Eileen Collins and Alex Jones Battle for the GOP's View on NASA

The gap between them is amazing.

An astronaut and a prominent conspiracy theorist both showed up in Cleveland, one inside the convention and one outside, and the gap between them is amazing.

On Wednesday, retired astronaut Colonel Eileen Collins spoke before the Republican National Convention, calling for renewed American investment in NASA and space exploration.

Collins, who was the first woman to command a space shuttle, was a strange choice for speaker. As the Washington Post notes, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has previously said “we have bigger problems than increasing funding for NASA.”

Perhaps that’s why Collins skipped over the line in her prepared remarks where she was supposed to actually endorse Trump.

What made the choice even stranger is that Trump is a fan of prominent conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who hosts a syndicated radio show and runs the website InfoWars. Jones was a featured speaker at an event in Cleveland held outside the RNC, and later in the week scuffled with protesters gathered at the centrally located Public Square.

When Trump was on Jones’ program, in December of last year, the then-candidate showered Jones with compliments about his integrity. “I just wanted to finish by saying that your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down,” Trump said. Since then, Trump has praised Jones, calling him a “nice guy.”

Jones isn’t a full-on moon landing denier, but he probably wouldn’t punch a guy like Buzz Aldrin did. He does believe NASA is hiding deep dark secrets that only he and a handful of insiders know about. A Daily Beast journalist drew the ire of Jones’ fans following her characterization of him as a moon landing denier. As reported by Olivia Nuzzi, the reporter, Jones described his thoughts on NASA thusly:

“The government lies out of hand. You say, ‘well then, why do you believe in the moon landing?’ Because I have sources inside NASA — they put on some fake stuff for you — see, there was a lie. It’s not just ‘did we go’ or ‘didnt we go. You were shown the tinker-toy stuff because you’re not supposed to see what they really got. You’re not supposed to know the thousands of astronauts that have died.”

Jones has also had guests on his program that have questioned whether the moon landing was faked.

It’s not clear why the Trump campaign invited an actual astronaut to speak at the RNC, given Trump’s affinity for Jones and his own proclivities for peddling conspiracy theories. Collins’s calls to revive NASA cuts against decades worth of defunding the agency, though they still manage to do pretty cool stuff.

NASA recently tested how a community in California would react to a smaller sonic boom. Scientists there also have Mars on the brain – they’re looking for volunteers to explore the Red Planet (in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way), and investigating how crowd-sourcing could solve problems that show up on a colony there, should humans ever make it.

For now, the GOP appears to be having enough issues solving its own convention, so maybe they should hold off on space for a bit.

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