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United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop 1 Background Several notable developments in U.S. civil space policy in the years between the National Research Council’s (NRC’s) 2003 space policy workshop and its 2007 workshop are summarized in this chapter. These developments were captured in key documents made available to workshop participants as background information that participants referred to during the workshop discussions. 2003 SPACE POLICY WORKSHOP In November 2003, the NRC’s Space Studies Board and Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board organized a workshop to air perspectives on the question, What should be the principal purposes, goals, and priorities of U.S. civil space policy? The timing of that workshop coincided with a new attention to the long-term direction of the U.S. civil space program in the wake of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy and the report of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB).1 Seven broad themes emerged from the 2003 workshop:2 Successful space and Earth science programs—Many of the 2003 workshop participants accepted that U.S. space and Earth science programs were currently productive and progressing steadily. Much of the success of NASA’s science programs was attributed to having clear long-range goals; strategies framed by scientists and periodically reassessed by the science community; and a series of individual steps that accumulate successes, help measure progress, and sustain momentum for the program. A clear goal for human spaceflight—Many 2003 workshop participants echoed the CAIB’s conclusion that a lack of an agreed vision for the human spaceflight program had had a negative impact on the health of that program in NASA. A bold goal could enable breaking out of programmatic drift, providing a transcendent purpose for the risk of human endeavors in space and the opportunity for leadership if the United States would openly invite others to participate in setting and steadily pursuing a shared long-range goal. Exploration as the goal for human spaceflight—Many 2003 workshop participants emphasized two fundamental reasons to send humans to space: Exploration can and does add to the acquisition of new knowledge, that is, knowledge of space as a place for human activity and knowledge of the solar system, including Earth, from the vantage point of space. Exploration is a basic human desire, a general impulse of human nature. 1 Columbia Accident Investigation Board, Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report: Volume 1, available at http://caib.nasa.gov/, August 2003. 2 National Research Council, Workshop Series on Issues in Space Science and Technology: Issues and Opportunities Regarding the U.S. Space Program: A Summary Report of a Workshop on National Space Policy, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2004.
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United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop Exploration as a long-term endeavor to be accomplished by means of a series of small steps—Many participants argued that having a clear, agreed-on, long-term goal, such as the human exploration of Mars, is essential for the future success of the human spaceflight program, but that it is premature to set a firm date for or cost of that goal. What is possible is a first assessment of what has to be accomplished, and the identification of intermediate, subsidiary goals that can be met in a series of smaller steps and would evolve at a pace that reflects a meaningful rate of learning. Synergy superseding the humans-versus-robots dichotomy—The ultimate achievement of a long-term goal for human exploration, numerous participants argued, should be to best employ both human and robotic assets and to have the space program move beyond complementarity and toward a synergy between robots and humans. Whatever the destination and whatever the specific means chosen, many participants stated that being guided by a principle of synergy between robots and humans provides the opportunity to explore the solar system in the most optimal manner. The long-term goal driving all implementation decisions—Participants in the 2003 workshop appeared to view the following activities as essential elements along the path to a goal for human exploration: The continued robotic exploration of our solar system followed by the development of capable human-machine interfaces and teleoperators, Research on the International Space Station focused on addressing the questions posed by human exploration away from low Earth orbit, and Development of a space transportation system to replace the shuttle, all directed toward facilitating the eventual human exploration of some destination beyond low Earth orbit. Institutional concerns—The first six themes represented crosscutting concepts relevant to the nation’s future approach to civil space. The seventh theme collected the views offered by the 2003 workshop participants on needs and opportunities for successful implementation of future space policy in three areas: Cross-institutional or cross-sector activities—for example, engaging in joint technology development, taking advantage of synergies, and improving planning and development—all of which were seen as dependent on the availability of a skilled industrial base; NASA as the primary executive branch agency responsible for implementing space policy; and The scientific community, one of NASA’s key constituents. 2004 VISION FOR SPACE EXPLORATION On January 14, 2004, President George W. Bush announced the new national Vision for Space Exploration, whose fundamental goal was “to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program” by means of “an integrated, long-term robotic and human exploration program with measurable milestones and executed on the basis of available resources, accumulated experience, and technology readiness.”3 The Vision called for a set of key activities in four areas, as follows: Low Earth orbit. Use of the space shuttle would be focused on completing the assembly of the International Space Station (ISS), and then the shuttle would be retired by the end of the decade (i.e., 2010). Use of the ISS would be focused on supporting exploration goals “in a manner consistent with U.S. obligations” between the United States and other partners. Beyond low Earth orbit. Lunar exploration activities would be designed to enable the exploration of Mars and beyond by means of robotic missions starting in 2008 and human missions no 3 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, The Vision for Space Exploration, NP-2004-01-334-HQ, NASA, Washington, D.C., 2004, pp. iii-iv.
