NASA, White House

Closing the books on the Bush Administration

As the Bush Administration wound down to its end today, it, like other outgoing administrations, has been taking steps to try and shape its legacy. One form has been a a series of publications titled “The Bush Record” that identifies what, in the administration’s own view, it has accomplished in the last eight years. How does space policy figure into this? Not much.

“A Charge Kept: The Record of the Bush Presidency 2001-2009″ makes only a couple of tangential, at best, mentions of space: a reference to “space defense” among a list of “new defenses” the administration supported as part of a “new approach to strategic deterrence”, and a mention that civil space is one of several new areas of cooperation between the US and India. In “Highlights of Accomplishments and Results” doesn’t say anything about space policy that isn’t found in a standalone appendix, “100 Things Americans May Not Know About the Bush Administration Record”. That document does mention the national space policy that the administration enacted in 2006, curiously putting it under the “Helped American Workers and Businesses Remain Competitive” heading:

Created a new National Space Policy to ensure the continued free access and use of space for peaceful purposes and to help advance America’s economic competitiveness. Protected our national interests in space, governed the conduct of U.S. space activities, and enhanced the domestic space technology market.

How exactly the 2006 revision of the national space policy “enhanced the domestic space technology market” isn’t clear. Interestingly, the document doesn’t make any mention of the Vision for Space Exploration, the policy that radically altered the course of the space agency for the last five years. Bush’s January 14, 2004 speech announcing the vision is also missing from “Selected Speeches of President George W. Bush”, although that document does include Bush’s brief speech in response to the Columbia accident on February 1, 2003.

7 comments to Closing the books on the Bush Administration

  • kert

    How did VSE radically alter the course for the agency ? NASA has been involved in one or other harebrained manned launch vehicle development program for past 30 years, without ever flying anything useful. Ares I is just another one of these, Ares V is just a bunch of paper and there is little substance to the rest of the lunar initiative, apart from LRO ( the rest of the robotic precursor program got axed )
    ISS was always intended to be completed, so the only real change is a deadline for the death of the STS program. Which might get changed yet ..

  • Monte Davis

    What kert said. I suppose VSE “radically altered the course” of NASA. But as its political and fiscal assumptions were fantasy from the beginning, it has made and will make very little difference to the course of events.

  • Doug Lassiter

    Fair to say that the Bush administration radically altered the direction of the agency. VSE is a vector that actually points somewhere, unlike what we had for the ISS and Shuttle. (Many would argue about whether this vector points in the right direction, but it does point.) Also fair to say that we have not seen any deliverables that would mark real progress in this direction, though some metal is being cut, and we have refined concepts up the kazoo.

    But the lack of reference to VSE in the exit bow of the Bush administration only underscores how while VSE may have radically altered the direction of the agency, it did so with an initial push from the WH, and not a sustained pull. The WH may have seemed enthused about it once, but it isn’t particularly proud of it now.

  • Charles in Houston

    Doug Lassiter said: VSE is a vector that actually points somewhere and he is correct, unfortunatley it points straight over a cliff. It depends on totally unrealistic funding and was DOA when it was announced and is still DOA.

  • Many would argue about whether this vector points in the right direction, but it does point.

    Fundamentally, it points outward.

    unfortunatley it points straight over a cliff. It depends on totally unrealistic funding and was DOA when it was announced and is still DOA.

    I disagree. It could have been done with available funding, but it would have had to be done radically differently (and probably in a politically unacceptable manner to tenders of the pork in Alabama, Texas and Florida).

  • I’ll even disagree with that. I think there is still opportunity to turn it into a survivable program even in it’s current state. Personally I think we’ll be back on the moon if for no other reason than selfish pride. It’s no longer really a space race like it was in the cold war. But if any or all of the nations aiming for the moon get there and we don’t, there will be a collective national hell to pay over pride. America doesn’t pay attention to space unless we’re losing. Unfortunately that impacts funding of science missions which do little for our pride (Hubble being the notable exception), and therefore see little of the pr push.

    I think Even Ares V can eventually become workable, though I think it’s one of the klunkier and expensive ways to get there. I think a direction and a solid goal (the moon) is precisely what NASA needs to finally commit to a launcher. I just wish they’d have picked a different one.

  • Al Fansome

    TERENCE CLARK: But if any or all of the nations aiming for the moon get there and we don’t, there will be a collective national hell to pay over pride.

    Weak. Very weak.

    If your ONLY argument for America going back to the Moon is “PRIDE”, then the obvious response from an American citizen to any other nation putting humans on the Moon is “We’ve been there, done that … over 40 years ago.”

    There are some strong and compelling rationales for going beyond LEO, but equating American pride with Apollo Redux is not one of them.

    FWIW,

    - Al

    “Politics is not rocket science, which is why rocket scientists do not understand politics.”

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