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Is VSE Dying?

Dennis Wingo thinks so. So do I.

In over 30 years of reading space literature from NASA, congress, and the president, this is the first time that the presidential stamp has been placed on the development of extraterrestrial resources. This was not the only step in the development of this thought at the highest reaches of our government. In 2006 at the 44th Goddard Symposium the presidential theme was extended and amplified.

"As I see it, questions about the VSE boil down to whether we want to incorporate the Solar System in our economic sphere, or not. Our national policy, declared by President Bush and endorsed by Congress last December in the NASA authorization act, affirms that, "The fundamental goal of this vision is to advance U.S. scientific, security, and economic interests through a robust space exploration program." So at least for now the question has been decided in the affirmative."

These two speeches, one by President Bush, and another by his science advisor, the head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy laid the foundation and provided the ground rules, and gave very explicit policy direction to NASA regarding what we are to do in the return to the Moon and conduct exploration to Mars and beyond.

The problem is that NASA has not embraced this expansive goal for our national space program. Why is this? It seems to be just the kind of red meat goal that NASA has dreamed of forever. Even in the SEI era there was never this kind of clear cut, practical direction for a policy, as Marburger states, from the President and Congress. It boggles the mind that this has not been incorporated as a core value for the lunar exploration program--it is exactly this type of effort that has the potential to connect to the American people.

Just as was the case with SEI, VSE is being done in by NASA, though in a different way this time. In SEI, they did it by deliberately sabotaging the program with outrageous cost estimates, and actually lobbying against it in Congress. With VSE, it's more a case of negligent manslaughter, rather than premeditation. ESAS, and NASA's lack of vision, is killing the Vision. And the administration is too preoccupied with other things, and long in the tooth, to do anything about it.

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 11, 2007 06:35 AM
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