The Wall Street Journal notes something that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention outside the space community: the apparent interest in Obama’s NASA transition team in space solar power (SSP). The transition web site, Change.gov, has been posting materials it has received and soliciting comments; one of those documents posted late last month was a position paper on SSP. That document was prepared and submitted by the Space Frontier Foundation and based on the 2007 National Security Space Office report on the issue. The document has, as of Friday morning, generated 287 comments, perhaps in part because it was one of the first such position papers published on Change.gov. It was also the only space-related one that turned up in a search [warning: may be only a temporary link] until Thursday, when several other briefings, from groups and companies ranging from the Association of Space Explorers to the X PRIZE Foundation, were posted.
While SSP advocates are pleased with the buzz they’re getting, the question remains open about how much real interest in SSP there is among the NASA transition team, as well as the overall transition team. One of the key issues with SSP over the years has been finding it a home: should it be in NASA, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, or someplace else? On that front, one thing to keep in mind is President-elect Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Energy, Steve Chu, a Nobel laureate physicist and director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As LBL director he has pushed alternative energy research, including Helios, a project to study “storing” solar power in the form of renewable fuels; Science described him last year as “on a crusade to make solar power work” [subscription required]. However, it appears that Chu has been silent, in public at least, on space-based solar power.