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The new president should immediately assign White House coordination of all non-defense space activities to his science advisor, the assistant to the president for science and technology, who will also serve as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In the first 100 days, the president, with the advice of his science advisor, should appoint a commission to assess the current status of the U.S. space program and make specific recommendations for necessary actions in both the short term and the long term.
Specifically, the decision to phase out the shuttle by 2010 should be reconsidered; it should be flown until a suitable replacement becomes available. Talks with our international ISS partners should be held to openly discuss the future of the ISS and commitments by the partner nations. The Vision for Space Exploration should be reevaluated and modified to reflect realistic goals and expectations of future budgets, manpower, national priorities, and opportunities for international cooperation, including access to the program for our space partners. And any future plans by the United States to return women and men to the moon and someday to Mars should involve many U.S. federal agencies, universities, and industry, and should be fully international in scope.
In the meantime, science, including earth observations, should be restated as a top priority for NASA. Wasteful cuts and delays in science missions should be reevaluated and, where warranted, restored. Coordination between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey should be strengthened. Consideration also should be given to the suggestion that NOAA and USGS be combined to form a new Earth Systems Science Agency.
The steady decline in funding for NASA's aeronautics programs -- down 32 percent between FY2004 and 2007 -- should be reversed. And a group of eminent aeronautical experts from the government, academia, and industry should be constituted and charged with laying out a roadmap for a revitalized NASA aeronautics program, along with supporting test facilities that would provide the research and development to ensure U.S. leadership in this critical discipline.
A key stated objective of all NASA's research and technology programs should be to excite a new generation of scientists and engineers and rebuild scientific and technical expertise within NASA and across the nation -- a critical need highlighted in the National Academy report "Rising above the Gathering Storm." NASA's research center structure should be reestablished with this objective in mind.
A revitalized NASA will be essential to ensure U.S. leadership as a strong international partner in the peaceful uses of space. Over these past eight years, there has been a movement urging U.S domination of space. We should heed instead the words of John F. Kennedy:
[i]"We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man..."[/i]
Our civil space activities must continue to play a preeminent role in making President Kennedy's words a reality.
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