In this week’s issue of The Space Review, Frank Sietzen examines the lack of presidential attention to the Vision and what’s needed to build bipartisan support for the effort. On the former, Sietzen is blunt:
The Vision for Space Exploration was established at a time of record deficits, when America was conducting one war against terror in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. The war in Iraq is costing Americans two billion dollars a week. This president has shown no interest in either science or space, and is the head of a political party many of whose members doubt the veracity of evolution and climate change. Given these political realities it is surprising not that the Vision has its flaws, but that Bush set forth a space vision at all.
On the latter issue, he brings up some recent research (incorporated into NASA’s new strategic communications plan) regarding how people become more supportive of NASA once they realize the effect the agency’s work has had on society. “If we wish to craft any enduring political consensus that lasts, one strong enough to form the basis of any future president’s space policy, then it is clear that a lot of educating of the average citizen must be done,” he writes. “The broadest such consensus can most likely be built around a civil space program that neither shortchanges Earth or space science or long-term human exploration.”
Also of interest in this week’s issue is an essay by Taylor Dinerman reviewing a 1958 document on why the US should go into space. The reasons provided in that paper are largely the same ones at the center of national space policy today: exploration, science, defense, and national prestige. “It may be that since the nature of the rockets used to get into space have not changed all that much since the days of Sputnik, a policy designed when America’s first ICBM, the Atlas, had not yet entered service may still provide useful guidance in the absence of a cheaper way to get into orbit,” he writes. “However, the unchanging nature of outer space itself—and the unchanging nature of human beings—may be what make this basic statement so valuable.”
One final note: posting here will be light this week, since not only is it the summer doldrums in political circles, I’m on travel all week.