AIA, CSE renew call to support space exploration roadmap on Trump Administration
Since 2009, when the Obama White House succeeded in cancelling NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration, the U.S. Space Agency has lacked a defined direction concerning its crewed exploration efforts. A possible path forward for the agency, submitted earlier this summer and re-issued earlier this month (November 2016), has gained the support of two prominent space-advocacy organizations.
While President Obama attempted to rectify the reaction caused as a result of his budget proposal, announced on April 15, 2010, by visiting the Kennedy Space Center in person, his plan and speech were deemed rather vague. Many in political and aerospace-policy circles wanted to see the space agency be provided with a mandate as to what it should be doing in terms of sending crews beyond Earth’s gravitational influence.
Obama’s proposals to use the Orion spacecraft as a lifeboat for the International Space Station, for a trip to an asteroid, and for sending crews to Mars “sometime” in his lifetime failed to muster the majesty that President Kennedy’s Rice University speech provided. Kennedy’s speech and its core theme of “We choose to go to the Moon” had culminated in, arguably, one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments – the landing of 12 men on the surface of the Moon.
Support of Obama’s space policies has not been helpful for some politicians. Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas, whose 24th congressional district was suffering from rampant unemployment (something that appears to be ongoing according to a report appearing on USA Today in 2014) in the post-shuttle era, came out in support of President Obama’s space policies. Kosmas was defeated by former State Representative Sandy Adams on Nov. 2, 2010 – seven months after Obama’s remarks.
Papers and proposals flourished in the months after the President’s speech, but thanks, in part, to their lack of affordable and the technical feasibility of these concepts, little was decided, let alone approved.
NASA settled into a two-pronged approach with private companies providing crew and cargo launch services and the agency relying on firms with decades of experience to develop the new super heavy-lift Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft for beyond-Earth orbit missions.
This roadmap could possibly serve to spur the new Trump Administration to provide NASA with a coherent directive as to how it should focus its crewed exploration efforts. At present, NASA has been working under what has been dubbed the “Journey to Mars”.
The proposal – described as a “bipartisan roadmap for the incoming Trump Administration and Congress that ensures space exploration remains a priority and supports United States’ continuing leadership in space exploration” – is titled A Space Exploration Roadmap for the Next Administration.
As noted, the roadmap was drafted and issued by the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration earlier this summer, it has been re-issued and endorsed by both the AIA and as well as the Citizens for Space Exploration.
“The endorsements of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the Citizens for Space Exploration (CSE) represent the spectrum of the aerospace industry and interested members of the public and demonstrate broad support for NASA’s deep space human and science exploration programs,” said Mary Lynne Dittmar, director of the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration.
The paper provides seven general recommendations that the partners feel will help guide the United States to reclaim its position in aerospace endeavors:
- Develop and maintain close alignment between the new Administration and Congress on space policy, priorities, and funding levels, building on the bipartisan consensus reflected in the 2010 NASA Authorization Act and in the annual appropriations bills adopted over the last six fiscal years.
- Ensure robust and dependable U.S. access to deep space missions, including the near-term uncrewed test flight of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft in 2018, and a 2021 test flight with a crew that will enable American astronauts to lead the way into deep space.
- Advance U.S. leadership and achievement in space science with the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Insight mission to Mars, funding for upcoming Mars and Europa planetary missions, and ongoing investment in missions across NASA’s science portfolio.
- Ensure use of the International Space Station as a technology test bed and cornerstone of NASA’s comprehensive plan for future deep space exploration.
- Focus new transportation services on supporting NASA’s low-Earth orbit activities and missions without sacrificing safety and mission assurance.
- Strengthen NASA’s effectiveness by streamlining its institutional footprint, bureaucracy, and procurement practices to ensure effective deployment of existing resources.
- Ensure development of new technologies and space capabilities which directly support science, exploration, and national security needs.
“Together with the Coalition these associations endorse NASA’s role in maintaining U.S. leadership in exploration, science and commerce in space. The consensus across industry and the scientific community is to complete and operate important national assets such as the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion crew vehicle, Ground Systems, and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST),” Dittmar added.
The Roadmap was released in June to both candidates and shared on Capitol Hill and with the public. It was re-released after the election as a reminder to the incoming administration and other stakeholders.
The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration’s presidential transition policy paper appears to be quickly gaining more support within the industry.
As Trump assembles his NASA transition team who will be responsible for assessing the agency’s programs, the Coalition thought that this would be of interest to the readers of SpaceFlight Insider to further understand the Coalition’s recommendations to ensure U.S. leadership for space exploration and science.
For their part, the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration has expressed excitement about the possibilities of what a revived NASA could accomplish.
“NASA is currently on a trajectory to open up the Solar System using the Orion crew vehicle the Space Launch System, enabling human beings to travel further from Earth than ever before. At the same time, NASA’s ‘vision’ is about to be extended by the James Webb Space Telescope, which will peer back in time toward the Big Bang. Meanwhile, NASA is in the process of handing over logistics and eventually facilities in low-Earth orbit to private industry, as it lays out its next steps toward the Moon and eventually Mars with industry and international partners,” Dittmar told SpaceFlight Insider.
At present, despite there being some basic statements that President-elect Trump will support NASA’s current crewed initiatives, little has been released about how the newly-minted leader of the free world will treat the space agency (outside of his lack of support for NASA’s Earth sciences programs).
NASA is currently working to conduct the first test flight of its new super heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket at the close of 2018. This is the same year that private firms working on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program hope to conduct the maiden flights of their crew-rated spacecraft to LEO.
This article was updated on Nov. 29, 2016, at 21:40 p.m. EDT to reflect the fact that the Roadmap was initially released this summer and re-issued in November of 2016.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.