Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Future of U.S. Space Policy

Click the arrow to watch the discussion on YouTube.

The Council on Foreign Relations held a discussion on April 15 titled, “The Future of U.S. Space Policy.” Click here to read the transcript.

The speakers were Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, and Robert Walker, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives who is a vocal advocate of commercial space.

I was particularly struck by Rep. Walker's opening remarks:

[W]here I think we are coming apart on the space program is that literally the policy surrounding space is being driven now in large part by space as a jobs program. A lot of the people who are in the Congress at the present time who take an interest in space do so because they have a facility in their district or they have some particular reason to be involved with it, but very few people who look at space as a large general program. And I think that has been a trend that has come along over a period of time.

And as a result, what we're finding is that the ability to get a sense of direction about an overall program is limited by people who say, well, I'm all for doing a new program; what's my (senator ?) going to get out of this? You know, how — you know, it doesn't matter whether a senator has anything to do with the technical program that is being discussed; they want to make certain, though, that they get their piece of it. And as a result, NASA has become more and more dysfunctional, in my view, and it's not necessarily as much NASA's fault as it is the people who are driving the policy and allocating the budgets. And so I have a great concern about that.

Later in the event, he said:

One of the things that when I served on the Aldridge Commission that came after my commission, one of the things we found there was that the only that you could do space inside the budgets that are likely to be allocated in the future is to expand the size of the space community. You cannot rely upon everybody going through the front door of NASA to get to space. So you have got to expand the community beyond that particular agency.

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