According to SpaceNews.com, Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver complained to NASA Advisory Council's Commercial Space Committee during a Nov. 26 meeting that NASA was "losing the argument" on commercial space policy.
Garver claims inability to communicate the source of losing the commercial space debate
The SpaceNews.com story reported that Garver said that NASA is not communicating very well the benefits of the Obama administration's commercial space policy, which is financing the building of spacecraft by private firms such as SpaceX and Boeing with government subsidies. She suggested that in an era of constrained budgets, the commercial space program would free up funding for deep space exploration missions NASA is planning.
Obama space policy critic named to chair House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.
In the meantime, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, described by the space blog Parabolic Arc as "a vocal critic of the Obama administration's space policy, which has focused heavily on commercializing access to low Earth orbit," has become Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which oversees NASA funding. He beat out Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., who is seen as "the leading proponent of commercializing space activities in Congress."
Smith a proponent of encouraging commercial space
While Smith may be a critic of the Obama administration approach to encouraging a commercial space industry, he is not an opponent of government policies that support commercial space. Ontheissues.org points out that Smith voted in favor of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, a bill sponsored by Rohrabacher, that amended the United States Code to foster a favorable regulatory environment for the development of commercial spacecraft.
Smith a critic of Obama commercial space policy
In a forum sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Smith maintained that the end of the space shuttle program, coupled with the Obama policy to commercialize space flight to low Earth orbit, had opened up a space flight "gap" during which the United States is dependent on Russia to send astronauts into space. Nevertheless, in the same speech, he touted the spirit of compromise and working across the aisle.
Effects on commercial space program
Garver's complaints and Smith's elevation may not have any practical effect on Obama's commercial space program. In June, Rep. Frank Wolf. R-Va., chairman of the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee, reached an accord with NASA on the future course of the commercial space program. Smith's committee may authorize NASA funding and set congressional policy for the space agency, but Wolf's subcommittee actually pays the money. Of course things might change if a budget crisis, caused perhaps by the fiscal cliff, of an accident involving a commercial spacecraft occurs.
Mark R. Whittington is the author of Children of Apollo and The Last Moonwalker. He has written on space subjects for a variety of periodicals, including The Houston Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, the L.A. Times, and The Weekly Standard.
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