On Monday, the AIAA announced it was holding a “dialogue on deep space exploration” on Capitol Hill on July 24. “The panel will examine the next steps in deep space exploration for the United States, the medical barriers that must be overcome before increased exploration is possible, and the costs and benefits of relying on robotic rather than human exploration,” the release states, adding that the panel will also examine destinations for exploration missions, international cooperation in such missions, and even “possible fuel sources” for them.
Scheduled to speak at the event are Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), a member of the House Science Committee; Scott Pace of the GWU’s Space Policy Institute; James Green, head of NASA HQ’s planetary sciences division; Brian Duffy, an ATK vice president; Jim Crocker, a Lockheed Martin vice president; Kris Lehnhardt,a physician and professor at GWU; and Ralph McNutt of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab.
At first glance, that looks an an inocuous enough panel, with a mix of industry, academia, and government representatives. But the event has attracted some critical attention, in part because of the panel’s composition but also because of who is the current AIAA president: former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. NASA’s Alan Ladwig expressed his criticism of the panel’s composition in a tweet on Tuesday:
The AIAA forum lacks balance. A Romney rep, but none from Administration. Legacy companies, but no NewSpace. Griffin makes hi s mark.
— Alan Ladwig (@SpaceArtAl) July 10, 2012
Griffin, though, may not have helped his cause by including in the release his beliefs about the next destination for human space exploration. “The next stop on that frontier is the moon, and it is indeed still new. It is no longer enough to point to our past achievements; most of today’s world cannot recall the time when our astronauts could voyage to the moon. It is for us to resolve that they will do so again, and soon,” he stated. He warned that the US can still choose to lead the way, but “within a very few years, it will belong to others.”