Tea Party group launches into space policy debate

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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Some members of the Tea Party movement have zeroed in on a multi-billion dollar area of government spending. This time, it isn’t health care or the public debt -– but outer space.

On Thursday, TEA Party in Space (TPIS) unveiled its “TEA Party Space Platform.”

The group, which is affiliated with the Tea Party Patriots, hopes NASA will return “to its roots as [a research and development] agency instead of serving as a slush fund for a few influential members of Congress,” TPIS President Andrew Gasser said in a Thursday press release.

Just like a political party’s platform, this agenda is made up of specific issues. Among the fourteen calls to action is for Congress to pass legislation to cap liability for commercial human spaceflight.

Another of the tenets calls for a “Zero-G means Zero-Tax” arrangement, which would establish tax exemptions for business activities related to human spaceflight.

Additionally, the group wants for Congress to allow NASA to cancel all existing Shuttle, Ares and Space Launch System contracts in order to force the termination of an $11 billion earmark included in the 2010 NASA Authorization Law and for NASA to “competitively bid the development of human exploration transportation capabilities.”

(Did NASA scientist personally benefit from public office?)

Gasser said in the Thursday press release, “Whether it’s timidity from the White House or Congress’ earmark-laden ‘compromises,’ our space dreams will be stuck on this planet unless someone articulates a vision based on economic and technical reality, so that’s what we’ve done.”

“The status quo of crony capitalism, earmarking billions of NASA’s budget to a few companies, districts and states, has got to stop,” he said. “We already tried this approach with Constellation and all we have to show for it are stacks of power point presentations, some pretty CGI videos, and a half-billion-dollar practice rocket.”

TPIS Director of Operations Isaac Mooers said in the press release that the group has a platform that would grow America’s potential in space. In the release, he asked elected officials and those running for office to review the platform and pledge to vote in line with it.

Curiously, the group praises Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby in a June 16 press release, for “wisely [recognizing] that NASA must compete [Space Launch System] contracts to be fair to the tax payers in this time of budgetary crisis.”

Shelby was made infamous by introducing an amendment to the 2010 budget mandating funding for the Ares I rocket program and other Constellation projects.

In a January 13 letter to Congress, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin wrote that the Shelby provision wasted approximately $200 million each month on Constellation projects that NASA and Congress had agreed not to build.