When the space shuttle program ended in July 2011, the United States lost its capacity to launch humans into space. U.S. astronauts are now flying to space in Russian spacecraft, and if the nation does regain such a capability, it may be provided by commercial companies. In the interim, NASA has initiated the development of a large rocket booster with no firm requirements or defined use, as well as a space capsule with limited capabilities to be flown to a yet unspecified destination. In light of the current situation, two reports were released in December 2012 that call into question the future of the U.S. space program: A Space Foundation paper urges NASA to shed some of its science and research functions, and to focus again on exploring space; and a study by the National Research Council concludes that a national disagreement over NASA's space goals has proven detrimental to space agency budgeting and planning efforts.
With all of these concerns in mind, Rice University's Baker Institute will bring together a panel of six space policy experts to review the present status and future of NASA and the nation's civil space program. Participants will also discuss the need for and the elements of a definitive national civil space policy.
The live webcast will begin at 5:30 pm.
Mark J. Albrecht, Ph.D., is chairman of the board for U.S. Space LLC. He served as executive secretary of the National Space Council from 1989 to 1992 and as a principal adviser to President George H.W. Bush on space.
Leroy Chiao, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at Rice University, the chair of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute's user panel and special adviser for human spaceflight to the Space Foundation. He served as a member of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee chaired by Norman Augustine in 2009. Chiao flew on three space shuttle flights and was commander of Expedition 10 flying for six months onboard the International Space Station.
Joan Johnson-Freese, Ph.D., is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. She is the author of six books, including "Heavenly Ambitions: America"s Quest to Dominate Space" and "Space as a Strategic Asset," as well as more than 80 articles on space security, globalization and foreign policy.
Neal F. Lane, Ph.D., is the senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute and the Malcolm Gillis University Professor at Rice University. He served as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) from 1998 to 2001. Lane also served as the director of the National Science Foundation and a member (ex officio) of the National Science Board from 1993 to 1998.
Eugene H. Levy, Ph.D., is the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor of Astrophysics at Rice University. He served as provost of Rice from 2000 to 2010 and is currently a member of the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee.
John M. Logsdon, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs after serving as director of school's Space Policy Institute from 1987 to 2008. He is the author of "The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest," a general editor of the eight-volume series "Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program," and has written numerous articles and reports on space policy and history.
George W.S. Abbey is the Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Institute.