NASA Astronaut Calls Out ‘Propaganda’ in Space-Themed Trump Ad That Broke NASA Rules

By George Dvorsky on at

Donald Trump’s re-election campaign team has removed a political ad, titled “Make Space Great Again”, after the U.S. president was accused of falsely taking credit for the recently completed SpaceX Demo-2 launch and possibly for violating NASA ad regulations.

The video was posted to YouTube on Wednesday June 3rd, but by Thursday evening it was gone, having apparently been removed by the Trump campaign, reports SpaceNews. The video has now been replaced by text that reads, “This video has been removed by the uploader.”

In the now-removed campaign video, filled with hyperbole and low-brow appeals to American exceptionalism, Trump said there’s “absolutely nothing Americans can’t do” as the country prepares to tame “the next great American frontier”, which is apparently space. “Once again we will proudly lead humanity – and that’s what it is, humanity – beyond Earth and into those forbidden skies, but they will not be forbidden for long,” he said. (I’m so glad he cleared up that whole “humanity” thing.) The president finally concluded: “Because we are Americans and the future belongs totally to us.”

Like, totally, dude.

The ad, which drones on for over two and a half minutes, features historical NASA imagery and newsreel footage interspersed with videos and stills taken from the recent SpaceX/NASA Demo-2 launch, in which a Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully delivered NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. Trump’s nauseating voice-over is brazenly intermixed with John F. Kennedy’s famous 1962 speech, in which the president declared the US intention to go to the Moon by the end of the decade.

Trump’s ad is in clear violation of NASA rules, which may explain its hasty removal. The U.S. space agency “will not promote or endorse or appear to promote or endorse a commercial product, service or activity”, according to its guidelines on advertising. NASA also has “rules regarding the appearance of NASA astronauts’ or NASA employees’ names, likenesses or other personality traits in advertising materials”, and 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”.

“NASA was not made aware of the ad before it was released and didn’t provide any assistance or footage, which already was publicly available online,” explained a NASA spokesperson to Gizmodo in an email. “We’ve seen the reports the ad was taken down, and NASA doesn’t have any further comment.”

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.

In a tweet, Karen Nyberg, a retired NASA astronaut and wife of Douglas Hurley, expressed her frustration with the campaign ad, in which she and her young son make a brief appearance.

The video was also criticised for the way in which Trump appeared to take credit for the Demo-2 launch. As he said in the video, “We are giving you a platform the likes of which nobody has ever been given.” This claim, that the Trump administration is responsible for the recent launch, is patently disingenuous, given that the origins of NASA’s Commercial Crew program can be traced back to the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as Kenneth Chang reports in the New York Times.

Shortly after the ad went up, a petition was posted to Change.org, asking for its removal on these grounds:

Donald Trump recently made a presidential campaign video politicizing the accomplishments earned through many years of hard work by the NASA and SpaceX teams. This campaign video... implies that the return of crewed launch on U.S. soil is solely to the credit of his Administration. This implication is untrue; the NASA Commercial Crew Program has been around since the Obama Administration (started in 2011) in its current form, and its roots go back to the Bush Administration. Further, NASA and the space industry as a whole have long tried to stay out of politics, and, until this Administration, that goal was at least partially attained. The implication that any one person was responsible for the SpaceX-NASA Crew Demo-2 launch is an insult to the work of the teams that meaningfully contributed to its success.

To date, the petition has been signed by more than 9,000 people.

This incident hearkens back to a similar one earlier this year, in which Trump took credit for the U.S. cancer rate hitting a record low in 2017. Sadly – and pathetically – this stable genius likely believes his own lies.

Featured image: YouTube/Gizmodo