Worthy of a Great Nation? NASA’s Change of Strategic Direction

NASA’s fiscal year 2011 budget request is a significant change of direction for the U.S. space program. As such, it makes several strategic choices for the country at a time when a growing number of countries are acquiring ever greater capabilities to use space and incorporate it into their pursuit of national interests.

In a nutshell, the Obama administration would discard the Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) laid out by its predecessor and endorsed by both parties in Congress, regardless of which party was in control. Instead, it strengthens NASA’s commitment to developing commercial space flight to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and introduces a series of technology programs intended to lead to new applications in orbit and new means of moving to and through space. It commits to operating the International Space Station through 2020 and maintains retirement of the space shuttle when NASA completes the current manifest in 2010 or early 2011.

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