December 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm by Frank White
President Obama was criticized for taking so long to make a decision about Afghanistan. However, there is another decision on his "to do" list that is much more important, and that is the future of American space policy. As I understand it, the president wants to adopt most of what the Augustine Commission has proposed, which includes much more reliance on commercial space development and international partnerships. In my opinion, that's the right direction to take. However, Congress is apparently fighting him on this, because it would mean stopping development on Ares and Constellation, a resulting loss of jobs.
When we look back at the 1960's, there is no question that the war in Vietnam holds a major place in our history, as it should. However, space exploration, especially the Apollo moon program, looms much larger in terms of its impact on human history. It was during this time that we not only put the first human being in space but it was also the first time we experienced the Overview Effect. If President Kennedy had not committed us to exploration of the universe, even though he had to contend with war on Earth, we would find ourselves in a much different situation today. Similarly, while President Obama must cope with Afghanistan, his decision about our future in space will be far more critical do our descendants in 2050.