Report from Washington D.C.
After an intense month of legislative activity, Congress recessed in early October and members returned home to their districts and states for the run-up to the election. While most of the focus in Washington is on the presidential race, congressional races are also being watched closely as the balance of Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate are likely to change. Before leaving Washington, Congress passed a flurry of legislation for this fiscal year. In the last month, the president signed into law the NASA authorization bill, the defense authorization bill, and the continuing resolution that funds the government through March 2009.
On Oct. 14, the Space Foundation hosted a Space Foundation Correspondents' Group breakfast in Washington D.C., featuring George Nield, Ph.D., associate administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Adminitration (FAA). During the breakfast, Nield explained the role of the FAA in licensing and regulating commercial space flight and addressed the outlook for the future of space travel. Nield contrasted the rapid development of commercial aviation after the development of the airplane to the relatively slow development of commercial spaceflight following the development of the first spacecraft. While he acknowledged that space activities are more technically difficult, require more energy, and are considered more risky, he suggested the primary reason for this difference may be the exclusive government focus on space activities. He pointed out the industry's shifting focus to commercial human space flight is likely to cause rapid growth in the near future.