Space policy tough love, and space security recommendations

In an op-ed on the Space News web site, Joan Johnson-Freese offers a cold dose of reality to those seeking to roll back the changes in space exploration policy made by the Obama Administration, particularly the end of Constellation program. In short, she argues, it’s not going to happen because human spaceflight, despite all the rhetoric, isn’t that high a priority in Congress to win significant additional funding:

> While the Augustine commission report upon which the Obama Administration heavily relied in making the decision to cancel Constellation described strong public support for human exploration, as have past, similar surveys, the answer to a different question not asked is the important one: Compared with other areas of government funding, including health care, roads, education, defense and social welfare programs, where would you prioritize human space exploration? Unfortunately enthusiasm wanes in such a prioritization. Americans like and want a human space exploration program, they just see it as more expendable than other government programs.

Space development, she adds, has been “an anomaly” compared to other industries, because initial government investment has largely not be followed by significant commercial investment. “That must change for real development to occur, and President Obama has directed NASA to chart a course to allow and promote commercial development,” she states. Those who don’t like that new course can appeal to Congress, where they “are likely to find significant rhetorical support there – but far less financial support, reflective of the priorities of most of their constituents.”

The new National Space Policy, she said, “offers a realistic blueprint for renewal rather than a blueprint back to the Moon, or a space battleplan that threatens the very sustainability of the space environment required for security.” In that vein, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued a report Monday with its suggestions on improving space security, building upon the general guidelines in the report. Among the UCS’s recommendations: declare that the US will not place weapons, including missile defense interceptors, in space; improve the robustness and redundancy of satellite systems to make them less vulnerable to attack; begin discussions on how to negotiate international agreements on space security; and modify export control regulations to “reduce unnecessary barriers” for space cooperation.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *