White House

New space transportation policy “hopefully” out by fall

Last May the White House started development of an updated national space transportation policy as part of a review of “sectoral” policies after the mid-2010 release of the broader National Space Policy. At the time officials said they hoped to complete the review of the policy in four to five months, but cautioned that timeline was subject to change. Ten months later, the policy has not been released—but it is coming.

Speaking at a public forum Tuesday morning organized by the Aerospace States Association (ASA), Peter Marquez, the former director for space policy at the White House who coordinated the development of the 2010 national space policy, said he understood that an initial draft of the policy was now complete and undergoing review. “It has now entered the blackout period” where the White House will no longer be seeking outside inputs, as it had during earlier stages of its development. (Marquez, who now works for Orbital Sciences, said he was speaking only for himself at the ASA event.) “The next time you hear or see of it is when it pops out of the Oval Office with the president’s signature on it.”

And when might that happen? Marquez expects that the policy will go through several rounds of reviews based on his own experience there: the 2010 policy, he said, went through four revisions. “So hopefully by—guessing—the fall timeframe, a new space transportation policy may pop out.”

Marquez also offered his best guesses as to the contents of the policy, cautioning he had no insight into the specific details it might contain. Based on the themes of the overall national space policy, he said he expects the space transportation policy to cover topics such as reliance on commercial capabilities, resilience and mission assurance, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, technology risk reduction, and international cooperation. Of those, education might seem out of place, but he said it would be tied to the need of having an educated workforce to support space transportation operations. “I would place good money on the national space transportation policy having some very directive language about STEM.”

2 comments to New space transportation policy “hopefully” out by fall

  • Doug Lassiter

    Very interesting that Marquez forsees the new national space transportation study as touching firmly on STEM education, wherein that directive language is “tied to the need of having an educated workforce to support space transportation operations”. That is, instead of pretending that such space transportation efforts offer value for the general technological and scientific benefit of the nation, they’re going to call it like it is. Those efforts are important for … educating more people to make those efforts. The value to the nation defined here is self preservation. That’s like planetary science as being important for training more planetary scientists or communications engineering as being important to train more communications engineers.

    I had not appreciated it, but the overriding National Space Policy is similarly careful about articulating the value of space investments for STEM education. STEM education is mentioned once there, in the section on “Develop and Retain Space Professionals”. Space and STEM is seen by this administration as about training, and not educational inspiration.

    That’s not to say that investment in space isn’t good for general STEM education, but that it’s just not necessarily a cost-effective way to do it, and should not be taken as a hand-waving general rationale for spending that money.

  • vulture4

    I remember how after Sputnik Eisenhower and Kennedy decided to boost stem education by …. putting resources into STEM education itself; teachers, equipment for schools, etc. What a concept!

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