The National Space Society plans to increase its efforts to advocate for NASA’s human spaceflight programs in the near future, but will also act as a watchdog for at least one element of that effort, the space advocacy organization’s executive director said Thursday.
Paul Damphousse, who became NSS’s executive director early this year, told the audience at the Space Access ’12 conference in Phoenix that he would seek to invigorate the organization’s outreach efforts with respect to NASA’s programs. “NSS could have a done a little bit better job in the last couple of years” advocating for policies, he said. “One of the things at the top of my list is to bring back a strong advocacy role.”
That advocacy, he said, would include supporting NASA’s efforts on commercial crew transportation development. “We are big supporters of commercial,” he said, both for orbital vehicle development as well as the ongoing work by several suborbital vehicle companies. “We are engaging the Hill pretty regularly on the fact that, if nothing else, funding must remain for commercial crew because that is going to be the only thing that will get us off from relying on foreign providers to access the International Space Station.”
Damphousse said the NSS also supported [see update below] the development of the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). “It is now the law, and they are the programs of record,” he said. However, he said the organization would watch those programs closely to ensure the remain on cost and schedule, so they “certainly do not siphon funds away from other programs.”
Policy issues will be an emphasis for the organization’s annual conference, the International Space Development Conference, which will take place in Washington, DC, next month. Both NASA administrator Charles Bolden and deputy administrator Lori Garver (a former NSS executive director herself) are among those planning to speak at the conference. Damphousse said the NSS would also use the conference to roll its proposed roadmap for space exploration.
Update: Paul Damphousse sent me an email over the weekend requesting a clarification on the above paragraph regarding the claim that the NSS “supported” SLS and MPCV. He writes:
We have taken a very measured approach to ensure people understand that 1) these ARE now the programs of record and 2) the NSS is not taking the role of “bomb-thrower” in attacking something that is in fact the LAW, but rather a position that–
1. the programs of record MUST NOT exceed their budgets
2. the programs of record MUST NOT slip their schedules
3. the programs of record MUST NOT siphon funds away from other programs
4. funding for other programs (which have NSS’ strong support) MUST NOT be cut (i.e. space technology, commercial crew and cargo, etc.)
If any of these things happen, the response from the NSS will be a dramatically different one.
My apologies to Col. Damphousse for not properly reflecting his comments at the conference.