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United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop later than 2020. Mars robotic exploration would continue, leading to later human missions after successful demonstration on the Moon. Robotic exploration would continue across the solar system and would be complemented by telescopic searches around other stars. In addition, there would be demonstrations of key capabilities to support ambitious human and robotic exploration. Space transportation capabilities. A program (subsequently named Project Constellation) would support the design and development of a new crew exploration vehicle for missions beyond low Earth orbit (the Orion spacecraft) and would thus separate crew transportation vehicle (Ares, the cargo-launch component). International and commercial participation. The United States would pursue opportunities for international participation to support U.S. space exploration goals and pursue commercial opportunities for providing transportation and other services supporting the ISS and exploration beyond low Earth orbit. To provide the resources to accomplish the Vision, the administration proposed budget increases of 5 percent per year for 3 years (fiscal year [FY] 2005 through FY 2007) and then 1 percent increases in the following 2 years.4 The budget strategy relied on holding down growth in programs that did not support the Vision, freeing billions of dollars in the decade beyond 2010 by retiring the shuttle, and finding innovative approaches to reduce the costs of space operations. The president’s announcement also called for the formation of the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, which would be charged to make recommendations on implementing the Vision. The commission’s report, which was released in June 2004,5 provided findings and recommendations about NASA management, development of enabling technologies, roles of the private sector and international participants, scientific research as a part of exploration, and opportunities for education and public engagement. In order to manage the exploration programs within the resources that were expected to be available, the commission recommended a “go as you can pay” approach that would allow specific goal milestones to be adjusted depending on what could be afforded along the way. NASA AUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2005 In the NASA Authorization Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-155),6 which was enacted on December 30, 2005, Congress gave NASA program responsibilities for FY 2006 through FY 2008, and it authorized appropriations for FY 2007 and FY 2008. The act endorsed the Vision, and it provided guidance and direction in several areas with respect to policy, program management, and accountability and oversight. The Joint Explanatory Statement of the House-Senate conference committee for the bill7 indicated as follows: The conferees believe that the Conference Report provides a strong legislative foundation for the pursuit of the nation’s continued exploration of space in a manner that both preserves the 4 The FY 2005 NASA budget request called for a total budget of $16.2 billion in FY 2005, rising to $17.8 billion in FY 2007, and reaching $18.0 billion in FY 2009. The actual totals appropriated by Congress were $16.2 billion in FY 2005 and $16.3 billion in FY 2007; the administration’s request for FY 2009 in $17.6 billion. 5 President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, A Journey to Inspire, Innovate and Discover (also known as the Aldridge Commission report), June 2004, available at http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/moontomars/docs/M2MReportScreenFinal.pdf. 6 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, Public Law 109-155, 109th Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2005. 7 Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, Conference Report on S. 1281, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, U.S. House of Representatives, December 16, 2005, Congressional Record, Volume 151, p. H12028.
