2009 will be critical for U.S. space policy. Later this year, we expect crucial decisions on funding for possible additional Shuttle flights, addressing the gap in human spaceflight capabilities, and awarding the newly amended Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT) contract. The Congress and the new administration continue to craft a second economic stimulus package, due for release in late January. While the main focus will be tax relief and restarting the economy, funding for many other initiatives, including additional resources for NASA, is being considered as well. Many important space issues will also be addressed in a new NASA Authorization bill later this year.
After last year’s election, various changes are in store for the congressional committee with jurisdiction over space policy. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) will become the new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, with Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) replacing him as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) taking the helm of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) will continue to be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In the House, many committee chairs retained their gavels. Representative David Obey (D-Wis.) will continue as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Representative Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) will continue as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Representative Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) will remain as chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee.
In late December, President-Elect Barack Obama made the first nominations for his science and technology team, with Dr. John Holdren, Harvard University, named Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University, nominated for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator. The remaining high-level posts in the new administration, including NASA administrator, are expected to be named soon.
Looking ahead, 2009 promises to be an eventful year. The Space Foundation will continue to hold informational briefings on the Hill, host Space Foundation Correspondents Group events, and will release The Space Report 2009 at the 25th National Space Symposium.