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Space policy meets space weather

USA Today reported last week about a little-publicized report by the National Research Council titled “Solar and Space Physics and Its Role in Space Exploration”. The report discusses the need for studies of the Sun, its interaction with the Earth’s magnetic field, and related topics, as part of the overall exploration program. The NRC put together a “decadal survey” last year outlining a sequence of missions to achieve a set of scientific goals; the new study says that this strategy is still valid despite the new exploration emphasis. It does, though, caution about budget cuts to space science programs that have stretched out that schedule:

In the new, “stretched” schedule that accommodates the expanded scope of exploration, the scientific goals for solar and space physics are compromised, particularly in the loss of synergy among missions that will no longer overlap unless missions are extended beyond their normal lifetime.

(This page of the report illustrates the changes in the funding profile for NASA space science programs.) Of course, it is common practice at NASA to extend the life of missions that are functioning normally, so this will mitigate some of problem. The problem is that while space science is important, it’s not as sexy as, say, planetary science or astronomy, which can wow the public—and legislators—with pretty pictures that most space science programs can’t compete with.

8 comments to Space policy meets space weather

  • John Malkin

    Privateers seeing A vision. Private entrepreneurs are standing up and looking to the stars.

    Virgin boss to pay for Virgin Space Ship (VSS) from Burt Rutan
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3693020.stm

    and Bigelow alive and well and ahead of schedule (New prize for orbital flight)
    http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n0409/27bigelow/

  • Anonymous

    So what do those articles have to do with space weather and space policy, Mr Malkin? Can’t see the connection.

  • John Malkin

    I think both of these have to do with space policy. The private sector is starting to really move on its own which directly impact NASA and space policy. This is the second major privately funded space prize and congress should consider privatizing parts of Centennial Challenges although NASA may contribute to the Bigelow prize it is primary funded by private parties. The success with Bigelow should provide a template for designing the future of NASA. Congress must be more creative in helping NASA leverage private enterprise.

    Virgin is looking to have commercial flights in three years. This is only to low earth orbit but in combination with the Bigelow prize perhaps Virgin could be the first Commercial space liner. Space weather will be important if we have private citizens going to space. George Lucas may need to replace the PanAm logo on the space plane in 2001: A Space Odyssey to Virgin.

    Sorry I didnít realize the topic, I was posting the message was closed and I posted it to the wrong topic.

  • Matthew Corey Brown

    I don’t know, I think pictures of solar flares a signifigant size of the sun itself is sexy in its way. Specially if you put a scale model of the earth next to it.

    Fear is, sadly, still a valid tactic in politics. Trick is how does one effectly use that, without seemingly to use it.

    Personally for me, fear is the reason I’m still a space advocate today. I got into it as a kid, out of the romance aspect of it. But the more I learned the more i became afraid. Not for myself, as I have come to terms with my personal mortality. But for the culture and civilizations of the planet.

    I’ve been personally struggling with the idea of using my fear as a political tool. The downside to that, is one could be labeled as a fear monger and everything since, even if its not fearbased, would be ignored. And currently all of our collective fear is tied up on the War on Terrorism.

  • John Malkin

    According to the senate committee markup report, the committee is looking to the National Academy of Sciences to set goals for national space science. The committee has an appropriation an item of $250,000 for a report which includes ISS usage. This report is due in time for consideration for the fiscal year 2006 NASA appropriation. It says NASA should maintain a balance science program that follows priorities that have been recommended by the National Academy of Sciences and Congress.

    Congress or at least the senate committee wants a more comprehensive science agenda. You hear similar things echoed in the house committee report. I think congress will maintain levels required to keep projects alive while they determine the long rage goals for space science. It seems to me there is a big change in Congress since the Columbia disaster; congress seems more focused on the big picture than just getting the Shuttle flying safely and restructuring NASA. It seems to me that the words and the thinking from Congress after Challenger were very different or maybe itís just me.

  • John Malkin

    Yesterday, September 28, a bill H.J.RES.107
    making continuing appropriations for the fiscal year 2005, and for other purposes for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. It currently maintains NASA at its current budget.

    The vote has been postponed until September 30th.

  • ken murphy

    While I don’t agree with the NRC on the importance of the PKE, I think they’re spot on about Solar studies. For the simple reason that SOHO gives us warnings that allow us to protect orbital and terrestrial assets.

    I don’t think putting the next generation of Sun Watchers in GEO orbit is a smart idea, even if it does provide for a greater amount of data download. The geometry isn’t the best, and the real estate is too valuable for that purpose when we know ESL-1 is a much better spot for that sort of thing.

    We’re still getting a mix of good and bad strategies from the existing space sector. There’s not a comprehensive policy that’s been defined to guide our efforts, leaving us floundering this way and that in what we do.

    We have billions of dollars of commercial assets in space and on the ground (in the form of electrical grids). Watching the Sun is good policy, and not just for the NASA PhDs.