As Atlantis" mission and NASA"s space shuttle program draws to a close, George Abbey, Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy, reflects on the legacy of U.S. space exploration and discusses its future.
Abbey, who served as director of NASA Johnson Space Center from 1996 to 2001, cites concerns not only for the future of U.S. dominance in space science and technology, but also for the safety of international space programs. While the Russian Soyuz spacecraft is more than capable of transporting U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, the space shuttle is the only vessel capable of transporting large cargo and life support systems that can sustain multiple repair spacewalks.
U.S. space policy "should not be politically based or based upon corporate interests, but represent a way forward that is not only in the best interest of the country but also the world community," Abbey writes. "The uncertainties and risks facing the nation"s civil space program today clearly show the absence of such a policy."