CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - During his visit to the Space Coast, presidential candidate Mitt Romney was straightforward.
"In the politics of the past, to get your vote on the Space Coast, I'd come here to promise hundreds of billions of dollars."
But Romney called space exploration essential to improving our economy, our security and health.
So he says he'll gather experts in military, business leaders and scientists to determine a way forward.
"It's time to have a mission for the space program of the United States of America," said Romney.
Many in the crowd have seen the Space Coast change dramatically since the shuttle program wound down.
Johnny Clark says he's seen ten friends lose their jobs. "They're sad it's happened to them," said Clark.
One family represents a different kind of hope. Nine-year-old Hope Cooper wants to be an astronaut.
"I really like the view of the stars. They're really interesting," she said.
Her mother hopes the space program is resurrected by the time her daughter is ready to shoot for the moon.
"There are a lot of problems on earth that need to be taken care of, but it's all about balance, and I think it's important," said Hope's mother.
Romney, without promising money, says he understands the gravity of how important the space program is.
"I thought of the sacrifices of the brave men and women in our space program who carry the spirit of America. The sense of discovery and passion and sacrifice," said Romney.
The governor did not mention Newt Gingrich even once during his appearance, not even Gingrich's idea to build a base on the moon within five years.