That’s the topic of an article in this week’s issue of The Space Review that I wrote about the potential risk to civil space programs posed by growing concerns about energy and desires for crash programs to develop alternative energy sources. Both major presidential candidates have appropriated arguably the biggest accomplishment of the Space Age to date—the Apollo lunar landings—as a way to describe the level of commitment (and size of funding) needed to gain “strategic independence” in energy (in John McCain’s words) or otherwise develop alternative energies.
That level of effort will require a lot of money: Barack Obama’s energy policy calls for $150 billion over 10 years for alternative energy research. Coupled with desires to reduce deficit spending, as well as growing pressure on the budget from mandatory spending, will space feel the squeeze in the next administration? As I conclude the article:
…but new energy policies will add to the existing fiscal pressures on NASA and space exploration in the next administration and beyond. That makes it all the more imperative for NASA and its supporters to craft approaches that are cost effective and also exciting and inspiring, to help win public support and thus funding. Otherwise, the Vision for Space Exploration and efforts like it might run out of gas.
In a related article, Greg Anderson examines what it takes to build long-term support for government initiatives of any kind, from Social Security to the Cold War, and how that can be used to build support in future administrations for space exploration. His conclusion: “Space expansion, therefore, must be presented to voters as being good for society as a whole. If the enemy in the Cold War was Communism, the alternatives to expanding the human economy beyond Earth are poverty, stagnation, and smaller, perhaps shorter lives for coming generations.”