An article in this week’s Space News, republished on SPACE.com, notes that President-Elect Barack Obama “offered more specifics about his plans for NASA than any U.S. presidential candidate in history.” Those specifics include the six-page policy paper published by the campaign in August as well as a promise of an additional $2 billion for NASA to partially close the Shuttle-Constellation gap. But can he deliver? Former Congressional staffer Bill Adkins says yes, if Obama specifically asks for the extra money: “If Obama actually puts the $2 billion in [his budget request] that he promised in his campaign, I think Congress is likely to go along with it because it’s not big enough to have a fight over. If Obama doesn’t, I don’t see the mood in Congress to add the money.” Additional NASA funding could be added in one of the new economic stimulus bills being considered by Congress, perhaps during the lame duck session this fall.
Meanwhile, in this week’s issue of The Space Review, I examine some issues associated with implementing that policy, which was originally a tool to win votes on the Space Coast (and an largely ineffective one, given the outcome of the election) but is now seen as the blueprint for the new administration when it comes to space. The first, and perhaps biggest challenge, is determining who should lead NASA while deciding what to do with the shuttle and Constellation. There are other issues that it should consider, given the current state of the agency and overall policy, including whether to stick to the current deadlines of the Vision for Space Exploration; the need to act on, rather than just study, export control reform; and the importance of an open and effective new space council. Undoubtedly the NASA transition team is getting bombarded with suggests like the ones contained in this article, and it will be fascinating to see how they act to put the new administration’s stamp on NASA and national space policy.