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What President Obama Means for Moon Colonization and Private Space Policy (Immediate Action?) November 6, 2008

Posted by Nick Azer in Base Race, Google Lunar X Prize, Joe Biden, NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Council, Obama, Orion (craft), private sector, Soyuz.
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A few months back I did an in-depth analysis of Barack Obama‘s detailed space plan, but now that he is officially the President-Elect of the United States (and therefore, given the timing of his term, one of the most important figures ever in mankind’s integration and colonization of the moon; it is within his first four-year term that the Google Lunar X Prize should be won, and that Astrobotic alone has 6 lunar surface missions planned), it’s time to take a look at what change he might bring on early on in his administration.

One thing Obama’s space plan detailed that we could see forming perhaps even before he takes office, is the return of the National Aeronautics and Space Council (here’s an obviously in-progress Wiki article on it’s previous incarnations, which were from 1953-1973 and 1989-1993; beyond that, online background is lacking).

“There is currently no organizational authority in the Federal government with a sufficiently broad mandate to oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government’s space- related programs, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Commerce Department, the Transportation Department, and other federal agencies.”
Barack Obama’s Space Plan

The Council was a White House entity to help coordinate these sorts of agenices, something that is arguably needed more now than it was in the Space Race era, with the booming private space sector (from Armadillo and Astrobotic to Odyssey Moon and Virgin Galactic, with numerous inbetween) being around, as Obama puts it, to “amplify NASA’s reach”:

“In achieving this vision, Obama will reach out to include international partners and to engage the private sector to amplify NASA’s reach. Obama believes that a revitalized NASA can help America maintain its innovation edge and contribute to American economic growth.”
-Paragraph 3 of the Obama Space Plan

As has been much discussed, economic growth is something America could use right about now, and so having a council that strengthens coordination of private and government space efforts (something already underway, an example being the agreement between Odyssey Moon and NASA announced just last week) could in turn, strengthen the role in a recovering American economy of a thriving space sector. The council would greatly amplify the ‘amplification of NASA’s reach’.

“And that’s a major debate I’m going to want to convene when I’m president of the United States. What direction do we take the space program in?”
-Barack Obama, on a couple of occasions on the campaign trail

An interesting blog post from an Obama supporter on the official Obama site talked about the idea of a new National Space Council from a political and practical perspective:

“A National Space Council could be critical to advancing such interagency issues on climate change, space communications, technical innovation, and the commercial uses of space. …We are missing opportunities because no agency is charged with helping space industries in the way that the Federal government helped the infant aviation industry before World War II.”
Blog post by Gary Oleson on the official Obama campaign site

His post also notes that historically, the National Space Council was chaired by the Vice President; Vice President-Elect Joe Biden was as recently as October involved directly in Obama’s space policy, as the sponsor of a waiver to allow the U.S. to buy Soyuz craft from Russia until the Orion craft is ready, something Obama spoke in favor of and then became involved with. Biden also was outspoken as a space advocate in the last days of campaign (though I’m sure Florida had something do to with that).


With Obama already starting to put his Cabinet together, we could see movement on the new National Space Council’s creation within the next few weeks and months. The space program certainly is something hopeful and inspiring that Obama could mix in with all the grim challenges, which would be politically invaluable, especially if there’s a lot of emphasis on the possibilities of lunar policy (with the Moon, of course, visible to every American on a regular basis as an impromptu symbol of hope).

Keep an eye here for frequent updates as Obama’s presidential space policy begins to take even further shape, and check out my original analysis of his space plan for more details on that.

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1. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Pushed Back a Month « Luna C/I: Moon Colonization and Integration - February 15, 2009

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