Reconsidering the Rules of Space: Briefing

Jun 30, 2009 |
Washington, D.C.
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The Obama Administration has an opportunity to fundamentally reformulate United States space policies that are anchored in Cold War-era mindsets. At a Capitol Hill briefing today in conjunction with the release of three new policy monographs, experts outlined the current state of U.S. and foreign space policy and encouraged the Administration to set a clear direction that advances the country’s national security, civilian, and commercial interests in space. 


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John D. Steinbruner

Introductory Remarks

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Robie Samanta Roy


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Nancy Gallagher, “Reconsidering the Rules for Space Security”

In her comments, Gallagher argued that a goal of space dominance, in which the United States unilaterally controls the use of space, is “neither feasible nor desirable.” She advocated for a new guiding principle for U.S. space security policy based on “reassurance rather than deterrence” and urged the administration to initiate negotiations on space security with China, Russia, and other interested parties. 

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Jeffrey G. Lewis, “China’s Space Program”

By examining three case studies in the history of China’s space program, Lewis suggested that U.S. policy has mistakenly treated China’s space program solely as a security problem, ignoring China’s civil interests. Rather than competing in a space race, Lewis said, China’s primary goal has been to “join the club” of space-faring nations. “There really is the possibility of cooperation in space,” he concluded. “If it’s not a zero-sum competition, if the idea is becoming a member of the club and then participating actively in the development of the rules, we do have the opportunity to engage the Chinese on a constructive basis and to create rules in space that protect all of our interests.” 

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Neal Lane, “U.S. Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities”

Lane suggested that NASA has a unique opportunity to demonstrate that it’s as relevant today as it was in the days following Sputnik. He said this will require a restructuring of the human spaceflight program, a renewed emphasis on science and aeronautics as top priorities, and a commitment to “focus the agency’s legendary capabilities on some of the nation’s most critical needs, especially in the areas of energy and the environment.” For example, Lane said, NASA should play a major role in advancing solar and fuel cell technologies and in the development of low-carbon fuels. 

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George Abbey, “U.S. Space Policy: Challenges and Opportunities”

Abbey expanded on Lane’s prescription for updating NASA’s central mission, especially the agency’s space exploration program. He endorsed continuing to fly the Shuttle until 2015, while enhancing the national commitment to the International Space Station. “The only way you can meet our commitment to our international partners and make science a real activity on board the Space Station is to have up-and-down cargo that the Shuttle can carry,” Abbey said. “Without a Shuttle, that science can’t happen. We need to keep the Shuttle flying.”