CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - Mitt Romney said today that he believes creating a "mission" for the space program is "integral," but declined to outline any specifics of that mission, saying he rejects the idea of making promises to voters on the so-called Space Coast until he's studied the program, seeming to make reference to GOP rival Newt Gingrich who did just that earlier this week.
"I'm not going to come here today and tell you precisely what the mission will be," said Romney, speaking at Astrotech Space Operations, a commercial space company that sends satellites and cargo into space, that is stationed just steps away from the Kennedy Space Center. "I'm going to tell you how I'm going to get there."
"In the politics of the past, to get your vote on the space coast, I'd come here and promise hundreds of billions of dollars - yeah, you want to hear that, yeah," said Romney to a crowd of about 200. "Or I'd lay out what my mission is: here's what we're going to accomplish. I'm not going to do that."
"I know that's something that's very attractive, very popular, but it's simply the wrong thing to do," he said. "It's not the way that the best decisions are made."
While Romney did not mention Gingrich by name, the former speaker held a campaign event earlier this week where he made headlines for suggesting that he would give statehood to a colony in space if it met certain population requirements.
"By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American," Gingrich said in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Romney, however, would not commit to a precise plan for the space program today, telling the crowd that he would want advice the Department of Defense, the Air Force, astrophysicists, people from the commercial sector and individuals from NASA before making a decision on the space program.
"Politicians love the idea of coming in and saying what they're going to do without having studied it, without having carried out the analysis, and gotten the data, done the hard work, I won't do that," said Romney. "I've spent my life in the private sector. Before you made tough decisions, you did some work."
"You started off by saying, 'What's the objective,' and then you said 'let's gather the data to see what information you have,'" said Romney, who frequently credits his career in the private sector for boosting his ability to process data and make decisions based upon that information. "And then you create hypothesis to see what different choices might be and then you choose one, you select that as your mission."
"One of them is existential," said Romney, outline what he said were four objectives of the space program. "[T]here are things going on in the universe that could dramatically affect the earth. Our climate. Perhaps even a catastrophic event of some kind. And so going out and finding those things and preparing possible responses, that's an important thing."
"There's another mission of our mission in space, and that is commercial," he said. "Technology and science leads to the development of products that improve our economy."
Romney said that the "health and well being of being of our citizens" is another area that research in space can help in, as well as in the defense of the country.
"America has long recognized that there is an enormous value and significance to having control of the commons," said Romney. "To be able to fly our aircraft anywhere in the world, to take our ships anywhere on the oceans, and to be free in space and not to have to worry about attack or intrusion from space."
"I will do that to get the job right to make sure we protect our interest, protect our future, protect ourselves from threats from space," Romney said.
During the CNN debate on Thursday night, Romney added that he would rather be "rebuilding housing here in the U.S." than focusing on a colony on the moon.