America’s Space Futures: Defining Goals for Space Exploration

January 22, 2014
Author:
Eric R. Sterner
Publisher:
BookBaby (12/1/2013)

America’s Space Futures is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about space policy, the American space program, and the human destiny in space.

It lays out alternative paradigms and frameworks for assessing America’s future in space and how different visions would require changes to America’s current approach to space development and exploration.

Since the end of the Apollo program in the 1970s, the U.S. civil space program has accomplished a great number of things: from deploying orbital observatories that see into deep space and exploring objects around the solar system robotically to studying the earth and building the International Space Station, perhaps the most challenging engineering feat ever achieved by man.

Yet, the program frequently finds itself adrift when these missions come to an end. Consequently, space experts have long worried that the sum total of NASA’s accomplishments is somehow still less than the total value of its component parts.

Policymakers respond by establishing national commissions and expert panels to help lay out a long-term guiding vision for the space program.

From the National Commission on Space in the 1980s, through 1990’s Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, to the National Research Council in 2012, panel after panel has bemoaned the lack of a unifying vision for the space program.

Unable to sustain such a vision over the course of several Presidential administrations, the White House and Congress have papered over the uncertainty with compromises that sometimes leave NASA working against itself and no one satisfied.

In 2013, The Space Foundation, one of the United States’ largest space education organizations, insisted “NASA needs to embrace a singular, unambiguous purpose that leverages its core strengths and provides a clear direction for prioritizing tasks and assigning resources.” America’s Space Futures responds by considering the costs, benefits, and risks of different visions for the American space program. Contributors, who all have years of experience working on space issues from a variety of perspectives — civil, commercial, military, intelligence, academic, and advocacy— offer out-of-the-box thinking and analyses that lays out a space future and sets priorities to achieve a specific national goal.

These include space commerce and commercialization, maximizing American soft power through international space cooperation, settling the solar system, and advancing the frontiers of technology. Their goal is to raise new ideas, sharpen differences rather than blur them, and establish better foundations for setting the space program on a path for a brighter future.

Essayists include: William B. Adkins, president of Adkins Strategies and an aerospace engineer with experience in the civil and national security space communities; Charles M. Miller, President of NextGen Space, a space entrepreneur and former NASA Senior Advisor for Commercial Space; Dr. Scott D. Pace, Director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former senior official at NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Eric Sterner, a Fellow at the George C. Marshall Institute, adjunct professor at Missouri State University, and a former senior official at NASA and the House Science and Armed Services Committees; and, Dr. James A. Vedda, a senior policy analyst at the Aerospace Corporation with years of experience in the Department of Defense, author of two books on the space program, and a former associate professor at the University of North Dakota.