The following is the opening of my opinion article published at the on-line The Space Review on September 4, 2007. This article discuses the important role of spacefaring logistics in opening the space frontier and why addressing this need should be important to the next presidential administration. The full article is available for download.
It’s now less than two years until a new president will be inaugurated. Probably, you have also started to wonder if anything will change with respect to American space activities with the new president.
Will the next president share a sense of America’s destiny as a true spacefaring nation by expressing an understanding of the importance of space to the United States’ prosperity and security in the 21st century? Will the next president see new “American space enterprises” as the means to address important national problems and challenges of technological and industrial leadership, economic growth, and world leadership raised during the campaign? Or, will we end up disappointed … once again?
It’s easy to be cynical about the prospect for significant changes in the overall American space enterprise with the next presidential administration, and it’s easy to point fingers at politicians as the cause of our cynicism. On reflection, however, the root cause lies closer to home with the ineffective actions by the American pro-space community. We have not yet identified and effectively communicated proposed American space enterprise initiatives that have elicited strong public and political support.
I view the early months of the new presidential administration in 2009 as the only true opportunity to significantly alter the direction of America’s space enterprise through the changed policies and new programs needed for the United States to become a true spacefaring nation. The purpose of this commentary is to explore what types of changes are needed, why these changes are vital for the United States to undertake, and how these changes can be advocated to the American public and political leadership. Let’s start by looking ahead to what we should aim to achieve.
January, 2009: I’ve taken a couple of days to drive to Washington, D.C., to listen to the inaugural address of the new President. The pro-space internet websites, blogs, and chat rooms are buzzing with anticipation that a new, major space initiative will be included in the President-elect’s inaugural address. Meeting friends, we join the crowds converging on the National Mall to find a convenient location where we can, at least, hear the President-elect’s address. Despite the cold temperatures, the sunny winter skies reflect our upbeat mood. We’re sure that today is the day! The coordinated efforts of the American pro-space community over the last year appear to have paid off.
Now: What exactly are we missing? To start, we need to reflect on what the politician’s role in our political system is with respect to solving problems and undertaking new challenges. Politicians are not engineers; they do not create new technological solutions to problems or create new national opportunities through innovative technology advancements. Their role is to catalyze public policy and government programs to apply public and private resources to solving problems and addressing challenges of importance to the American public.
Politicians, particularly those of the political stature to be president, are very interested in proposing solutions to important issues and challenges. This is, after all, a primary currency of presidential campaigns. There are, however, criteria that must be met if a proposed solution is to be adopted.
1. Can the problem or challenge be perceived by the public as important?
2. Is the time for change clearly evident?
3. Have reasonable solutions been identified?
4. Are the needed resources available?
5. Is the cost on par with the public’s perceived importance of solving the problem or undertaking the challenge?
6. Will the implementation of the solution sustain needed public support?
7. Will the solution draw sufficient political support to be enacted and funded?
8. Is the solution likely to succeed?
Proposing answers to these questions, through proposed updates to U.S. space policies and new space enterprise initiatives, is what the American pro-space community now needs to undertake to positively influence the next president.
(Continued in the full article.)
The full article is available for download at:
– Screen reading version (HD computer display is best; download and read in Adobe reader is best)
Commentary on the article, sponsored by the Space Review, is available here.