July 7, 2009

Space Program Should Align With Broader National Goals

The U.S. civil space program should be aligned with widely
acknowledged national challenges, says a new report from the National
Research Council. Aligning the program with pressing issues "“
environmental, economic, and strategic "“ is a national imperative, and
will continue to grow in importance. Coordination across federal
agencies, combined with a competent technical work force, effective
infrastructure, and investment in technology and innovation, would lay
the foundation for a purposeful, strategic U.S. space program that
would serve national interests.

In aligning civil space
activities with national objectives, several priorities are clear, the
report says. Earth stewardship should be an important focus of future
space activities, with NASA and NOAA leading the formation of an
international satellite-observing system to monitor global climate
change. In addition, NASA should cooperate with other agencies and
international partners to continue scientific exploration in space,
seeking knowledge of the universe and searching for life beyond Earth.
The report also recommends revitalizing NASA's advanced technology
development program by establishing a DARPA-like organization within
NASA to support priority civil and commercial space programs, and
development of "dual-use" space technologies, with both civil and
defense applications.

International cooperation on space
activities should allow the U.S. to exercise global strategic
leadership, support U.S. foreign policy, and expand partnerships in
science and space exploration, the report says. NASA should also be
actively pursuing human spaceflight, including missions beyond
low-Earth orbit, and should use these ventures as an opportunity to
collaborate with emerging economic powers.

The task of
ensuring that U.S. space activities are aligned with national goals
should be assigned by the president to senior executive-branch
officials who can coordinate agencies and departments, identify gaps in
policy coverage or resource allocation, and spot new opportunities
where space endeavors may have the potential to help confront critical
issues facing the nation.


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