Barack Obama's Plan For American Leadership in Space

Status Report From: Barack Obama 2008
Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2008


Over the decades, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has embodied the adventurous spirit that lifted this nation to greatness and inspired people around the world. Barack Obama believes that the United States needs a strong space program to help maintain its superiority not only in space, but also here on earth in the realms of education, technology, and national security. Over the years, NASA technology has been applied to improve everything from computers and medical technology to baby formula and automobiles. Work done at NASA, whether here on earth or in outer space, impacts the daily lives of all Americans.

Develop the Next-Generation of Space Vehicles: The retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 will leave the United States without manned spaceflight capability until the introduction of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) carried by the Ares I Launch Vehicle. As president, Obama will support the development of this vital new platform to ensure that the United States' reliance on foreign space capabilities is limited to the minimum possible time period. The CEV will be the backbone of future missions, and is being designed with technology that is already proven and available.

Complete the International Space Station: The International Space Station is an example of what we can accomplish through international cooperation. Barack Obama is committed to the completion of the International Space Station.

Continue Unmanned Missions: Robotic missions provide a level of endurance and cost-effectiveness that is unsurpassed. The Voyager probes, launched in the 1970s, are still sending back data beyond our solar system. Closer to home, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers have been exploring the surface of Mars for more than 1,300 days, 14 times longer than their intended mission length. Along with Earth-orbiting platforms like the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, unmanned missions have yielded some of the greatest scientific discoveries of the last century. Barack Obama is committed to a bold array of robotic missions that will expand our knowledge of the solar system and lay the foundations for further manned exploration.

Monitor the Forces and Effects of Climate Change: Barack Obama has proposed bold initiatives to put America on the path to stop global climate change. His administration will set standards based on rigorous scientific inquiry that, in turn, cannot take place without a capable space program. The task of researching and understanding the forces that affect our home planet will require a constellation of climate monitoring space platforms. As president, Obama will ensure that NASA has the funding necessary to play its part in the fight against global climate change.

Support Scientific Research: In the past, government funding for scientific research has yielded innovations that have improved the landscape of American life, technologies like the Internet, digital photography, bar codes, Global Positioning System technology, laser surgery, and chemotherapy. Today, we face a new set of challenges, yet the United States is losing its scientific dominance. Over the last three decades, federal funding for the physical, mathematical and engineering sciences has declined at a time when other countries are substantially increasing their own research budgets. Barack Obama believes federally funded scientific research should play an important role in advancing science and technology in the classroom and in the lab. He will work to diversify the makeup of the scientific community and provide federal research programs a much- needed infusion of funds.

Maintain Surveillance to Strengthen National Security: Orbiting surveillance satellites provide a vital way to ensure compliance with non-proliferation treaties and monitor emerging threats. For example, nuclear facility construction in North Korea and Iran can be closely monitored from above without the challenges faced by weapons inspectors on the ground. Satellites can be further used in the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials around the world, an effort which Barack Obama has promoted aggressively in the U.S. Senate.

Keep Weapons out of Space: China's successful test of an anti-satellite missile in January 2007 signaled a potential new arms race in space. Barack Obama does not support the stationing of any weapons in space. He believes the international community must address the issue of space weaponization head-on and enter into a serious dialogue with Russia, China and other nations to stop this slow slide into a new battlefield.

Strengthen Math and Science Education: Fifty years after Sputnik, science and math education in American schools is facing a crisis. As the Gathering Storm report concluded, "danger exists that Americans may not know enough about science, technology or mathematics to contribute significantly to, or fully benefit from, the knowledge-based economy that is already taking shape around us." Barack Obama will make math and science education a national priority, and provide our schools with the tools to educate 21st-Century learners.

  • Recruit High-Quality Math and Science Teachers: Barack Obama's will establish a Teaching Service Scholarship program to recruit an army of new teachers. These scholarships will prioritize recruiting math, science and technology degree graduates. Obama will create Teacher Residency Programs to train teachers using mentorship, graduate study and hands-on training to develop 30,000 teachers a year, providing additional teachers in math and science. In addition, Obama will devote $100 million a year to Professional Development Schools to help new teachers, or veteran teacher needing to hone their skills, learn from professionals in the field. Professional Development Schools will partner universities with school sites that exhibit state-of-the-art practices and train new teachers in the classrooms of expert teachers while they are completing coursework.
  • Enhanced Science Instruction: Barack Obama will work with governors to create flexible and workable systems for the states to achieve the goal of ensuring all children have access to strong a science curriculum at all grade levels. Obama will also support state efforts to make science education a priority at the pre-K level.
  • Improve and Prioritize Science Assessments: Science assessments need to do more than test facts and concepts. They need to use a range of measures to test inquiry and higher-order thinking skills including inference, logic, data analysis and interpretation, forming questions, and communication. Barack Obama will work with governors and educators to ensure that state assessments measure these skills.

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