Uniting the Space Community

May 26, 2010 at 12:54 pm by Frank White
Tags: NASA, Obama space plan, the Overview Effect

The current debate over President Obama's plan for space exploration does not appear to directly affect the work of the Overview Institute, at least in the short term. Regardless of how it happens, people will still be going into orbit and beyond, they will still be experiencing the Overview Effect, and we will continue our work of changing the world by changing the way we see the world.

At the same time, it does seem likely that far more people will be able to experience the Overview Effect directly if the president's plan is accepted. His approach puts more emphasis on private enterprise and commercial activities in space, and I believe strongly that this will be the only way to bring large numbers of people into the off-planet environment. The government-dominated program that we have had in place for the past half-century hasn't done it. So far, only 500-plus people worldwide have actually had the profound experience of seeing the Earth from space and in space, while floating weightlessly in the silence of our vast universe. And NASA has been responsible for only some of those flights.

But change is difficult. We have recently witnessed some of our most distinguished astronauts opposing the new approach. We have also seen politicians from the states that are most affected by the cancellation of the Constellation program rallying and railing against that decision. I find it so ironic that many of these same people have opposed the president with great ferocity when he has extended the reach of government, but in one of the only areas where he is taking a different course, they are supporting a program that calls for more government rather than less.

The current proposals for the NASA budget have, unfortunately, split the American space community, which is a sad outcome of it. Regardless of how the inevitable compromises work out in the coming weeks, I hope they will help to bring us closer together again. We are not, by any means, the largest community in the United States, so we can ill afford high levels of disunity.