The Whitehouse has released its National Space Policy (pdf) document. The introduction quotes President Obama from his 15 April speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida:
“Fifty years after the creation of NASA, our goal is no longer just a destination to reach. Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite. And in fulfilling this task, we will not only extend humanity’s reach in space—we will strengthen America’s leadership here on Earth.”
The presentation is a high level view of the administration’s ideas for space exploration. As such, there is very little new information. Rather, it pulls together ideas from a variety of statements including the fiscal year 2011 budget proposal, presentations before Congress and speeches by the President and NASA officials.
President Obama issued this statement about the policy. The Whitehouse has issued a fact sheet on the policy document. And NASA has released its response to the National Space Policy document.
The four major sections of the policy cover:
- Principles – Shared use of space, a competitive commercial sector, international rights in space and national security
- Goals – Energize domestic industry, international cooperation, human and robotic exploration and Earth and Solar observation
- Intersector Guidelines – Directions for governmental agencies and departments to maintain and strengthen United States capabilities
- Sector Guidelines – Commercial Space, Civil Space and National Security
Comparisons can be made to the 2006 National Space Policy, which is summarized in this Wikipedia article.
The Civil Space Guidelines include the section on Space Science, Exploration and Discovery:
- Set far-reaching exploration milestones. By 2025, begin crewed missions beyond the moon, including sending humans to an asteroid. By the mid-2030s, send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth
- Continue the operation of the International Space Station (ISS), in cooperation with its international partners, likely to 2020 or beyond, and expand efforts to: utilize the ISS for scientific, technological, commercial, diplomatic, and educational purposes; support activities requiring the unique attributes of humans in space; serve as a continuous human presence in Earth orbit; and support future objectives in human space exploration
- Seek partnerships with the private sector to enable safe, reliable, and cost-effective commercial spaceflight capabilities and services for the transport of crew and cargo to and from the ISS
- Implement a new space technology development and test program, working with industry, academia, and international partners to build, fly, and test several key technologies that can increase the capabilities, decrease the costs, and expand the opportunities for future space activities
- Conduct research and development in support of next-generation launch systems, including new U.S. rocket engine technologies
- Maintain a sustained robotic presence in the solar system to: conduct scientific investigations of other planetary bodies; demonstrate new technologies; and scout locations for future human missions
- Continue a strong program of space science for observations, research, and analysis of our Sun, solar system, and universe to enhance knowledge of the cosmos, further our understanding of fundamental natural and physical sciences, understand the conditions that may support the development of life, and search for planetary bodies and Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars
- Pursue capabilities, in cooperation with other departments, agencies, and commercial partners, to detect, track, catalog, and characterize near-Earth objects to reduce the risk of harm to humans from an unexpected impact on our planet and to identify potentially resource-rich planetary objects
The document is unlikely to satisfy any of the critics, including the politicians from Alabama, Texas and Florida that stand to lose jobs and programs in their districts.
Interestingly, the press conference, which occurred at 1:00 PM Phoenix time this afternoon, dealt with many of the issues raised by the critics, and a brief summary with comments can be found at NASASpaceFlight.
Commentaries can be viewed here, here and here.