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United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop important legacy of accomplishments in science, aeronautics and human space flight and provides NASA with the authority to move its new program of exploration forward. The statement also provided a set of priorities that included the following:8 A continued strong and diverse array of programs in the areas of space science, earth science and education is essential; [A] need to provide the smoothest possible transition between the eventual retirement of the space shuttle and the development of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) and Crew Launch Vehicle (CLV); [The] research potential of the ISS beyond its contribution to long-duration human spaceflight in support of the Vision for Space Exploration; and A national aeronautics research policy to guide future investments in this important segment of NASA’s mission … to ensure the vitality of aeronautics research within the framework of a clear set of national policy objectives. The NASA Authorization Act of 2005 specified NASA’s general responsibilities as follows:9 The Administrator shall ensure that NASA carries out a balanced set of programs that shall include, at a minimum, programs in— Human space flight, in accordance with [bill language setting milestones for elements of the Vision, including the Crew Exploration Vehicle as close to 2010 as possible and returning Americans to the Moon no later than 2020]; Aeronautics research and development; and Scientific research, which shall include, at a minimum— Robotic missions to study the Moon and other planets and their moons, and to deepen understanding of astronomy, astrophysics, and other areas of science that can be productively studied from space; Earth science research and research on the Sun-Earth connection through the development and operation of research satellites and other means; Support of university research in space science, earth science, and microgravity science; and Research on microgravity, including research that is not directly related to human exploration. 2006 NATIONAL SPACE POLICY In September 2006, President Bush authorized a new national space policy10 that was intended to govern all U.S. national security and civil space activities. The policy reaffirmed the long-standing commitment to the peaceful exploration and use of space, including the use of space for “U.S. defense and intelligence-related activities in pursuit of national interests.” It also did the following: Rejected any claims to sovereignty by any nation over outer space or celestial bodies, 8 Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference, Conference Report on S. 1281, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, U.S. House of Representatives, December 16, 2005, Congressional Record, Volume 151, p. H12028. 9 The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2005, Public Law 109-155, 109th Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 2005. 10 Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. National Space Policy, National Security Presidential Directive 49, unclassified version released on October 6, 2006, available at http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/defaultfile/Unclassified%20National%20Space%20Policy%20--%20FINAL.pdf, p. 1.
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United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop Supported cooperation with other nations in the peaceful use of outer space, Considered space systems to have the rights of passage through and operations in space without interference, Asserted that the U.S. will preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space and take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities, Opposed the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space, and Committed to encouraging and facilitating a growing and entrepreneurial U.S. commercial space sector. The policy set forth seven fundamental goals, as follows:11 Strengthen the nation’s space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives; Enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there; Implement and sustain an innovative human and robotic exploration program with the objective of extending human presence across the solar system; Increase the benefits of civil exploration, scientific discovery, and environmental activities; Enable a dynamic, globally competitive domestic commercial space sector in order to promote innovation, strengthen U.S. leadership, and protect national, homeland, and economic security; Enable a robust science and technology base supporting national security, homeland security, and civil space activities; and Encourage international cooperation with foreign nations and/or consortia on space activities that are of mutual benefit and that further the peaceful exploration and use of space, as well as to advance national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives. In addition to providing implementation guidelines for the secretary of defense and the director of national security for the national security space program, the policy provided civil space program guidance for NASA and the Department of Commerce as follows:12 The United States shall increase the benefits of civil exploration, scientific discovery, and operational environmental monitoring activities. To that end, the Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall: execute a sustained and affordable human and robotic program of space exploration and develop, acquire, and use civil space systems to advance fundamental scientific knowledge of our Earth system, solar system, and universe. The Secretary of Commerce, through the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shall in coordination with the Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, be responsible for operational civil environmental space-based remote sensing systems and management of the associated requirements and acquisition process. 11 Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. National Space Policy, National Security Presidential Directive 49, unclassified version released on October 6, 2006, available at http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/defaultfile/Unclassified%20National%20Space%20Policy%20--%20FINAL.pdf, p. 2. 12 Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. National Space Policy, National Security Presidential Directive 49, unclassified version released on October 6, 2006, available at http://www.ostp.gov/galleries/defaultfile/Unclassified%20National%20Space%20Policy%20--%20FINAL.pdf, p. 5.