As lawmakers debate NASA's future, some advocates for commercial spaceflight have banded together to produce a video supporting President Obama?s vision for the space agency.
The eight-minute video, produced by the Space Frontier Foundation, lays out arguments for Obama's proposal to redirect NASA's agenda and spur private companies building spaceships that could transport astronauts to low-Earth orbit. [Video: Commercial Space Advocates Speak Out]
"I think that the president's new policy in space, even if it was not clearly explained at first, is very important, because we have been stuck in a mind-set for the last 30 or 40 years that government is the only way to go to space, and I think that has caused us untold amounts of delay in economic development," says one of the business executives appearing in the video, Tom Nugent. Nugent is the founder of LaserMotive, a Seattle-based wireless electricity company that won the 2009 NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition.
Obama has proposed relying on commercial spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttles retire in 2011. Meanwhile, NASA would work on building a heavy-lift rocket to take humans to an asteroid by 2025, and then take aim at Mars.
The Senate has passed a bill that hews somewhat to Obama's proposal. The House has not yet voted on a NASA authorization bill, though a vote on a compromise proposal could take place Wednesday (Sept. 29).
"If your goal is to explore space, this proposal from the president is probably the best one that has ever come out because it's multi-destinational, it's fiscally responsible, it's sustainable, and it embraces the best that America has to offer, which is our entrepreneurial spirit," says another of the executives in the video, Michael Mealling, vice president of business development for Masten Space Systems, a Mojave, Calif., spacecraft company.
Opponents of the spaceflight plans question whether commercial spacecraft would be safe and reliable. [NASA's New Direction: FAQ]
Many also have vociferously objected to Obama's cancellation of the Constellation program, designed to take people back to the moon and then on to Mars with the Ares rockets and Orion spacecraft under development.
But supporters say the new scenario would give private space entrepreneurs the boost they need.
"The real role of government is to fund the things that are too expensive, too high-risk, too high-return ? the places where industry is afraid to invest or can't afford to invest," Debra Lepore, president of the consulting firm DFL Space LLC, says on the video.
The advocates say they worry about America's future in space.
"I don't want to live in the last days of a declining once-great society. I want to live in the first days of the next great human adventure," says Jeff Greason, founder of XCOR Aerospace in Mojave. "Space is a frontier that can occupy humanity for thousands of years to come, and I am very excited where we are at the threshold where we can choose to make that happen."
- Video: Commercial Space Advocates Speak Out For Obama NASA Plan
- Top 10 Private Spaceships Becoming Reality
- NASA's New Direction: FAQ