Commercial Space Executives Speak Out for NASA Plan

As lawmakers debate NASA's future, some advocates for commercialspaceflight have banded togetherto produce a video supporting President Obama?s vision for the space agency.

The eight-minutevideo, produced by the Space Frontier Foundation, lays out arguments for Obama'sproposal to redirect NASA's agenda and spur private companies buildingspaceships that could transport astronauts to low-Earth orbit. [Video:Commercial Space Advocates Speak Out]

"Ithink that the president's new policy in space, even if it was not clearlyexplained at first, is very important, because we have been stuck in a mind-setfor the last 30 or 40 years that government is the only way to go to space, andI think that has caused us untold amounts of delay in economic development,"says one of the business executives appearing in the video, Tom Nugent. Nugentis the founder of LaserMotive, a Seattle-based wireless electricity companythat won the 2009NASA-sponsored Power Beaming competition.

Obamahas proposed relying on commercialspacecraft to carryastronauts to the International Space Station after the space shuttles retirein 2011. Meanwhile, NASA would work on building a heavy-lift rocket to takehumans to an asteroid by 2025, and then take aim at Mars.

The Senate has passed a bill that hews somewhat to Obama'sproposal. The House has not yet voted on a NASAauthorization bill, though a vote on a compromise proposal could take placeWednesday (Sept. 29).

"If your goal is to explore space, this proposal from thepresident 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 thatAmerica has to offer, which is our entrepreneurial spirit," says anotherof the executives in the video, Michael Mealling, vice president of businessdevelopment for MastenSpace Systems, a Mojave, Calif., spacecraft company.

Opponentsof the spaceflight plans question whether commercial spacecraft would be safeand reliable. [NASA'sNew Direction: FAQ]

Many alsohave vociferously objected to Obama's cancellation of the Constellationprogram, designed to take people back to the moon and then on to Mars with theAres rockets and Orion spacecraft under development.

Butsupporters say the new scenario would give private space entrepreneurs theboost they need.

"Thereal 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 affordto 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 decliningonce-great society. I want to live in the first days of the next great humanadventure," says Jeff Greason, founder of XCOR Aerospace in Mojave. "Spaceis a frontier that can occupy humanity for thousands of years to come, and I amvery excited where we are at the threshold where we can choose to make thathappen."

  • Video:Commercial Space Advocates Speak Out For Obama NASA Plan
  • Top 10 Private Spaceships Becoming Reality
  • NASA's New Direction: FAQ

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Clara Moskowitz
Assistant Managing Editor

Clara Moskowitz is a science and space writer who joined the team in 2008 and served as Assistant Managing Editor from 2011 to 2013. Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She covers everything from astronomy to human spaceflight and once aced a NASTAR suborbital spaceflight training program for space missions. Clara is currently Associate Editor of Scientific American. To see her latest project is, follow Clara on Twitter.