Much of the space community has its attention focused this week on the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. Although NASA has tamped down the wild speculation in the last couple of weeks about a major discovery by the Curiosity Mars rover, there will still be news coming out of the conference on Curiosity, as well as missions as varied as the GRAIL lunar orbiters and the Voyager spacecraft on the outskirts of the solar system. On the other side of the country, it will also be a busy week in Washington on space policy, with a focus on what the future direction of the nation’s space program will, or should, be.
That discussion starts Monday with a panel discussion titled “Space Policy Challenges Facing the Second Obama Administration”, organized by the Secure World Foundation. The event will examine issues ranging from budgets to export control reform to better overall coordination of space activities. The panel will be moderated by Scott Pace of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, who, ironically, worked on space policy issues for the Mitt Romney campaign earlier this year.
On Tuesday, the Space Foundation is hosting an event on Capitol Hill tied to the release of a report titled “PIONEERING: Sustaining U.S. Leadership in Space”. The 70-page report, whose research included interviews with “nearly 100 space leaders”, contains “recommendations for redefining and restructuring the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and strengthening the U.S. civil space program,” according to the advisory about the event.
On Wednesday the National Research Council is scheduled to release its final report on “NASA’s Strategic Direction”, a study commissioned by Congress that the NRC performed over the last several months. (One meeting in late June featured testimony from three former NASA administrators: Richard Truly, James Beggs, and Sean O’Keefe.) There’s been no formal announcement from the NRC about the report’s impending release, although committee member Marcia Smith of noted the release on her site, SpacePolicyOnline.com, with the NRC’s permission.
On Thursday, the full House Science Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing titled “The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America’s Space Program”. However, no witnesses have been announced for the hearing, and it has reportedly been postponed as the House doesn’t plan to be in session that day.