From the Chief Advocate
It’s 2022. To mark the occasion, my colleague (and D.C. operations chief) Brendan Curry and I sat down on Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition to discuss some of the major events we’re watching for in the coming year.
You’ll have to listen to the whole episode to hear our top six items, but I’ll spoil one of mine: NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program (CLPS).
I believe CLPS is a bigger deal than some realize. It inverts a long-held dynamic. For nearly its entire history, spacecraft have been custom-designed to address specific, high-priority questions of space scientists. Consider JWST: its size, complexity, and cost were all direct consequences of its scientific goals to observe a specific epoch of the early universe.
CLPS flips this dynamic: instead of providing a custom, one-off design to pursue a specific set of investigations at the Moon, CLPS companies provide generalized hardware platforms for lunar access. It’s up to the instrument teams to adapt to these general platforms and seek out opportunistic science within the limitations of multi-purpose, flexible platforms.
If CLPS is successful this year — and let’s not forget how hard it is to land on the Moon! — we could see a shift toward more “ride-along” science at the Moon, Mars, and beyond. There is an opportunity cost to this: NASA spends more than $300 million per year on CLPS, equivalent to a dedicated New Frontiers mission every 3.5 years. The big bet is that the increase in data from more frequent opportunities will more than make up for the lack of custom hardware that can maximize certain types of delicate scientific investigations.
I’m also looking forward to our Day of Action — our annual event that puts Planetary Society members in front of congressional staff and lawmakers to advocate for space. For obvious reasons, it will once again be a virtual event. We provide training, talking points, and even schedule your meetings for you. I hope you consider joining me on March 8th. We have options for U.S. and non-U.S. residents to participate.
Happy completed revolution around Sol,
The Planetary Society
Space Policy Highlights
Biden Commits to ISS Through 2030 Amid U.S.-Russian Tensions (spacepolicyonline.com) "NASA announced that the Biden Administration is committed to operating the International Space Station through 2030, a six-year extension. The sudden statement comes one day after a tense conversation where Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told President Joe Biden that any more U.S.-imposed sanctions could result in a “complete rupture” in relations. Russia is a major partner in the ISS."
New year, new (and overdue) rockets (thespacereview.com) "A few years ago, 2020 was shaping up to be a milestone year for new launch vehicles. Four new vehicles intended, at least in part, to serve commercial markets were scheduled to make their inaugural launches that year: Arianespace’s Ariane 6, H3 from Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Blue Origin’s New Shepard and the Vulcan Centaur by United Launch Alliance. As of the end of 2021, those four vehicles have, combined, a perfect track record: zero for zero. All four vehicles have suffered development delays that pushed back their first launches to 2021 and now to 2022 or later."
Japan wants a JAXA astronaut to be first “non-American” to join a NASA lunar landing (spacenews.com) "Japan’s recently elected prime minister set an end-of-the-decade goal for sending Japanese astronauts to the moon as part of the U.S.-led Artemis program. [Prime Minister Fumio] Kishida, Japan’s former top diplomat and the head of the country’s long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, said the goal was part of a revised space policy roadmap he’s submitting for cabinet approval. Japan’s new fiscal year begins April 1."
Planetary Radio: Space Policy Edition
New rockets, new legislation and a new direction for planetary exploration are just some of the major events happening in space in the coming year. D.C. operations chief Brendan Curry returns to the show to explore these and other issues that will shape the next decade of space exploration and occupy The Planetary Society's advocacy and policy team in 2022.