Major NASA policy announcement

Jim Whitehead ejw at
Thu Jan 15 11:03:29 PST 2004

Yesterday Pres. Bush made a major policy announcement concerning goals for
NASA, and US space exploration. Details here:

Background on how the new policy was formulated:

IMO, the most significant aspects:

* Goal of return to the Moon by 2020
* Retiring Shuttle fleet in 2010
* Eventual goal of landing on Mars

Perhaps even more important is the shift in rhetoric about the rationale for
the space program. The speech explicitly stated that it's OK to perform
exploration for the sake of exploration. Supporting science goals is
expected to continue, but science no longer has to be the primary rationale
for space exploration.

This is important, since it means NASA no longer has to defend against
arguments of the form, "if your goal is really to perform science, then the
money being spent on space science would probably have greater impact if
more evenly spread across the rest of the nation's science enterprises."
It's no longer necessary to account for $/publication, as these are now
spin-offs from the central task of exploration.

Also interesting to me is the amount of interest Bush personally placed on
the space program -- weekly meetings of the NASA administrator with the
President are not typical, I believe. The process used to formulate the new
policy appears to be remarkably well informed.

I'm hopeful.

- Jim

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