If popular culture presages national priorities, then the recent spate of hit movies about space bodes well for NASA. But among presidential candidates, Gov. Jerry Brown of California is first in the heart of futurists who think America has short-changed the space program.
It was Brown who appointed a former astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, to be his assistant for science and technology. Critics sniped Schweickart was simply window dressing to lend a sense of national stature to Brown, a charge the ex-astronaut known as "Red Rover" hotly denied. The State legislature shot down the administration's biggest plan, the purchase of communication gear for an experimental satellite that would serve California.
Today Schweickart heads Brown's energy commission, but he says he and the governor have spent some time talking about America's future in space. And though he isn't involved with Brown's campaign, Schweickart says Brown "is convinced we're living off the fruits of past labors -- we need to stop consuming and start investing, and the space environment is where mankind is moving."
Schweickart sys he thinks a President Brown would push for satellites that allow two-way communication between people, an orbiting space station for research and a heightened program for monitoring functions on earth from space.
"I also think you'd see a much stronger separation of civil and military uses of space under Brown," says Schweickart. "That is not to say there would not be military in space, but I think you'd find a strong dedication for perserving space from weapons of mass destruction."