White House Releases New National Space Policy

Ares test launch

Permanently grounded. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It's a far cry from President Kennedy's stirring "before this decade is out ..." speech, but the White House today released the latest National Space Policy.

It commits the U.S. to "pursue human and robotic initiatives" to:

... develop innovative technologies, foster new industries, strengthen international partnerships, inspire our Nation and the world, increase humanity’s understanding of the Earth, enhance scientific discovery, and explore our solar system and the universe beyond.

In a White House statement on Monday, the president justified what many see as a step back in the space program since the heady days of Sputnik, Apollo moon shots and the Cold War. The United States is no longer "racing against an adversary" in space, Obama said.

The new plan emphasizes working partnerships with other nations over expensive "go it alone" endeavors:

... with strengthened international cooperation and reinvigorated U.S. leadership, all nations will find their horizons broadened, their knowledge enhanced, and their lives greatly improved.

Even so, past cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on the international space station has proven difficult at times, with Moscow occasionally running out of money and Washington delayed by shuttle problems, most notably the Columbia disaster.

The plan also calls for a "burgeoning commercial space industry." The White House is counting on such ventures to ferry American astronauts to the space station after the final shuttle flight, which is expected later this year or in early 2011.

In February, Obama permanently grounded the Constellation program, and its Ares booster, which was to become the next generation space ferry and moon rocket.



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