Status Report

AIP FYI #7: To the Moon & Mars: NASA Administrator O’Keefe on Bush Space Initiatives

By SpaceRef Editor
January 30, 2004
Filed under ,
AIP FYI #7: To the Moon & Mars: NASA Administrator O’Keefe on Bush Space Initiatives
sean o'keefe

Earlier this month, President George Bush outlined a new space
policy in a major address at NASA Headquarters. Under this plan,
the space station will be completed by 2010. Station research will
center on the effects of space travel on human biology. A new space
craft, the crew exploration vehicle, will conduct its first manned
mission no later than 2014, with “extended human missions to the
moon as early as 2015.” Bush also said that “our third goal is to
return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions
beyond.” “With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we
will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration:
human missions to Mars and beyond,” the President said.

Following this speech, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe responded to
questions about the new space policy. O’Keefe’s remarks provide
greater detail about the Administration’s intentions, and serve as a
preview of coming congressional hearings. The following excerpts
are from this briefing; paragraphs have been combined in the
interest of space:


“This afternoon we got a mandate. And we got support for a set of
specific objectives that very clearly identifies exploration and
discovery as the central objective of what this agency is all
about. It has always been so. In 45 years of this agency, certainly
that has been what an awful lot of what that mandate’s been about.
But to have it emphasized specifically as a reason in and of itself
for these purposes is the important dimension of what this policy is
all about. It will be informed by the science, to be sure. And
there are science objectives you’ll see, as we walk through in the
months ahead in the course of discussion with our oversight
committees in Congress, in the appropriations committees and the
public at large, exactly what the aspects of this program will be in
order to carry out those science objectives . . . . But they’re
specifically driven by exploration goals.”


“But the objective will be to continue, as you heard the president
identify, the shuttle program, with the objective of completing the
International Space Station by the end of the decade and, at the
point at which that completion occurs, to retire the shuttle at that
time. Consistent with that, the International Space Station will
continue to operate throughout this period and into the next decade,
which is the period beyond the scope of the president’s budget.”


“Based on the budget profile projections that will be submitted,
with the horizon through fiscal year ’09, thereafter, in order to
sustain this effort, the working assumption is that it be a program
that can be sustained at an annual rate that would increase by not
more than the rate of inflation. That’s projected throughout the
course of the next decade. So as a consequence, the primary
resources that are necessary are occurring in this period, from ’05
to ’09, and then expanding as a consequence of the transformative
efforts that are involved.” O’Keefe later elaborated: “Well, what
the president defined and described was a consequence of this
effort, of looking at the overall top line, the dollar amount. What
you see in fiscal year ’05 will be equating to about $16.3 billion
and increasing at a rate of about 5 percent or a little more for the
next couple of years thereafter. That equates to about a 5.5
percent increase in that first year, then progressing about 5
percent each year for the next couple of years and then leveling at
about 3 percent thereafter. But most of the adjustment, as he
described it and discussed it or alluded to it, is a reorientation
of efforts within the existing program, that while that is an
increase, it also is a more significant one on a net basis as a
consequence of the reorientation of various programs.”


“This will involve a range of not only the kinds of mission
objectives, capabilities, development of robotic as well as human
capabilities, to be very sure — the crew exploration vehicle is one
of the primary assets to accomplish that — but also to emphasize
the power generation propulsion capabilities necessary to achieve
these goals. Development, again, is more in the direction of
robotic as well as human capability requirements and a transition on
the International Space Station during the course of our immediate
period of the research agenda to really examine, specifically as he
[President Bush] mentioned in his speech this afternoon, the means
by which we can conquer the human effects that are encountered as a
consequence of long-duration space flight. And that will become the
primary, almost singular, focus of our research agenda in the time
ahead. So we’re re-ordering — what you’ll see in the program —
the very specific emphasis on the research on station to emphasize
life sciences, human physiology, the human affects and consequence
of long- duration space flight and develop the means by which to
mitigate those consequences in order to facilitate the opportunity
for broader exploration objectives of longer duration. So as a
consequence, all the inter-relationship between these factors will
be built into this program for the purpose, again, specifically of
pursuing the exploration agenda with the science to inform that set
of goals as we move ahead.”


“So we will create an exploration systems enterprise within the NASA
framework that will, again, be on par with space flight, space
science, earth science, biological and physical research, education
and safety and mission assurance and aeronautics.”


“That said, the focus of the president’s commission will be to
examine implementation strategies of this vision. So the charge,
the mandate, the terms of reference, if you will, of this commission
is to take this policy objective, the presidential directive, the
policy, the strategy, and the vision that’s stated therein and
provide it to this commission with the objective of them helping us
to find what implementation strategies should we be examining to
include a broader range of a variety of different commercial
alternatives, looking at international participation, workforce
challenges that we’ve talked about and will continue to be
encountering as a consequence of the requirement to recruit and
retain the kind of quality workforce that’s necessary. It will be a
whole range of specific objectives that we’ll talk about and provide
very specific detail on their terms of reference. But the question
of what should the vision be, that which has dominated the public
debate, certainly in the congressional arena as well as a
consequence of responding to the Columbia Accident Investigation
Board view that there be a national debate and a focus on the
vision, and there be a provision of one. This resolves the question
of: What is the vision?”


“Well, last night and this morning I had the opportunity to speak to
my counterparts with the heads of agencies, if you will, of the
International Space Station consortia, from the European Space
Agency, from Rosaviakosmos, the Russian Space Agency, the Canadian
Space Agency. And the enthusiasm and interest in opening up the
dialogue about what the degree of international participation
could/might be in the very near future here as we discuss this is
pretty high. And I think the enthusiasm they expressed to me was,
they’re anxious to have an opportunity to begin to see the detail of
where we’re going with this and where there may be opportunities to
collaborate. If any of us had any doubt about the utility of the
international cooperation and its depth of, I think, commitment, the
fact that the partnership has hung together and continues to operate
International Space Station today as a result of all of the partners
stepping up in the wake of the shuttle fleet grounding as we have
worked through the challenges and the tragedy of Columbia, that
demonstrates that there is lots of interest there, and capability
there, in order to perform in that manner. So in the time ahead, I
think we’ll see more and more of different ideas of what they’ll be
exploring and looking to, to look at cooperative arrangements and
partnering arrangements. And we’re looking forward to engaging in
that discussion.” O’Keefe later added: Well, I think it is very
much going to be a U.S.-led endeavor. That’s our intent. And, again,
much of what we have been directed and what the president envisions
we do is to achieve this set of American, U.S. exploration
objectives. To the extent we can do this collaboratively,
cooperatively and in partnering with international participation, we
are encouraged to do so. And there is enthusiasm from our partners
in examining the ways that they can do that productively. So I
think we have always been and will continue to be open to varying
alternatives that our partners and our collaborators of an
international nature may suggest. And we’ll continue that way.”
When later asked about the participation of India and China, O’Keefe
replied: “Well, it poses some interesting questions. And it
certainly opens up the opportunity. And I think the expectation that
the president has, in all of the discussions we have had leading up
to this set of decisions of what this direction is, is that we look
at this differently. We think about these challenges in different
ways. And so there is, I think, an opportunity to kind of open that
debate. Who knows? I wouldn’t want to speculate on this outcome at
this time, but I sure know that there isn’t a finite answer that
would suggest one way or the other at this juncture. That’s kind of


Richard M. Jones

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094


SpaceRef staff editor.