From the Chief Advocate
The Planetary Society released its official recommendations to the Biden administration today, focusing on opportunities related to planetary exploration and planetary defense. We encouraged the new administration and Congress to consider NASA as a tool for economic growth. Space is not something done "out there" but here, on Earth, for all of us.
We still don't have a NASA Administrator nomination, but we are starting to have some clarity on space policy. Notably, the White House Press Secretary stated that the Biden administration supports the Artemis program. This followed a letter signed by 11 Democratic senators calling on Biden to request full funding for the human landing system effort. There are many details yet to sort out, but this is an encouraging sign.
And while there has been no decision yet on the future of the National Space Council, the White House announced that it intends to use a different system for setting national security space policy—previously the domain of the council. This is a less-than-encouraging sign for supporters of the NSpC.
There are 3(!) missions arriving at Mars this month. I look forward to celebrating all of them in next month's newsletter, and at Planetfest on 13 & 14 February. I'm chairing a breakout session on the future of human spaceflight and a workshop on Mars advocacy. Hope to see you there (virtually, of course).
With all of this activity at Mars, it's a good time to consider the big picture. Dr. James S.J. Schwartz is a philosopher and careful thinker on the ethics of space exploration (we wrote a paper together last year on the ethical implications of planetary exploration). He recently wrote a broader essay on the role of space ethics that is worth reading.
Good luck to Hope, Tianwen-1, and Perseverance! See you all next month.
Space Policy Highlights
NASA Recommendations to the Biden Administration (planetary.org) These 5 recommendations provide a proven pathway to galvanizing the nation by way of an invigorated space program. It is both achievable and affordable; inspirational and eminently practical. It benefits the taxpayer directly with its economic, safety, and workforce benefits; indirectly via the inspiration of a new generation of scientists, engineers, and critical-thinkers; and spiritually, through the profound nature of new discoveries and insights into our cosmos.
White House says it supports Artemis Program to return to the Moon (arstechnica.com) "One of the biggest questions about space policy under the Biden administration is whether the president will embrace the Artemis Moon program set into motion by the Trump White House...today, at the outset of her briefing with White House reporters, press secretary Jen Psaki offered the following statement on the Artemis Program: "Lunar exploration has broad and bicameral support in Congress, most recently detailed in the FY2021 omnibus spending bill, and certainly we support this effort and endeavor.""
White House to realign responsibilities for space policy oversight (spacenews.com) The Biden administration is giving the White House National Security Council oversight responsibilities for space policy, giving credence to speculation that the National Space Council will be discontinued. Under the Trump administration, an interagency National Space Council coordinated policies across commercial, civil and military space and issued space policy directives.
“Space ethics” according to space ethicists (thespacereview.com) "Space ethics is not on “my side” or on “your side.” It is not on the side of space development, or on the side of planetary protection. It is a discipline in which people may act partisan, and imagine that they are at the sharp end of history, but it is not itself a partisan discipline. Sometimes, the things we want to be true will turn out to be unjustified. And whenever this happens, the fault, if there is one, will be in our expectations and not in the stars."
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
Matt Hourihan is perhaps the world's expert on how the U.S. government funds basic science and development activities. He joins the show to talk about the big picture of where the money goes, how the focus has changed over time, and the consequences of budget cuts to critical science investments.