28 June 2010
Announcements - Habitat (Good)
US Updates Space Policy
Cooperation in. Unilateralism out. Prospects for commerce up.
by Carol Pinchefsky
by Peter Wainwright and Carol Pinchefsky

Commercial development of space isn’t just a good idea: it’s official United States policy.

Today President Obama announced the United States will “seek partnerships with the private sector to enable commercial spaceflight capabilities for the transport of crew and cargo to and from the International Space Station….”

This opens the door to space tourism, the best way for the private sector to realize Obama’s policy.

In a seemingly unrelated note, according to the White House press release, “The United States…commits further to a pledge of cooperation, in the belief that with strengthened international cooperation and reinvigorated U.S. leadership, all nations will find their horizons broadened, their knowledge enhanced, and their lives greatly improved.”

In other words, President Obama wants both commercialization of space and international cooperation.

These two concepts--cooperation among nations and the commercial use of space--are inherently intertwined, as each boosts the other.

This new policy is technically a revamped version of the policies of Clinton, Bush Senior, and Reagan. It was changed during the administration of Bush Junior into a more unilateralist form, causing some commentators to become concerned it could provoke the equivalent of a space arms race. Obama’s speech today just reversed it.

It’s good news, especially at a time of global need to develop new industries to recover our economies. The updated policy improves the prospects of commercial space, because it reduces the possibility of an overly military focus on space—which engenders a hostile climate to commercial space activities (no, government-funded programs don’t count).

It also improves the chances of true international cooperation, an original and partly successful objective of the International Space Station. By doing so, it reduces the need to be concerned with the militarization of space to the detriment of commercial opportunities.

While there are still, and will always be, defense concerns to address, the more assets more countries have in space (and in particular the more assets they have jointly in space) the less incentive any single nation has to carry out any kind of military operation, because it would endanger its own economy by doing so.
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Carol Pinchefsky 28 June 2010
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