Scott Pace Hints at Space Policy Announcement on Monday

Scott Pace Hints at Space Policy Announcement on Monday

Today, White House National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace hinted that a space policy announcement might be made on Monday when Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, CO.   Pence chairs the Space Council.

Pence’s speech is at 2:00 pm ET (12:00 pm local time in Colorado).  A White House source told that it will be webcast.  We will post the link on our Calendar when we get it.

Scott Pace, Executive Secretary, White House National Space Council, speaking at Politico event, April 12, 2018. Screengrab.

Pace participated in a “conversation” with reporters from Politico this morning at an event announcing Politico’s new weekly space newsletter, which is sponsored by Boeing.  Asked if Pence would make a “big” or “medium” policy announcement, Pace demurred and said only that “all policy announcements are important.”

During the conversation, Pace stressed that Pence is strongly interested in space policy issues, and it is not just about “machines or astronauts,” but values.  It’s “how we do it” with international and commercial partners, for example.  “American values are part of what we want to see expanding on the space frontier.”

Pace has extensive experience in space policy.  He was NASA’s Associate Administrator for Program Evaluation and Analysis during President George W. Bush’s second term when Mike Griffin was Administrator and the Constellation program was underway to return humans to the Moon by 2020.  He said today that he was critical of President Obama’s policy to skip the Moon and focus on sending humans to Mars not because it was a bad idea, but because it didn’t relate to geopolitical interests or provide opportunities for the private sector to participate.  President Trump’s decision to restore the Moon to NASA’s human spaceflight plan was “not just a space issue, but a geopolitical choice.” He noted that he recently was in Japan for the International Space Exploration Forum-2 (ISEF-2) where other space agencies were asking not whether they should partner with the United States, but how.

Today is the 57th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human being to reach space.  At the time the United States and Soviet Union were in a space race, very different from today where they are partners (with Canada, Japan and Europe) in the International Space Station (ISS). Asked about that relationship, Pace said that although the overall U.S.-Russian relationship is “stressful,” when it comes to ISS the two countries are “mutually dependent” and the working relationships are based on respect.   “We’ve tried to protect” space cooperation from the rest of the U.S.-Russian relationship, but he cautioned that “space cooperation follows politics, it doesn’t precede it.”

He also discussed the need to revise government regulations for commercial space activities to ensure companies are free to innovate, although lots of projects will fail because “that’s the nature of entrepreneurship.”  The key is to “give them the opportunity to fail,” but not because the government was an impediment.

As for national security space, he said he does not see any prospect for arms control in space, but transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs) are needed to prevent misconceptions.  “We don’t have to give in to hopelessness about conflict in space, but we have to work every day really, really hard to deter it and make sure it doesn’t happen.”

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