S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Monday Digested

Monday the space shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station to complete the very challenging STS-124 mission. Crew members will attach the Japanese science module, "Kibo" (meaning hope) to the ISS. The NASA space program is an area of continuing interest with me, as my Making Good Mondays blog readers know. Today's post explores what politics and the space program have in common. The first item is that U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona is newly married to Mission Commander Mark Kelly.

The space program competes with my other area of vital interest, the 2008 presidential campaign. What happens in the presidential race will inevitable have deep impact upon the future of the United States in space. NASA, like every other agency in the federal government must compete for presidential attention as well as for funds in the budget.

Space Politics -- Watching three representatives of the current Presidential candidates talk about space policy a few days ago was deeply dissatisfying to me. The 27th Annual International Space Development Conference, "The New Pace of Space," was held in Washington, D.C., May 29 - June 1, 2008. Friday afternoon the featured event, "Election 2008 Space Panel." To quote from the Space Politics story:

. . . featuring representatives of the three major presidential candidates (Sens. Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama), moderated by CNN’s Miles O’Brien. This was one of the few opportunities for the campaigns to speak out in detail and debate various elements of space policy. For those looking for grand new insights into the candidates’ space policies, though, or even settle some nagging questions, the panel was a disappointment.

Half of the four people on the panel were able to talk about space policy quite well: Lori Garver, representing Clinton, was well-versed in the issues, . . . However, Steve Robinson, an Obama advisor who works on primarily education issues, as well as Floyd DesChamps, a Senate staffer called in at the last moment to represent McCain, were not as fluent on the issues. More than one person remarked afterwards that Robinson has a “deer in the headlights” look when asked about export control, and only said he had nothing more to add on the issue. . .

During the session, O’Brien asked Robinson about the Obama education policy, which includes the now-infamous statement about delaying Constellation for five years, even though Obama is now talking about continuing to develop Ares 1 and Orion. Robinson never directly addressed the issue, saying that Obama would be willing to listen to the space and science community about this (a theme of consultation with scientists that he mentioned elsewhere in the panel). On the balance of human and robotic exploration, he suggested that younger audiences might find robots more inspirational (another theme) than human missions, or at least find them inspiring to some degree, whereas older audiences might not.

. . . I’ll have a more thorough review of the panel and its implications on the overall space policy debate in Monday’s issue of The Space Review*.

For panel discussion details - [*see more extensive article by Jeff Foust, June 2, 2008]. C-SPAN carried the panel: PLAYNational Space Society 27th Annual Conference: Afternoon Session

What will happen to the International Space Station while NASA transitions from the Space Shuttle, retiring in 2010, to the Orion spacecraft, launching in 2014? The National Space Society considers this question and others during its 27th annual conference in Washington, D.C. 5/30/2008: WASHINGTON, DC: 3 hr. 38 min.

Evidently I am not the only one who sees a problem for Barack Obama. A group calling itself "Barack Obama Aerospace Community" held an organizational meeting May 31 in conjunction with the International Space Development Conference (above). Andrew Hoppin gets the shout out for his efforts. To quote:

We’ll make plans both for conducting outreach to the aerospace community on behalf of Barack Obama this summer around events such as the Netroots Nation convention in Austin in July.

We’ll also discuss Obama’s space policy platform and how we can best contribute our perspectives to it.

More discussion among progressives this summer -- Hoppin announced the "Space Policy Panel" at Netroots Nation/Yearly Kos in a related post at Globehoppin. To quote:

The Netroots Nation (Yearly Kos) Convention will feature a panel on space policy, July 18th or 19th in Austin, Texas. The panel, entitled, “Progressive NASA & Space Policy Under a New Administration,” is an opportunity to bring critical space policy issues to light within a potent progressive political constituency– the Netroots– that hasn’t historically paid much attention to space. It is also an opportunity for the Netroots to weigh in on what a new progressive space policy agenda could be under a progressive Administration in 2009.

The discussion will address space policy from the following perspective:

“NASA is in crisis–overburdened, under-funded, and inefficient. Yet the progressive legacy of space, which dates back to JFK, is being quietly reborn: NASA can reinvent itself as a critical resource in climate change mitigation; the UN and some in the U.S. military are collaborating to prevent space weapons from becoming an arms race with China; progressive “NewSpace” entrepreneurs are creating new domestic high-tech jobs. Before 2009, a new progressive space policy needs to be devised and advocated beyond the traditional space constituencies, to upgrade Bush’s failing space exploration vision. Who better to initiate this work than the Netroots?

View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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