(CNN) – Eight former space executives threw their support behind Mitt Romney Friday, hoping to boost the candidate in a state with enormous stakes in America's space program.
In an open letter, the leaders said Romney was the candidate best positioned to reignite a program they said had languished under President Barack Obama.
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"Restoring the U.S. space program to greatness will require the leadership, management skill, and commitment to American exceptionalism possessed by only one candidate in this race: Mitt Romney," the group wrote in their letter.
In 2010, Obama announced he would cut NASA's lunar program from the federal budget, and focus more on exploration of deeper space. The space shuttle program officially ended in July 2011 with the launch of the shuttle Atlantis. Obama has advocated more private spacecraft for missions closer to Earth.
In their letter, Romney's space supporters described Obama's management of NASA as lacking "purpose or vision or mission."
"This failure of leadership has thrust the space program into disarray and triggered a dangerous erosion of our technical workforce and capabilities," the space leaders wrote. "In short, we have a space program unworthy of a great nation."
The letter also made a point of portraying Romney as realistic about America's space program, a point Romney himself made at Thursday's CNN Florida Republican Presidential Debate.
At the debate, Romney slammed rival Newt Gingrich for proposing expensive space plans in Florida, saying the former House speaker was pandering to the crowd with a vested interest in space investments.
"This idea of going state to state and promising what people want to hear, promising billions, hundreds of billions of dollars to make people happy, that's what got us into the trouble we're in now," Romney said.
The executives backing Romney are Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, USSpace Chairman Mark Albrecht, Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson, Apollo XVII Commander Gene Cernan, former shuttle pilot Bob Crippen, former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, former National Security Council Director of Space Policy Peter Marquez, and Tufts University Professor William Martel.