The 2016 presidential race has now come down to just three contenders in the two major political parties. Each of these candidates - Billionaire real estate Mogul Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, have significantly different visions. Among these differing opinions are their positions on the future of NASA. The 2016 election could also become a critical juncture in the quest to place human beings on Mars.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has stated he hopes to see additional joint projects between NASA and private aerospace companies, such as SpaceX. Apart from that stated position, the candidate has revealed little on the issue of national space policy.

"I love NASA... Space is terrific... Right now, we have bigger problems - you understand that? We've got to fix our potholes," Trump stated at a campaign event held in New Hampshire during August 2015.

That same month, Trump also stated he wanted to spend money on infrastructure before traveling to Mars.

Hillary Clinton told reporters in July 2015 she wanted to train to be an astronaut when she was a teenager. At age 14, she wrote to the space program asking what requirements were in place to start training as an astronaut. At that time, NASA responded it was not accepting applications from females. The New York senator also stated the importance of tracking asteroids, denoting the search as essential for human security.

Bernie Sanders, the longest-serving independent in Congress in American history, favors evaluating goals of NASA, while continuing planning for a human trip to Mars. He also emphasized that private space companies would not exist without the groundbreaking research carried out by the national space agency.

"While space exploration was once the exclusive realm of governments, the private space industry is increasingly commercializing space tourism, satellite launches, and more. This shift coincides with the U.S. government pullback from space exploration - exemplified by the end of the shuttle program," Sanders told Aerospace America.

Currently, NASA consumes roughly 0.5 percent of the total federal budget, and just 2 percent of total discretionary spending. Because the program does not constitute a large portion of the federal budget, most remarks about space while out on the campaign trail have been made in passing.

None of the three major candidates for the Oval Office have made a commitment to a radically expanded space program, but the two Democrats appear more willing than the presumptive Republican nominee to continue looking outward to the future of human beings in space.

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