New Moon Rising
SPACE.com: As the nation enters into the final stages of the silly season, are you disappointed that the nation's space program isn't getting the attention it deserves by both campaigns and the media?
Frank Sietzen, Jr: Space as an issue in a Presidential election has happened only once-in the 1972 campaign, so its lack of emphasis this time shouldn't be a surprise. But one would hope that with the Bush initiative out there, and Kerry's voting record a strong anti-manned space history, we should hope that both campaigns at some point this fall speak to space policy.
Given the unprecedented access you and your co-author Keith Cowing had to NASA officials and the White House, was their any concern on either of your parts that you were getting too close to their "side" of the story and not be able to distance yourselves from the subject?
Using such sources always sets off alarm bells, since sources use you as much as you use them. It was clear why we were granted the access-to stop us on the short term from filing stories that might direct unwanted attention to what was for a long time more or less secret deliberations. Our task was to reconstruct what these people did, not pass judgment on their plans. We left that up to the readers, we hope.
Having followed President George W. Bush's proposal from its beginnings to the announcement and current budget-related events, how do you think the Vision will ultimately manifest itself after elections and budget struggles are over?
The twin tests will be if the plan receives enough funding to proceed in 05, and if whomever is elected President supports it or another human spaceflight agenda. As it stands today, it could go either way. Anyone who is familiar with recent space history would be skeptical, at the least.
What did each of you bring to the table, editorially? Were there certain aspects of the book that your co-author worked on? What was your strength?
Our original idea was that we would each write specific sections of the book, but in practice that approach quickly fell apart. While there were certain parts that were greatly influenced by one of us over the other, we wrote pieces of virtually every section and then attempted to blend them together as a narrative whole. I brought 23 years as a professional journalist and previous author. Keith brought his analyst's background from his years at NASA and his web site reports. The two approaches wound up complimenting each other.
Who did you interview outside the political circles in NASA and the White House to get a fair and balanced look at what was going on?
This was a focused look at what the senior administration people heard, saw, thought. It was not intended to be a comprehensive review of the policy or the policy making process. We interviewed sufficient White House staff to get a flavor of their, crucial role in the development of the plan. Hence their own chapter. While NASA is obviously the main driver of the process, these White House staffers deserve a fair share of the credit for making this event happen the way it did.
Do they feel the book was published prematurely as there has yet to be a resolution as to whether the President's proposal will fly?
We would have loved to have had another few months, so we could report the outcome of the Congressional votes and the next phases of the transformation plan. Perhaps the updated version, or the book's web page will have these additional stories. Thus we left it as an unfinished story!
Are you concerned that the Vision for Space Exploration will become just another Space Exploration Initiative, the plan proposed by President George Herbert Walker Bush?
We looked across everything a U.S. President had ever spoken in public about space. Bush's 14 minutes stands in contrast as a cogent, detailed space plan. One would hope that it would be implemented into law. If it fails, or is rejected, or people are indifferent about it why on Earth would another President travel down this road again in our lifetimes?
Though it seems a little premature, Cowing has been quoted as saying that "Bush has announced the most significant space policy change in half a generation". Do you and your co-author feel this space policy differs from that proposed by the previous President Bush?
The ground work that we saw being laid into place was very comprehensive. All of the federal executive agencies- State, Defense, CIA, etc. signed on to support. O'Keefe and his allies had worked through the political system inside the administration to remove all of the obstacles. That marked, in our view, the main difference between the SEI of 1989 and this one. Quite frankly, it was O'Keefe's political skills matched with Bush's interest in fixing NASA and the White House staffers who did much of the leg work in white papers, analyses, etc.
Did you find the Vision changed between what you were told (and reported) prior to the January 14th, 2004 announcement and what was actually said by the President? If so, do you think the reaction to your "leak" influenced those decisions?
The vision, scary enough, was exactly as we had reported it during the months prior. It therefore would seem that the final movement to consensus was successful-reshaping the approach from Moon emphasis to a broader agenda.
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