Status Report

NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Is it time to start the Federation?

By SpaceRef Editor
July 5, 2009
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NASA JSC Advanced Planning Office Blog: Is it time to start the Federation?

In the next few weeks we will get a new Administrator and Deputy Administrator.  Shortly after that we will hear from the new Augustine Committee their recommendations concerning the future of human space exploration. So what can we expect about the future direction of NASA? To answer that let me go back four years to the early days of the Advanced Planning Office, when the Director for the Johnson Space Center (JSC), Mike Coats commissioned us to look at the 20 year strategy for JSC. When we started we conducted an environmental scan which included the changes in commercial space and international space.

The results of the scan and a series of scenario planning activities offered a future vision where Low Earth Orbit (LEO) would be crowded and that NASA could leverage to a greater extent the capabilities outside of the agency allowing us to focus our resources on exploration beyond LEO. Over the past few years we have been tracking their progress and it has been the source of many of my previous blogs. Then last fall during the presidential campaign, President Obama offered his view on the future direction of NASA. It included

* Using the Private Sector: Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.

* Drawing in International Partners: Obama will encourage a cooperative framework for the conduct of a long-term and sustainable international exploration initiative. This will enable the United States to leverage its resources and to use space exploration as a tool of global diplomacy. Then earlier this year the Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) stated the following: The administration and OSTP will develop policies that will:

* Help establish a robust and balanced civilian space program, and engage international partners and the private sector to amplify NASA’s reach. Then it’s probably no coincidence that a number of the committee members of the Augustine Committee are from commercial space.

So are we going to the Moon or Mars or an Asteroid? My crystal ball is very fuzzy on a destination (although I have my hypothesis that I’ll save for another entry). Where the trail of the past 4 years leads me is to a rebalance of NASA’s portfolio to include a more integrated strategy with International and Commercial space. I think that NASA will enter a phase of leading the international and commercial community in defining an integrated human exploration program that leverages all of the assets available across the community. I think that over the next four years we will find a very different collaboration across the International Space Agencies. I believe that whatever the destination beyond LEO, it will be a tightly integrated international program.

The start of the Federation? Maybe or maybe the international crew currently on the International Space Station and the release of the movie this summer reminded me again of why I joined NASA 21 years ago.  The dream that we would have a united planetary human exploration of space.
Sharing the Vision,
Steven González, Deputy, Advanced Planning Office

SpaceRef staff editor.