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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs
test concepts for a space tourism industry, and privately funded prize competitions are engaging the American entrepreneurial spirit in new space activities.
Civil space activities have evolved to have a depth and breadth that are now essential to our national welfare and culture and are strategically vital to the United States.
Given the background summarized earlier and the committee’s adopted definition of civil space activities, the remainder of this report will outline the committee’s conclusions. The next chapter presents the principal rationales and top-level goals for civil space activities and discusses how those goals will make important long-term contributions in the national interest. The civil space program must be able to depend on a number of key resources or foundational elements to be able to achieve the goals. There also are significant challenges and impediments compromising the nation’s ability to support the foundational elements and/or to reach the proposed goals. The foundational elements and the impediments, many of which cut across all of the goals, are discussed in Chapter 3. Finally, Chapter 4 presents the committee’s recommendations for actions that are needed to remove the impediments, sustain the foundational elements, and permit the nation to meet the goals for civil space activities.
In responding to its charge, the committee sought to provide a long-term, strategic perspective that frames a vision for civil space activities that can endure for many years. Consequently, this report does not address nearer-term issues other than to provide a long-term context in which more tactical decisions might be made. Rather, it considers how civil space activities serve the national interest and what actions are needed at a strategic level to meet those broad objectives.