Space Council To Update 2010 National Space Policy

Space Council To Update 2010 National Space Policy

The White House National Space Council is looking at revising the existing U.S. National Space Policy, issued in 2010 during the Obama Administration. Space Council director Scott Pace said today he expects a lot of continuity with the existing policy, but enough has changed to warrant an update. Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s space agency blasted the White House’s plans to create a legal blueprint for lunar exploration and utilization reportedly called the Artemis Accords.

Pace is Deputy Assistant to the President and Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.  So far, the Space Council has developed four Space Policy Directives, a National Space Strategy, and an Executive Order on space resources that were signed by President Trump.

Only one of those modifies the 2010 National Space Policy, and in only one area, human space exploration. Space Policy Directive-1 changed just two sentences, but with out-sized impact. The new language restored the goal of landing astronauts on the Moon, which was eschewed by Obama who instead chose to focus on getting humans to orbit Mars by the 2030s with a visit to an asteroid as a steppingstone.

Scott Pace. Credit: George Washington University.

The Trump Administration cancelled Obama’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) soon after taking office.  NASA is now trying to get astronauts back on the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program.

The National Space Policy is much broader than just human spaceflight or NASA.  It covers all space sectors — commercial, civil, and national security — as well as intersector space activities.  Much has changed on all those fronts in the past 10 years, although the policy is written at such a high level that its provisions are flexible enough to be interpreted in evolving circumstances.

Still, presidents typically create their own space policies, which historically differ more in tone than substance.  It is no surprise that the Trump Administration wants its own.

Pace did not go into detail about what might be different in a Trump National Space Policy, saying only that the 2010 policy is under review.  His comments were made in a podcast with representatives from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Space Foundation, the MITRE Corporation, and the U.S Chamber of Commerce.

And we’re looking at updating the National Space Policy which was last updated in 2010. We envision a lot of continuity with past policy. But with all the activities that have happened in recent years, we thought it’s probably time for an update, and we’ll be working on that over the next few months. — Scott Pace

Pace explained that the timing of the recent Executive Order on space resources was related to the cancellations of meetings of the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and its Legal Subcommittee because of COVID-19. The United States planned to discuss these matters with other countries, but decided to move forward anyway. He also said it was tied to NASA’s release of its plan for sustainable lunar exploration and the importance of a clear U.S. position as NASA reaches out to international partners for the Artemis program.

Reuters reports that the Executive Order is just the beginning and the Trump Administration is developing a “legal blueprint” called the Artemis Accords that would establish safety zones around lunar bases as well as protecting rights to resources mined on the Moon.

In an interview with Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed hope that all the partners in the International Space Station, including Russia, will participate in the lunar exploration program.  But Dmitry Rogozin, the head of NASA’s Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, blasted the reported Artemis Accords, comparing it to an invasion and warning that bypassing the United Nations and NATO would result in another “Iraq or Afghanistan.”

As translated by Google, it says:  “The principle of invasion is the same, whether it be the Moon or Iraq: the creation of a “coalition of consonants” is initiated (as an option – a “coalition of willing”), and then, bypassing the UN and even NATO, if anyone doubts there, forward to the goal. Only Iraq or Afghanistan will come out of this.”

Rogozin and the Russian space community are mourning the death of the head of Russia’s human spaceflight program.  Yevgeni Anatolyevich Mikrin, 65, reportedly died of COVID-19.

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