"When I was growing up, NASA united Americans to a common purpose and inspired the world with accomplishments we are still proud of. Today, NASA is an organization that impacts many facets of American life. I believe NASA needs an inspirational vision for the 21st Century. My vision will build on the great goals set forth in recent years, to maintain a robust program of human space exploration and ensure the fulfillment of NASA's mission. Together, we can ensure that NASA again reflects all that is best about our country and continue our nation's preeminence in space."
-- Barack Obama
A ROBUST AND BALANCED PROGRAM OF SPACE EXPLORATION AND SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY
Over the past 50 years our civilian space program has embodied the adventurous spirit that lifted this nation to greatness and inspired people around the world. At the same time, America's leadership in space has provided the United States with a scientific and economic edge. Barack Obama believes the United States should maintain its international leadership in space while at the same time inspiring a new generation of Americans to dream beyond the horizon. Barack Obama believes that what President Kennedy said about space more than 45 years ago remains valid today: "The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space. . . . We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained . . . and used for the progress of all people."
Historically, the U.S. space program has inspired people the world over with its feats on behalf of all humankind. This leadership can continue; indeed, the Bush administration set an ambitious agenda for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), but has since failed to provide adequate funding or leadership to move forward with that agenda. As a result, key programs have suffered. Poor planning and inadequate funding are leading to at least a five-year gap after the retirement of the Space Shuttle. During those years, the United States will have to depend on foreign rockets and spacecraft to send Americans to orbit. NASA has had to slash its research budget, including its aeronautical research, its programs to study climate change, microgravity research that can yield new technologies, and even the robotic exploration of the outer solar system and the universe beyond. Many other countries are moving forward in space; the United States cannot afford to fall behind.
A COMPREHENSIVE VISION
As president, Barack Obama will establish a robust and balanced civilian space program. His NASA not only will inspire the world with both human and robotic space exploration, but also will again lead in confronting the challenges we face here on Earth, including global climate change, energy independence, and aeronautics research. 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
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. This wasn't always the case. Between 1958 and 1973, the National Aeronautics and Space Council oversaw the entire space arena for four presidents; the Council was briefly revived from 1989 to 1992. Barack Obama will re-establish this Council reporting to the president. It will oversee and coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community, and work toward a 21st century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth.
SPACE SCIENCE AND EXPLORATION
Closing the Gap
Since 1981, the Space Shuttle has been NASA's workhorse. Its retirement will leave NASA without human spaceflight capability until the first elements of the Constellation program are operational, some five years later. This gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the entry into service of its replacement is a serious concern. Barack Obama is committed to making the necessary investments to ensure we close this gap as much as is technically feasible and to minimize reliance on foreign space capabilities. He also will work with the space industry to ensure retention of workforce and technical capabilities during the transition from the shuttle to its successor.
Completing and Enhancing the International Space Station
The International Space Station is an outstanding example of what can be accomplished through international cooperation. Though we have spent billions to build the station, the microgravity research it was intended to facilitate has fallen victim to funding cuts. Barack Obama would ensure that NASA and other federal agencies are fully utilizing the ISS to conduct research that can help address global challenges such as public health and energy independence and can develop technologies that can provide economic benefits to Earth. Obama also will enable research on the ISS to support long-term human exploration and planetary research needs.
Embracing Human Space Exploration
Human spaceflight is important to America's political, economic, technological, and scientific leadership. Barack Obama will support renewed human exploration beyond low earth orbit. He endorses the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.
Conducting Robotic Missions
Exploring our solar system and the universe beyond has helped us address profound questions. Barack Obama supports a robust program of robotic exploration that supports the major cross-cutting themes and the recommended new missions established by the decadal survey of the National Research Council.
Studying the Earth and Monitoring Climate Change
Understanding how Earth supports life and how human activities affect its ability to do so is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. Because of decades of investment in research satellites, scientists now better understand and can better predict natural phenomena such as hurricanes and weather patterns. However, many of our current monitoring and research satellites are expected to end their operational life between now and 2026. Given the urgency of climate-related monitoring, and considering the time required to design, develop, and deploy Earth observation satellite systems, the Obama administration will lean forward to deploy a global climate change research and monitoring system that will work for decades to come. The recommendations in the recent National Research Council decadal survey on Earth observations from space will guide his priorities in this regard.
Maintaining Leadership in Aeronautics Research
A strong national program of aeronautics research and technology contributes to the vitality of the United States aeronautics industry, the efficiency of the U.S. air transportation system, and the economic well-being and quality of life of our citizens. Barack Obama believes that Department of Transportation, NASA, and other agencies have important roles in assuring the best possible air transportation system and developing related technologies that enable products and services to compete effectively in the global marketplace.
Better Coordination with Other Federal Agencies Involved in Space
The Department of Defense (DOD) invests heavily in space assets to provide troops with weather, communications, navigation, early warning, space surveillance and other information critical to conducting military operations. In fiscal year 2008 alone, DOD expects to spend over $22 billion dollars to develop and procure satellites, launch vehicles, and other space systems. This is more than NASA's annual budget. The National Reconnaissance Office operates satellites that provide information essential to national security and global stability. In addition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration operates an array of weather satellites that provide billions of dollars of benefit to the U.S. taxpayer. Barack Obama believes that NASA can work more closely with other federal agencies to take advantage of their expertise and technologies. This includes sharing research and technical information as well as better coordination of acquisition programs. Ensuring an integrated and fully coordinated national space program will be the major responsibility of the re- established National Aeronautics and Space Council. Obama will also work to better integrate NASA in a better coordinated national science policy. Obama will appoint an Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Policy who will report directly to the president, and be deeply involved in establishing research priorities that reflect the nation's needs based on the best available advice from experts around the country.
PROMOTING INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND KEEPING SPACE SECURE
Collaborating with the International Community
Space exploration must be a global effort. Barack Obama will use space as a strategic tool of U.S. diplomacy to strengthen relations with allies, reduce future conflicts, and engage members of the developing world.
Emphasizing an International, Cooperative Approach to Space Security
Keeping our space assets free of threats of disruption will be an Obama priority. This is not only a military concern, but also an issue relevant to commercial and scientific operators. Developing an international approach to minimizing space debris, enhancing capabilities for space situational awareness, and managing increasingly complex space operations are important steps towards sustaining our space operations.
DEVELOPING NEW TECHNOLOGIES
Expanding Public/Private Partnerships to Advance Leading Edge Technologies
The commercial space sector plays an essential role in the lives of normal Americans, contributing more than $100 billion to the global economy. Commercial satellites support direct-to-home television and digital audio services to over 30 million U.S. subscribers, high-speed Internet, traffic and weather monitoring, rapid transfer of financial data, and the imagery essential to natural resource and city planning. Technologies developed to meet the challenges of space exploration have found more than 30,000 commercial uses in products ranging from tennis shoes to medical equipment, bar codes, pacemakers and sunglasses, to technology that makes air travel safer and more efficient. Barack Obama knows that advanced space and aeronautics research can help catalyze economic growth. He will encourage public/private space technology partnerships to spur innovation.
EDUCATING THE PUBLIC
Engaging the Public and Inspiring the Next Generation
Fifty years after Sputnik, science, math, and engineering education in America is facing a crisis. As the National Academy of Sciences' Rising Above the Gathering Storm report concluded, a "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 believes that NASA can inspire students to learn about mathematics, science and the applications of engineering and technology.