|Would President Obama Give NASA A Non-Space Mission?|
|Written by Jeff Krukin|
|Wednesday, 23 July 2008|
Netroots Nation ("Changing the face of progressive politics") held its third annual convention July 17-20 in Austin, and one of the panels was "Progressive NASA and Space Policy Under a New Administration." Panelists included Patti Grace Smith, recently retired Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the FAA; George Whitesides, Executive Director of the National Space Society; and Lori Garver, President of Capital Space.
Sources have told me about the discussions generated by this panel, and they bode well for NewSpace and ill for NASA.
First, the good NewSpace news; there was consensus that the entrepreneurial NewSpace industry must be supported as a means to create high-tech jobs in America. Should Obama become our next President, I hope he receives this message and will come to appreciate that a vibrant and evolving NewSpace industry, with all its inevitable market-driven diversity, will create far more high-tech jobs in this nation than a moribund, narrowly-focused, and politically driven national space program.
As for the bad NASA news, there was consensus that NASA should focus on climate change and alternative energy. While this may mean more funding for NASA because these issues are more politically viable than space exploration, it would be a distraction for an agency that is charged with human and robotic space exploration. In the end, it could well lead to the death of NASA as we know it if Congress directs it to focus Earth-ward rather than space-ward.
NASA doesn't need more responsibilities, it needs less... and they should all be for one purpose: the exploration, settlement, and development of space in a manner that supports the creation of economically viable private-sector space transportation. Climate change? Perhaps the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should be the lead agency. Alternative energy? Perhaps the Dept. of Energy should be the lead agency. (Note: if Space Solar Power (SSP) becomes a priority for a future Administration, it must not become a NASA program. Just because SSP satellites would be in space doesn't make SSP about space. SSP is about energy).
Whatever a President Obama would do with NASA, there would be few things worse than creating an even larger NASA by saddling it with responsibilities that benefit from space, but are not first and foremost about space... especially if such new responsibilities don't bring with them the necessary budget.
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