The Rocket Science Behind the Political Science: Comparing Space Visions of the Presidents from 1993-2011 and the Rocket Technology That Helped Characterize Them

Alyse M. Marquinez


This project discusses the influences on a president's national space vision and investigates rocket design aspects. Throughout the last several presidencies, each new president has cancelled space programs of the previous president leaving NASA, particularly, without the ability to achieve long-term goals. This small-N, comparative case study examines Presidents W. Clinton, G. W. Bush, and B. Obama's space visions through speech analysis and interview. Shepsle and Weingast's Distributional Politics theory and Allison's Bureaucratic Politics model of decision making guide this discussion. The mathematical computation program Mathematica was then used to simulate rocket staging, differences between liquid hydrogen and RP-1 as rocket fuels, and the differences between solid and liquid fuels. This paper concludes that the best science of the day is not always the first choice of presidents and their administrations and that a combination of political models would best describe the decision making process undergone for space policy. In addition, it is shown that rocket features have both advantages and disadvantages but a multi-staged hydrogen rocket launch vehicle may be the most desirable.