Reality Trumps Politics On Space Policy Debate

By Frank Morring, Jr.
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

October 08, 2012

Frank Morring, Jr. Washington

Surrogates for President Barack Obama and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney are doing their best to distinguish their candidates on space-policy issues, but grim budget reality has forced both parties into supporting the U.S. space program that evolved in the past four years.

The handwriting was on the wall when Obama took office, and he quickly established a review panel headed by former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine to certify that the George W. Bush administration’s Constellation program was “unsustainable . . . perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.”

At that point things got messy. The Obama-administration call for a shift to commercial human spaceflight and an open-ended “push” for technology to enable unspecified exploration missions ran into a buzz saw of competing Capitol Hill constituent interests and White House power plays.

The upshot is today’s compromise policy that combines commercial human spaceflight with the government’s deep-space Orion crew vehicle and the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS). Technology spending is reduced from Obama’s original wish list, and is now more tightly focused on destination-driven exploration.

Read more: Reality Trumps Politics On Space Policy Debate — Aviation Week & Space Technology.

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