Not About Chechens: 'Future of U.S. Space Policy'

'Because it is there': one of several reasons to go into space.
I am emerging from a prolonged article-and-travel blotto period, as prefigured here. Thanks to those who have sent leads and material in the past two weeks, none of which I have answered or dealt with. I will start working through items I've wanted to cover, first with this easy one.

This past Monday, the Council on Foreign Relations had an evening session in DC about whether America was taking the right stance toward space exploration. The question included whether the many balances involved in space policy -- between manned and unmanned flights, between commercial and government-sponsored efforts, between international and strictly American projects, between military and civilian motivations -- were being set the right way. It's a topic I recently addressed in the magazine (subscribe!), with this q-and-a with Eric Anderson of Space Adventures. Also, previously with Elon Musk.

You can see the results below. The comatose moderator on the right side of the screen is me, aphasic from having been up through the previous night on writing duty. But I direct you to the two guests: Robert Walker, a former Republican congressman (and chairman of a national aerospace commission, and close aide to Newt Gingrich during the 2012 campaign); and Scott Pace, long of NASA and now of George Washington University. I thought they made very interesting points about what is working, and isn't, in America's exploration policies. They also addressed whether the main balances involved therein -- between manned and unmanned missions, between commercial and government-sponsored efforts, between military and civilian uses of space, between mainly American and international projects -- are being set in the right way.

 

To get a sample of the discourse, you could skip to time 38:20. There you'll hear an admirably direct question from an audience member: Why, exactly, is manned space flight sensible? And two interesting answers -- first Walker's on the history of national exploration ventures in general, then Pace's emphasis that a successful manned mission requires a broader range of competencies and achievements than almost anything else human beings try to do, and therefore is valuable in a skill-advancing sense. Pace also goes into that point starting at time 27:40 -- and much earlier, around 12:40, talks about how our plans for space exploration differ, depending on whether we see outer space as more similar to Mt. Everest or Antarctica. You can go to that section for fuller explanation.

If you find this engaging, there's a lot more in the hour of discussion. Groggy as I was, I was glad to hear it myself.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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