Trump Campaign Removes Space Video That Violated NASA Ad Rules

Trump Campaign Removes Space Video That Violated NASA Ad Rules


The campaign to re-elect President Trump pulled SpaceX, NASA and astronauts and their families into a campaign video that appeared to violate the space agency’s advertising regulations.

The video, released on Wednesday, was the latest effort by the president to parlay his stewardship of American space policy into an upbeat campaign issue. It included shots of two NASA astronauts, Robert L. Behnken and Douglas G. Hurley, who blasted off on Saturday aboard a SpaceX rocket, the first time astronauts have headed to orbit from the United States since 2011.

The campaign removed the video from YouTube on Thursday evening, but not before more than 4,000 people signed a Change.org petition that sought to “Stop Donald Trump politicizing SpaceX and NASA accomplishments.”

Karen L. Nyberg, a retired astronaut who is married to Mr. Hurley, posted a message on Twitter that said she and her 10-year-old son should be off limits to political campaigns.

Titled “Make Space Great Again,” the campaign video, almost three minutes long, intercut between President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech setting the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade, video footage of the Apollo 11 mission, a 2018 speech by President Trump promising new space achievements and Saturday’s launch.

NASA makes its images and videos freely available for news organizations and noncommercial uses. But advertising requests are handled much more strictly. While the regulations do not explicitly mention political campaigns, they state, “As a government agency, NASA will not promote or endorse or appear to promote or endorse a commercial product, service or activity.”

The regulations also state, “Astronauts or employees who are currently employed by NASA cannot have their names, likenesses or other personality traits displayed in any advertisements or marketing material.”

Neither SpaceX, NASA nor the Trump campaign replied to emails asking for comment Thursday night.

Unlike his predecessors, who generally emphasized support by both Republicans and Democrats for the space program, President Trump has cast NASA in more partisan terms.

After the launch, he gave a celebratory speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during which he thanked a list of politicians for their support of NASA — all Republicans. During the address, he also portrayed the space program as moribund when he took office in 2017 and gave himself credit for reviving NASA’s human spaceflight program.

“When I first came into office three and a half years ago, NASA had lost its way,” he said. He criticized the Obama administration, saying it “presided over the closing of the space shuttle.”

That and other assertions in the speech were exaggerations. While Mr. Trump has elevated elements of space policy in his White House, the NASA program that led to Saturday’s SpaceX launch started in 2009 during President Barack Obama’s first term.

It was shepherded by Charles F. Bolden Jr., a retired United States Marine Corps major general who served as NASA administrator during the Obama administration, and often encountered resistance from Republicans in Congress who criticized commercial crew and shifted money away to other programs.

The current administrator, Jim Bridenstine, invited Mr. Bolden to the launch and lauded the prior administrator’s efforts in getting commercial crew started.

Mr. Bolden said that he did have doubts at the start of his time at NASA that companies like SpaceX were capable of launching humans.

“I just didn’t think they could do it,” he said.

SpaceX already had a contract for taking cargo to the space station, signed under President George W. Bush. “And they demonstrated over time that they were pretty good,” Mr. Bolden said.

He also gave credit to the Trump administration for continuing along this path. “As I told Jim Bridenstine,” Mr. Bolden said, “whatever happens on your watch, take credit for it.”

Mr. Bolden said that he was “a little upset, as I imagine most people who are affiliated with NASA were,” about the campaign video.

But, he added, “Anybody who is surprised hasn’t been paying attention.”



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