• How the Trump Administration Can Unlock the Mysteries of Space

    Last year at a Florida campaign rally, President Trump promised to “refocus [NASA’s] mission on space exploration” so that “America will [once again] lead the way into the stars.” This summer, Trump made good on his word by signing an executive order to revive the long-dormant National Space Council.

    This month, under the chairmanship of Vice President Mike Pence, the National Space Council held its first meeting in 25 years with the mission of streamlining and better coordinating national space policy. The first conference was aptly titled “Leading the Next Frontier.” Judging by how it was set up, the Trump administration may be poised to do just that – have America lead in space once again.

    The Council appears to be as apolitical as they come. Comprised of government leaders both from civil and military space, every industry leader seems to have its place in the Washington’s new decision-making.

    The Council heard first from a panel of civil space experts representing Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Orbital ATK, followed by a group of commercial space experts from SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Blue Origin. The presence of these panel experts is a clear indication that the Council recognizes America’s space ambitions cannot be satisfied solely by utilizing just the old or just the new, but rather a combination of both.

    It was no surprise to see representatives from newer companies present. Companies like SpaceX have not only brought much-needed innovation to the space program, but have also often managed to do so with impressive cost savings.

    Despite these successes, Scott Pace, the Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, has been critical of SpaceX’s mission delays. While I appreciate the good that SpaceX has brought to the industry, some of his concerns are valid. The company, which is still growing and improving, has a $10 billion backlog of close to 70 missions, as well as several recent and expensive, unsuccessful launches – not to mention its CEO’s comfortable, brow-raising financial arrangements with the government.

    This does not mean that SpaceX should not be utilized; it just means that protecting national security cannot involve any undertested lab rat experiments.

    Unfortunately, it often did during the Obama administration. Then, the White House backed the proposals of those who had big dreams but sometimes sub-par implementation. This excessive trust led to grave security concerns, including a data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the worst cyber breach in U.S. history, in which foreign hackers compromised the identities of over 21 million Americans. According to National Review, the records stolen included security-clearance background investigation files, personnel records, and fingerprint data.

    Thankfully, the arrangement of the first National Space Council meeting suggests that the White House will be taking a rational approach than this to protecting our national security, all while refraining from sidelining innovation. That means accepting the newbies on NASA’s bus of accepted providers without letting them fully drive on their own.

    Creating an inclusive environment is the key to having access to a myriad of possibilities, thus ensuring we are always choosing the best manufacturer with the right experience and capabilities for each task. The former monopoly in launch services is a testament to how vital competitive forces like SpaceX and Blue Origin are to drive the space program to greater heights, bettering the country by increasing our scientific progress. As we prepare to send not just unmanned rockets into space full of cargo, but soon astronauts, we owe it to explorers to make sure that we are doing our very best to keep them safe.

    When President Trump signed the National Space Council executive order, he said that it would send “…a clear signal to the world that we are restoring America’s proud legacy of leadership in space.” The National Space Council’s objective mentality also sends a clear signal that they are going to do whatever is needed to bring in the many talents and real-world experiences available from the best and the brightest throughout the entire space industry. They understand the importance of space exploration to our economy and our nation. With their guidance, America will once again lead the way to the next frontier.

    Cloakroom Confidential

    Cloakroom Confidential was a longtime Capitol Hill staffer and insider who has contacts in the House and Senate at the highest levels.

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