President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, ordering the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to investigate use of public-private partnerships (P3s) to advance U.S. interests in outer space.
The new policy requires NASA to study how partnering with private-sector businesses can “enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”
The directive, signed at a December 11, 2017 ceremony, also orders NASA to focus on sending manned American space expeditions instead of robotic probes. The 1972 Apollo 17 mission to Earth’s moon was the last crewed NASA project to venture outside low-Earth orbit.
“It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the Moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use,” Trump said. “This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints, we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”
The United States must get back into the space race in order to ensure the expansion of freedom, says Harrison Schmitt, the most recent living person to have walked on the Moon and a former member of the Board of Directors of The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News. Schmitt, a Ph.D. scientist, Apollo 17 crew member, and former U.S. senator, attended the White House signing ceremony.
“The most important thing for the United States of America is in the geopolitical realm,” Schmitt said. “If we do not continue to be and strive to be the dominant spacefaring nation on the planet, then liberty and constitutional principles will be at risk, because somebody else will fill that vacuum.”
Schmitt says the sky’s the limit for P3s between the government and businesses in space exploration.
“Primarily, there needs to be a national program, that is supported by the American taxpayer, in the geopolitical realm,” Schmitt said. “As part of that, there are many opportunities for partnerships with the private sector. When capabilities exist, the private sector can go in and provide some of the services, some of the opportunities that space buys.”
Space as the ‘Infinite Economy’
Andrew Gasser, president of Tea Party in Space, a nonprofit organization promoting rapid private-sector-led expansion into space, says NASA has fallen down on the job.
“I think this directive is a wakeup call to NASA, saying, ‘Look, we are going to embrace the free-market principles that made America great and have always put us first, especially in the space realm,'” Gasser said.
“That’s why manned exploration is so important: God only gave us one Earth, but he gave us a whole lot of ‘up there,'” Gasser said. “It’s the infinite economy.”
Gasser says manned exploration, not robot missions, will promote unprecedented economic expansion.
“Manned exploration is going to open up that infinite economy,” Gasser said. “That’s economic growth, that’s job creation. We want to create meaningful jobs in biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, and physics.”