There were a few space policy-related items published over the holidays:
In an op-ed in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Paul Spudis restates the case for going back to the Moon. His commentary is summarized in these sentences from the introduction: “The moon is important for three reasons: science, inspiration and resources. All three are directly served by the new lunar return architecture. This program has the potential to make significant contributions to our national economy and welfare.” There’s nothing necessarily new here, but it’s a good restatement of the arguments for human lunar exploration.
On the other hand, the Toledo Blade dropped a lump of coal in the stockings of space supporters in a Christmas Day editorial. Rather than focus on human exploration of the solar system, Mars in particular, the Blade argues that NASA should focus on safely flying the shuttle and completing the ISS (which is exactly what NASA is focused on, many would argue.) “Right now, most Americans would rather NASA and the Bush Administration limit their horizons in the short term,” the editorial claims. Later: “Many Americans, we feel sure, would say that first we help our hurricane victims, then we think about colonizing Mars.” Given that “colonizing” Mars is relatively far in the future, regardless of spending on hurricane relief, the Blade’s argument is a little dull here.
The Blade editorial also notes the gap of potentially $6 billion between the expected costs to fly out the shuttle and what has been budgeted for the program through 2010. The Palm Beach Post examines this issue in more detail,including the possibility of flying the shuttle after 2010. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) told the Post that he would support extending the program if the ISS is not complete by 2010 or if the CEV is not expected to fly until after 2012. Nelson’s colleague, Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), agreed with him, saying she would also support a shuttle extension “even if it means expanding NASA’s budget.” Hutchison: “We can’t continue to cut, cut, cut NASA’s budget and expect to make it to the moon and Mars.” However, NASA’s budget has not been “cut, cut, cut” in the last few years—far from it, especially when compared to many other non-defense discretionary programs. The problem lies elsewhere, perhaps with NASA’s cost estimation processes.