In an effort to draft a petition from Space Tweeps to the
Senate Sub-Committee on Science and Space, I came up with Option 5B as the one
that holds the greatest immediate promise for a continuation of America’s human
exploration of space.

Despite that decision, there are parts of that option that
are not so good and some parts seem to ignore to some degree the important
scientific and historic contributions made by NASA.  So here is my personal analysis.  I hope you read it and then make your own
decision and express that decision directly to the sub-committee.  Don’t worry I will tell you how later on.

The Good:

It keeps NASA and
America on track with a definite focus on space exploration
, albeit
gradually. This is the strongest good feature in this option.  It also extends the shuttle until 2011 and it
extends the ISS until 2020. Vitality of research and innovation are sustained.

The positive
inclusion of the private sector
in the broad space exploration goals of
this nation is a definite positive both for greater access to innovation, and
the fact that the private sector picks up a share of the overall costs. This is
also one whopping stimulus for high-tech and support-related space industry
employment opportunities.  Space industry
also becomes a full reality not just a media buzz word.

Cooperative,
international, joint ventures
are the only realistic answer, and Option
5B gets this ball rolling. As the committee notes there is insufficient funds
to cover any aspect of our current goals. Most importantly, this realization
actually becomes a corollary in that the more we extend ourselves into outer
space the more it will cost. This means that no single entity (agency,
corporation or nation) is going to be able to foot the entire bill. We must
collaborate!

The Bad:

The committee states in this option that
NASA will structurally change.
 
The impression that is left is that NASA will be essentially
disassembled into a basically research and administration agency. If this
should happen, as I interpret it, we would lose an important and incredible
resource of experience, research and motivation that are all absolute
essentials in our future space exploration efforts. In saying this, I admit
that my recommendation for NASA to be elevated to a cabinet position (see my
blog here: The Department of Space Science and Exploration) in the
administration would do some disassembly, but not in a wholesale fashion.

 

To offset the bad, NASA should remain the focal point of all space exploration
efforts as a research and exploration coordination agency and as a key player
in international joint ventures.  NASA
should also establish and monitor all national space science goals regardless
of whether they are undertaken by public or private entities.  This focus is critical to make sure that
space exploration becomes and is sustained as an endeavor by the citizens of
planet Earth, not by any single or many nations or corporations. To accomplish
this, NASA, as I have already advocated, must become a cabinet level
organization in order to successfully fulfill all its obligations and to
effectively promote and support international joint ventures.

 

In summary, NASA should change under
Option 5B
, but for the better and with much expanded responsibility for
the successful integration of both national and international space exploration
goals. In this respect it essentially exceeds, possibly even replaces the muted
UN involvement.

 

The Ugly:

We are going to be adding a lot of cooks
in the space science kitchen.
 
This is generally good and has the potential for incredible innovation
and advancement.  There will be vigorous
competition, which again is good, but can introduce a potential and deadly
flaw: safety.

 

Safety in
this respect covers not only the lives of our national and international
spacefarers (astronauts and space tourists); it must be expanded to cover
safety in the orbital zones that surround this planet. This must include both a
system to police and dispose of space junk, and a positive and active Near
Earth Object (NEO) detection and dispersal (move or destroy) system. We must
detect and interdict those NEOs that are a definite hazard to this planet, and
we must also protect our space faring investments.

 

Until we have a well established and
fully industrialized and scientific civilization on another planetary body, we
have only Earth as our key resource to support our explorations.
 Our NEO detection and interdiction programs
right now are at best haphazard because of funding issues and a variable level
of attention.  We cannot afford to lose
our very wherewithal to move forward; therefore this safety issue must be given
the highest priority.  We are not going
to colonize any planet in the immediate future, but an NEO can mess up our
lives and future- tomorrow.  Right now there is not much we could do about
it without further endangering all of us.

 

My Ad-lib: Well, I hope I have stimulated an interest,
even if from disagreement. Please take some time and read, again the Summary of
the Augustine Report. If Option 5B is not your choice, then come up with some
solid reasons for the option you have chosen and do one of the following: (a)
Prepare your argument and submit it by fax to the Senate Sub-Committee on
Science and Space or (b) Call the sub-committee and leave a short message
(include your full name and state) stating which option you would like to see
supported by Congress and the White House.

 

Well, why the sub-committee and not the
White House?  On September 16, 2009 the sub-committee will begin to analyze the
Augustine Report recommendations.  They,
in turn, will advise President Obama on what they believe is the best of the
recommended options in the report.  In effect they are setting the future of
our nation’s space history!

Now, the Chairman of this sub-committee is Senator Bill Nelson, of
Florida who is a strong supporter of NASA and space exploration.  He is the MAN right now and we must reach out
to him and his sub-committee with our comments on the Augustine Committee
recommendations.

 

Go here to get all the contact information on the sub-committee:  http://bit.ly/lrwJr   Additionally this is their fax-number: 202-228-2339. Their Executive Assistant gave it to me
yesterday.  Please note she urged us to
call back and check to see if the fax was received as sometimes they get misdirected.  The link above has all the telephone numbers
you need.  Please take some action:  We, all humankind, must now start to “go
where no human has every gone before”. It is our evolutionary mission.  Let’s do it!