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America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs
perspectives by inviting a number of outside experts to brief the committee on their views about future directions of the civil space program. See Appendix C for meeting agendas, which identify all briefings to the committee.
Additionally, research associates from diverse disciplines at the National Academies were invited to share their thoughts during a meeting with the committee staff. The perspectives from the research associates, who tend to be younger early-career professionals with an interest in science and technology policy, were shared with the committee.
In total, approximately 1,600 people responded to the committee’s survey, either officially through the survey form or as a comment on one of the websites previously mentioned, and the committee was impressed with the thought and care reflected in the responses. The committee regarded the responses as a useful gauge of community interest but thought that because the survey was informal, detailed analysis would most likely be misleading. Submissions almost uniformly reflected deep thought about and serious attention to the issues considered by the study. Responses rarely focused on a single aspect of space policy and instead tended to address many ideas.
Many respondents expressed frustration with the current course of the program, but at the same time they expressed hope for the future of the U.S. space program. Some typical examples follow:
The space shuttle has killed 14 brave astronauts in two awful accidents—where is the upside of that program?
NASA should be research and exploration, not a poor implementation of Amtrak for Space.
At the current rate, CNN will be reporting the 1st landing of astronauts on Mars simply because CNN is going to beat NASA to Mars with astronauts of their own.
NASA has become counter-productive because it’s doing the same thing now it was doing forty years ago, which never quite motivates people to be inventive or innovative—just structured and regulatory. NASA should be almost exclusively focused on things like deep space exploration, manned interplanetary travel, etc., which don’t have an immediate commercial benefit.
In my view, the only rational thing that I can conceive of is for the President to announce and redefine the goals of NASA.