson's first digital ad of the 2018 Senate campaign is a disgrace.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

 


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Comments

@RepublicanConscience, first, your moniker is certainly a classic oxymoron. Second, Republicans should not be attacking Nelson for voting with the Democrats when Republicans not only vote in lockstep but they all have the same talking points no matter how duplicitous. Republicans claim betrayal when someone like John McCain breaks with the party and votes to protect Americans' healthcare. The Republican lockstep voting is an attempt to provide easy access to guns for the criminally insane, eliminate taxes, outlaw abortions, appoint radical right wing judges to override the will of the people and other nefarious plots to hurt our country. Nelson supports NASA, Republicans in Washington see it as a drain on our tax dollars and would completely privatize it.

Right on! And ... obviously ... OBVIOUSLY ... THERE IS NO "REPUBLICAN CONSCIENCE" in the current Gopper era! (Intimating such goes beyond oxymoronic!)

It's POLITICS! Neither one of them is going to DO anything, once elected. It's a show. A power show, to make you believe they are going to make a difference in your lives, when all they want, is to be set for life, from the "Good Ol' Boys Club" known as congress. Scott's ads are funny. Do you really think this one man term limit show, is going to do anything, once he gets there? NO! They'll take him aside, pat him on the back, and tell him to drop that silly idea of his. Or he won't last very long. This is why political "parties" have to go. I really don't care who wins the race. But I'm voting Nelson, only because he's already been there long enough. He doesn't have to go through the classes anymore. And besides. NASA needs to be privatized. Turned over to the business world. Government and tax dollars have no business in space exploration, when billionaires can do it bigger and faster

Let's see: Nelson had the courage to travel into outer space to get a better idea of the space program and its participants to assist him in his votes, but he doesn't have the right to talk about it? Humm. Yet, I see/hear every day of all the glorious things Scott says he has done for Floridians, some being challenged by experts. I fail to see the difference.

Nelson certainly has more "courage" than the 'Draftdodger-In-Chief' and his 'bonespurs'! As far as 'Souldabenafelon' Scott goes ... I really don't see that he's actually accomplished ANYTHING OF SIGNIFICANCE for the rank-and-file residents of this state. (?)

Nelson got to fly on the shuttle, and got sick on the ride, because he was a politician on an influential committee and he used that position to pressure the agency. Not that using his position to boost his re-election chances is unique and his contribution to the mission was nonexistent according to employees who worked for NASA as he was sick during most of the trip. But it worked; he can brag about having ridden on the space shuttle, put out a good photo courtesy of NASA and ignore how he got to make the trip and how much he "contributed" to the mission.

Let's not forget Nelson's attempt to derail Jim Bridenstine's appointment to be NASA Administrator, which threw the space agency into a leadership crisis. He did this for petty, partisan reasons and not, as he claimed, to preserve the space program from politics.

Marco Rubio originally opposed Bridenstein's appointment. Marco apparently felt that a political partisan who had zero scientific background, had run the Tulsa Air and Space Museum from being in the black into a sea of red ink and disagrees with NASA's research-driven position on climate change should not be heading NASA. Marco just doesn't have the courage to do follow his own opinions and instead votes lockstep with his party so he voted to confirm Bridenstein. Preserving the space program from politics required opposing the appointment of a political hack with no background in science or NASA other than sitting on the committee that oversees NASA's budget. No president had previously attempted to blatantly politicize NASA by appointing a party congressman and opposing the appointment cannot be considered to be for "petty, partisan reasons". Both Nelson and Rubio spoke about avoiding politicizing NASA prior to Bridenstein's confirmation vote. Nelson voted his convictions, Marco Rubio showed he knows what should be done but by his votes, including the Bridenstein vote, shows he believes party loyalty trumps doing the right thing.

And do you think Scott will have the Stamina to save NASA or science in General from Trump? https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/24/16930154/nasa-international-space-station-president-trump-budget-request-2025. And here is a less partisan account of what went on with NASA in 2009.

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nancy smith
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