On Jan. 24, 2013, the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University in Houston, Texas held a panel discussion on the subjection of “Lost in Space: The Need for a Definitive U.S. Space Policy.” According to the event web page, the participants included:
“Mark J. Albrecht, Ph.D., is chairman of the board for U.S. Space LLC. He served as executive secretary of the National Space Council from 1989 to 1992 and as a principal adviser to President George H.W. Bush on space.
“Leroy Chiao, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor at Rice University, the chair of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s user panel and special adviser for human spaceflight to the Space Foundation. He served as a member of the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee chaired by Norman Augustine in 2009. Chiao flew on three space shuttle flights and was commander of Expedition 10 flying for six months onboard the International Space Station.
“Joan Johnson-Freese, Ph.D., is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. She is the author of six books, including ‘Heavenly Ambitions: America’s Quest to Dominate Space’ and ‘Space as a Strategic Asset,’ as well as more than 80 articles on space security, globalization and foreign policy.
“Neal F. Lane, Ph.D., is the senior fellow in science and technology policy at the Baker Institute and the Malcolm Gillis University Professor at Rice University. He served as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) from 1998 to 2001. Lane also served as the director of the National Science Foundation and a member (ex officio) of the National Science Board from 1993 to 1998.
“Eugene H. Levy, Ph.D., is the Andrew Hays Buchanan Professor of Astrophysics at Rice University. He served as provost of Rice from 2000 to 2010 and is currently a member of the NASA Advisory Council Science Committee.
“John M. Logsdon, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of political science and international affairs at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs after serving as director of school’s Space Policy Institute from 1987 to 2008. He is the author of ‘The Decision to Go to the Moon: Project Apollo and the National Interest,’ a general editor of the eight-volume series ‘Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the U.S. Civil Space Program,” and has written numerous articles and reports on space policy and history.’”
The discussion was moderated by George Abbey, the Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Institute and a former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center.
The discussion, which is recorded in full in the accompanying video, contained a variety of viewpoints, though all seemed to be in agreement that current American space policy is at best dysfunctional and may not even exist in a coherent form. They also seemed to agree that there is a mismatch between NASA’s assigned tasks and the budget with which it has been given to do those tasks.
Topics covered included deep space exploration, international cooperation, especially with China, commercial space, and the relationship of space policy with a broader national strategy, The assessment for the most of the panelists that any improvement in space policy in the short term is unlikely.