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...and hope!

Well, not really. The Obama campaign has released its new space policy, and there's not much breaking with the status quo in it. It's basically sticking with the current plan, at least in civil space, but promising (as in all areas) to spend more money. While one suspects that Lori Garver must have played a major role in it, it also reads as though it was written by a committee, or different people wrote different sections, and then it was stitched together, like Frankenstein's monster.

For instance, in one section, it says:

Obama will stimulate efforts within the private sector to develop and demonstrate spaceflight capabilities. NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services is a good model of government/industry collaboration.

But later on, in a different section, it says:

Obama will evaluate whether the private sector can safely and effectively fulfill some of NASA's need for lower earth orbit cargo transport.

If COTS is a "good model," why is such an "evaluation" necessary? Isn't it already a given? I also like the notion that Obama himself would do the "evaluation." As if.

It's got the usual kumbaya about international cooperation, of course, which I think has been disastrous on the ISS. There are also implied digs at the Bush administration, about not "politicizing" science (as though Jim Hansen hasn't done that himself) and opposing "weapons" in space. It also discusses more cooperation between NASA and NRO, ignoring the recent rumblings about getting rid of the latter, and the problems with security that would arise in such "cooperation."

Also, interestingly, after Senator Obama called McCain's proposed automotive prize a "gimmick," the new policy now explicitly supports them. So are they no longer "gimmicks"? Or is it just that McCain's idea was (for some unexplained reasons) but Obama's are not?

Overall, my biggest concerns with it are more on the defense side than on the civil space side. This is utopian:

Barack Obama opposes the stationing of weapons in space and the development of anti-satellite weapons. He believes the United States must show leadership by engaging other nations in discussions of how best to stop the slow slide towards a new battlefield.

Sorry, but that horse is out of the barn, and there's no way to get it back in. No anti-satellite weapons treaty would be verifiable. It is good to note, though, that the policy recognizes ORS as a means to mitigate the problem. That's the real solution, not agreements and paper.

In any event, it's a big improvement over his previous space policy, which was not a policy at all, but rather an adjunct to his education policy. Now it's time for the McCain campaign to come up with one. I hope that he gets Newt to help him with it, and not Walt Cunningham.

[Mid-morning update]

One of the commenters over at NASA Watch picks up on something that I had missed:

Sen. Obama names COTS and several other programs by name, but not Ares or Constellation. He mentions "the Shuttle's successor systems" without specifying what they might be.

That does give him some options for real change. I also agree that a revival of the space council would be a good idea. I hope that the McCain campaign doesn't oppose this purely because the Obama campaign has picked it up.

[Afternoon update]

One other problem. While it talks about COTS, it has no mention of CATS (or CRATS, or CARATS, or whatever acronym they're using this week for cheap and reliable access to space). It hints at it with COTS and ORS, but it's not set out as an explicit goal. I hope that McCain's policy does.

[Update a few minutes later]

Bobby Block has a report at the Orlando Sentinel space blog.

This part struck me (and didn't surprise me):

Lori Garver, an Obama policy adviser, said last week during a space debate in Colorado that Obama and his staff first thought that the push to go to the moon was "a Bush program and didn't make a lot of sense." But after hearing from people in both the space and education communities, "they recognized the importance of space." Now, she said, Obama truly supports space exploration as an issue and not just as a tool to win votes in Florida.

I'm not sure that Lori helped the campaign here. What does that tell us about the quality and cynicism of policy making in the Obama camp? They opposed it before they were for it because it was George Bush's idea? And does that mean that space policy was just about votes in Florida before this new policy? I know that there are a lot of BDS sufferers who oppose VSE for this reason, and this reason alone, but it's a little disturbing that such (non)thinking was actually driving policy in a major presidential campaign.

George Bush greatly expanded federal involvement in education and expanded Medicare. Are they going to shrink them accordingly? I'd like to think so, but I suspect not.


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newscaper wrote:

This contrast (contradiction) is laughable:

# Opposing Weaponization of Space:...

# Protecting America's Space Assets: Recognizing their vulnerability, Obama will work to protect our assets in space by pursuing new technologies and capabilities that allow us to avoid attacks and recover from them quickly.

What happened to deterrence?

Mike G in Corvallis wrote:

Why bother analyzing it? Obama is treating policy statements like campaign slogans -- they don't MEAN anything, and they certainly won't have anything to do with what will happen after the election, they're just words to encourage one group of rubes or another to vote for him.

Jeff Medcalf wrote:

One of the things that gives me the willies about the Obama campaign is how he keeps hiring people with a record of opinions, who then have to spend a huge amount of time explaining how their opinion means exactly the opposite of the plain meaning of the words, and exactly the same as what Obama said, and if Obama says something tomorrow, it'll mean that, too. Really, it's kind of creepy.

Lurking Observer wrote:

The funny thing is that the Lefties, be they the arms control crowd or the Ayers/Dohrn crowd, never need any explaining of Obama's position.

They know what he stands for.

Reassuring, innit?

Chris wrote:

Since they're all making "change", just once for a change I'd like the executive to take some responsibility for balancing the budget.

Carl Pham wrote:

What for, Chris? Spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives, says the Constitution. The government can't spend a dime unless and until explicitly authorized by the House.

So why not hold those 435 fools accountable for their utter unwillingness to pass a balanced budget, or, in most years, any budget at all until it's damn late in the day and things have to be rushed through half-assedly?

Let's also remember that, as a rule, Congress normally inflates the spending side of any budget submitted by the Executive, even a Democratic Executive, because they know people -- e.g. you -- are not going to hold them accountable for their spendthrifty ways.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on August 17, 2008 5:36 AM.

Must Be Getting Crowded Under That Bus was the previous entry in this blog.

To Shutter, Or Not To Shutter? is the next entry in this blog.

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