On Jan. 24, 2013, the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy presented a program that discussed the current state of the United States civil space program. Six individuals participated in a panel discussion that addressed not only the program’s present state but also its past and its future. The participants all had considerable experience with the civil space program, either within the government, the aerospace industry or science and academia.
Human spaceflight really has become historically a measure of a county’s leadership in space and with the large gap that is occurring in flying humans in space, it certainly has affected the perception of the United States as a leader in space. That gap, could continue for a good while. In December 0f 2012, a month prior to the panel discussion two reports were published concerning the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the civil space program. One report was published by the National Research Council and one was published by the Space Foundation. The National Research Council report stated that, in their view, NASA was at a transition point. Their budget is a level budget, in constant year dollars, but their programs have been getting increasingly more expensive and their infrastructure, the infrastructure that exists within the agency that is now in varying degrees of service, has been there since it was established during the height of the Apollo Program. Their programs do not match their budget and there are going be continuing budget pressures. They also pointed out the lack of a national consensus on what NASA’s vision should be. And that there wasn’t a national consensus, and even a consensus within NASA, that their existing mission to send humans to an asteroid should be supported. Their report made a number of significant recommendations. The Space Foundation’s recommendations were also significant in scope. They felt that NASA had strayed from their original pioneering objectives and that NASA should be divested of all the activities and functions that didn’t support pioneering objectives.
Recognizing the two reports, each of the panelist’s discussed issues and concerns they had with the current status of the program. Each of the six panelists addressed the past, present and future of the nation’s civil space program from differing positions.
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.