The View From Here

The View From Here

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

As this issue of Space Watch goes to "press," the global space community is just days away from convening the 24th National Space Symposium. And that means that about two weeks ago the Space Foundation began celebrating its Silver Anniversary. We're 25 years young, and the view from here is that the current challenging political and economic environment presents us with a sterling silver moment of opportunity.

But first, a little fanfare, hoopla, and ballyhoo!

The Space Foundation was founded March 21, 1983, as an IRS 501 (c)(3) organization "to foster, develop and promote, among the citizens of the United States of America and among other people of the world ... a greater understanding and awareness ... of the practical and theoretical utilization of space ... for the benefit of civilization and the fostering of a peaceful and prosperous world." We like to think that we've remained true to that purpose. One way to measure our success is to look at the purpose and goals of the Foundation, which were laid out by our founders in the program book of the 1st National Space Symposium:

To help shape America's future in space for the benefit of all.


  • Inform America's leaders, media, and citizens about space and the hope it offers for peace and prosperity
  • Establish a space research program to conduct objective studies which will serve science, education, government, and industry
  • Foster a commitment by educators to expand programs to prepare youth for living and thriving in a high-tech space-oriented environment
  • Develop a network of Foundation members to share in the knowledge of space activities
  • Build a Space Foundation museum, library, planetarium, research center, and administration facility

Looking back at these aims set 25 years ago, it seems remarkable that the organization could remain so well focused for so long. After all, I will admit that over the past decade, we've grown in service to this great industry guided primarily by customer requirements and strategic planning that has shaped how we meet those customer requirements. I will "fess up" that during my time here, we never consulted the original "Purpose and Goals" document published 24 years ago.

And yet, remarkably, we have not strayed one iota from the path laid down by our visionary founders. With the exception of the museum and planetarium project, we have consistently pursued those goals. We've focused on building the industry network, educating and informing citizens and leaders, supporting and revolutionizing education, and developing a credible research and analysis capability.

That is really remarkable institutional focus and continuity of purpose. I know that in most areas, we have grown beyond what our founders envisioned. And I know that at the 25-year mark, we've only just begun.

That's because a lot of work remains to be done if we are to ensure a prominent place for America in the next 25, 50, or 100 years of the space age. Space has become so ingrained in our culture that we take it for granted. Increasingly, we do so at our own peril as the technological edge which has ensured U.S. national security and America's leadership in the world is eroded by lethargy, apathy, and a lack of investment from within, and increased competition from without.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current U.S. Presidential election races. One can persuasively argue that U.S. national security, our technical and economic leadership in the world and the ability to inspire the next generation to be a great generation are all at stake -- and they all hinge upon strong U.S. space policies, programs, and investments. Given the stakes, it seems unimaginable that space and space policy are not front and center in the campaign.

But they are not. We take our leadership in space for granted. Unlike the economy, the war, the environment, and other issues, space is not perceived to be "on fire." And since it is not a hot button issue, it is allowed to smolder in the background. From this standpoint alone, our industry has a lot of work to do to educate and inform our next generation of leaders.

Among the three remaining Presidential candidates, there is no single one you can point to and say "Wow, that person would be great for space." Senator Clinton has a stay-the-course policy for NASA, has made a couple of vague statements regarding NOAA, and is credited with a positive reference to modernizing ITAR; despite having some luminary retired Generals as advisors she has not been a great supporter of U.S. Air Force modernization programs. Senator McCain is no fan of modernizing ITAR, has been fair to neutral on the NASA and NOAA portfolios, and has consistently used the U.S. Air Force as a whipping boy. Senator Obama has floated and recanted a proposal to eviscerate NASA and seems to have protectionist leanings that bode ill for ITAR, but is on record concerning the positive contributions that surveillance satellites make to national security.

Clearly, the Space Foundation and the space industry have our work cut out for us. Just as clearly, opinions and policies will shift and adapt over the next seven months. Once a new administration and new Congress are elected, real policies, positions, and programs (as opposed to campaign promises) will need to be crafted. In this respect, the 25th anniversary year of the Space Foundation presents a sterling silver moment of opportunity -- an opportunity to make our case, be heard, and help shape the national agenda for the next several years.

As always, we will look to our customers for input, guidance, participation, and support. As we come together next week for the 24th National Space Symposium, we have a "Silver" opportunity to air out the issues, decide what matters most in the coming year, and look for ways to make a difference. The theme of this year's symposium is "Our Expanding Universe: 50 Years of Space Exploration." It is the perfect time not only to honor 50 years of accomplishments in space, but to chart a course to ensure the vibrance and vitality of our next 50 years.

So happy challenging 25th anniversary to us! And thanks to all of you for making our first quarter century a meaningful and successful journey. The entire Space Foundation team looks forward to being with you next week at The Broadmoor Hotel for the 24th National Space Symposium.

This article is part of Space Watch: April 2008 (Volume: 7, Issue: 4).