This spring, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy asked NASA to launch a commission tasked with conducting an overall review of current and future human space flight efforts. This committee, formally known as the “Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee,” is headed by Norman Augustine and is informally known as the “Augustine Commission.”

The Augustine Commission’s webpage has information about upcoming public meetings, as well as tools for you to ask questions and share your opinions about U.S. space policy. This is an opportunity for all National Space Society members to make their voices heard, and to affect the U.S. future in space!

The Augustine Panel is planning to release a report with its recommendations in August. Whatever conclusions the Panel reaches, the National Space Society (NSS) believes that the Obama Administration should use this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to extending human presence through the solar system. NASA remains the world’s premier space agency, and as such, is in an excellent position to continue leading this important effort. To that end, NSS believes the Panel should focus on the following principles when making its recommendations:

  • Vehicle and infrastructure investments should continue to advance the nation’s ability to send human beings beyond Earth orbit for exploration, commercial, and eventually settlement purposes.
  • Technology investments should make wise use of taxpayer dollars and should target activities most likely to advance the goals above.
  • The government’s proper and most effective roles in space are in funding exploration, new technologies, and basic research while protecting human safety and national interests.
  • The private sector’s most effective roles in space are in developing and refining new technologies; reducing the costs of basic services; providing services in support of exploration and research activities; and extracting, processing, and transporting natural resources to facilitate exploration, basic research, and settlement. Government should continue to maximize private-sector participation to the greatest extent practical, as stated in existing NASA policies.
  • The government should encourage research and educational programs that improve humanity’s ability to live in space and to apply space resources to challenges there and on Earth.

Additional Background Information

The Human Space Flight commission, popularly known as the Augustine Panel, has been assigned to work closely with NASA and seek input from “Congress, the White House, the public, industry, and international partners.” In particular:

“The review should aim, specifically, to identify and characterize a range of options that spans the reasonable possibilities for continuation of U.S. human space flight activities beyond retirement of the Space Shuttle. Results and supporting analysis should be provided to involved Administration agencies and offices in sufficient time to support an August 2009 decision on the way forward. The identification and characterization of options should be cognizant of — and should address the implications for — the following objectives: (1) expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station; (2) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low Earth orbit; (3) stimulating commercial space flight capabilities; and (4) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.”

More background, including the letters and press releases associated with the establishment of this effort, can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/about/background.html.

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