A national space policy is not a budget or a to-do list for NASA. Rather, the policy expresses, in the broadest terms, what our values are when it comes to exploring and using space. Mark Carreau is a Houston-based contributor to Aviation Week and Space Technology. He says he sees a shift in tone from the Bush-era policy, which stressed the U.S. doing its own thing in space.
“This policy from President Obama sounds a more cooperative tone among nations. It asks everybody to sort of put their best foot forward in terms of what they do in space.”
As more countries seek to launch satellites, space is becoming more crowded. Satellites provide essential navigation and communications, and track weather, disasters and climate change. The Obama policy calls for nations to peacefully collaborate and share this data rather than duplicating each other’s efforts in space.
It also recognizes the growing problem of orbiting space debris. Again, Carreau:
“If everybody wants to be in space, they’re going to have to be careful about the way they do it. So that they don’t get in the way of someone else, causing the destruction of a satellite or perhaps even endangering the space station with people aboard.”
The policy reiterates goals that Obama has already announced, such as promoting the use of private companies to launch astronauts into space. It also sets a goal of sending humans beyond the moon by 2025, perhaps to an asteroid.
To view the the entire National Space Policy, visit www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/national_space_policy_6-28-10.pdf.