News & Media

Recap: Space Matters Session Two

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Space Matters invites speakers from different backgrounds in the space community to discuss trending space topics. Space Foundation’s most recent “Space Matters” session was held on July 14, 2022. The session, introduced by Symposium 365 Senior Vice President Thomas Dorame, served to:

  • Bring rich and candid discussion with space policy experts;
  • Discuss emerging issues and trends across the space community; and,
  • Maintain a routine high-level space policy conversation.

This session covered three topics: Congressional appropriations; sustainable lunar presence; and, economic instability impact. 

Congressional Appropriations 

One of the biggest topics discussed by the speakers of this session was ongoing issues with appropriations for space programs. 

Robert WalkerThe Honorable Robert Walker, CEO of Moon Walker Associates, kicked off this discussion by sharing his experience as a former United States Congressman and Chairman of the U.S. House Science, Space and Technology Committee. He shared that just 26 years ago, he was part of the discussions about the creation of the James Webb Space Telescope. 

Now, we are receiving images from parts of our universe we haven’t been able to see so vividly before. This project is just one of the very many advancements that funding for space has brought, and gives an optimistic hope for what’s to come. 

However, that is only possible with the proper funding. Walker noted that one of the issues with appropriations is that the plans for NASA and other space programs aren’t fully known, and Congress is curious about what the upcoming years will look like. 

James Bridenstine, Senior Advisor of Acorn Growth Companies and former NASA Administrator, described this as a role reversal. Typically an administration is thinking further ahead than Congress, but now Congress is asking for plans of what could lie ahead and the administration isn’t able to answer that. 

“Congress used to set policy for longer terms; now we’re down to big appropriation bills that don’t work past one year,” Walker said. 

Patricia Cooper, President & Founder of Constellation Advisory LLC, said that there isn’t necessarily anyone to blame, as both sides are struggling. On one hand, Congress does need to know a general idea of what projects are on the horizon to appropriate the correct budget, but the administration isn’t in a position to know what the future holds.

Cooper also mentioned that this past year gave us a much more in-focus picture of threats and a vivid view of the risks that come with security and defense issues. 

Bridenstine supported this concern, as he mentioned threats in space are very real—not limited to defense issues, but the risk of collision for satellites and other spacecraft operating in Earth’s lower orbit. 

“The picture hasn’t crystalized how to take advantage of opportunities while bracing for threat,” Cooper said. 

Carissa Christensen, CEO and Founder of BryceTech, shared that questions raised by appropriators do have real legitimacy, but to ask a relatively new organization like Space Force to lay out plans is challenging.

Sustainable Lunar Presence

MoonThe next topic the speakers on the panel discussed was a permanent presence in space. Bridenstine said that in order to consider this possibility, we must better define what that means. He said that it could mean one of two things—either permanently working and living on the Moon, or having access to be on the Moon whenever the United States would want, for whatever purpose. 

His idea of what this would look like would be the latter, to gain that access. However, he said that a better way to phrase this would be a sustainable lunar presence. There are many questions to ask when it comes to focusing efforts and funding this.

The human body cannot withstand the effects of space and zero gravity without a negative impact. Astronauts who work on the International Space Station (ISS) experience pressure in the head, loss of bone mass and other physical effects. 

Bridenstine said that if humans were able to get onto the lunar surface and experience the 1/6th gravity of that on Earth, it could be far easier on the human body, but asked if it would still yield the experimental benefits of working in microgravity. 

Walker shared that he remembered the feeling of planting the American flag on the South Pole, and the feeling of jurisdiction that came with it. However, the United States is not the only country working to establish a presence on the Moon, and faces increasing competition from China. 

Bridenstine noted that national pride and prestige is important, but so is yielding positive results that make funding this effort worthwhile. One positive result that could come from this effort would be learning to adapt to what life could eventually be like on Mars. 

Christensen added that one of the best ways to establish this sustainable lunar presence is through geopolitical efforts. It would be more of a driving force in establishing lunar communities, which would create the need and benefit for technology to sustain life on the Moon. 

“If you look at what the U.S. says it will spend [for lunar presence] and what other countries like those in the Artemis Accords, China and Russia, it’s on the order of 10 billion dollars of year…a quarter of countries in the world don’t have a GDP of that amount,” Christensen said.

Cooper added that there is likely a larger push on NASA working to get a sustainable lunar presence because of private players like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Amazon, who see a large capital opportunity. 

Economic Instability Impact

Cruise ShipThe last topic the speakers discussed was the impact of economic instability. Bridenstine mentioned it’s very clear that people outside of this industry can view space as a fad, something that cycles in and out of importance, but it couldn’t be more untrue. Space technology makes life on Earth function the way we know it.

He mentioned people’s desire to do basic things like email from a plane or join a Zoom call from a cruiseliner couldn’t be possible without the technology that space provides. Cooper added to this sentiment, that things as simple as television is an example of how we rely on technology like satellites. 

Don’t Miss Important Conversations About Space With Symposium 365 Events

Appropriations, lunar presence and economic instability are just some of the topics that produce conversations among space policy experts. “Space Matters” works to promote this discussion. 

Symposium 365 provides ongoing education and conversation about important events, people and projects in the space community. In addition to the “Space Matters” series, Symposium 365 produces valuable programs including “State of Space” and “Start Here for Space.” Explore and register for upcoming events here.