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Space Matters: 2022 At A Glance

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Space Matters invites speakers from different backgrounds in the space community to discuss trending space topics. Hosted by Space Foundation, each Space Matters issue:

  • Brings rich and candid discussions with space policy experts
  • Discusses emerging issues and trends across the space community
  • Maintains a routine high-level space policy conversation

The most recent “Space Matters” session held on December 15th, 2022, discussed the year at a glance and focused on the launch of Artemis, which has been years in the making, as well as the results of the 2022 midterm elections, and an upcoming government funding date for Continuing Resolutions.

Introducing This Space Matters Session Speakers

This session’s speakers include the Honorable Bob Walker, former Pennsylvania Congressman, and CEO and Founder of Moonwalker Associates, and Carissa Christensen, CEO and Founder of BryceTech. Also speaking is The Honorable James (Jim)  Bridenstine, former NASA Administrator and U.S. Congressman (R-OK) and Senior Advisor for Acorn Growth Companies, and Patricia Cooper, President and Founder of Constellation Advisory.

The Artemis Launch, Need For Lunar Activity, and The Commercialization of Space

One of the largest space accomplishments of 2022 was the successful launch of Artemis on November 16, 2022, as the first step toward our return to the Moon.

This Space Matters session came just a day before the 50-year anniversary of Apollo 17, the last human mission to the Moon in December 1972. The success of the Artemis project is key in encouraging the continuation of space exploration, and there are high hopes for the possibilities that come from returning to the Moon.

Bridenstine pointed out the variety of benefits that getting back to the Moon can provide for space exploration. One of which was acknowledging the physical effects of humans working in Earth’s lower orbit.

Some of these effects include increased pressure in the head, impact on bone and muscle mass, problems for the immune system, and more. Bridenstine suggested that performing research and projects on the lunar surface, which is 1/6th of Earth’s gravity, could be less harmful than lower Earth orbit.

Bridenstine added one of the most critical reasons it’s important for us to get back to space: to prepare humans for a venture to Mars. He added that we cannot possibly get to Mars successfully without first getting to the Moon, and establishing a lunar presence can help adjust us to life on another planetary body.

“Life, if it is discovered on Mars, it ought to be discovered by the United States of America, because it will forever add chapters to history books and science books,” Bridenstine said.

Grand Canyon on MarsBridenstine went on by adding that it is critical for the government to take steps first, for commercial entities to follow. He mentioned that often, none of these private companies will step up, unless the government is willing to spend the budget for new projects and technologies. Private companies don’t want to step up to spend millions of dollars on projects that might fail, for example, on friction stir welding, which assists in creating fuel tanks for launch systems.

“Now these commercial companies can buy these capabilities off the shelf for a tiny fraction of what NASA invested,” Bridenstine said. “The point is, the government has to go first for these things that are in the national interest for which there is not yet a commercial marketplace. Once the government goes first, it retires the risk and opens the door for a whole host of capabilities that were never before possible.”

The speakers held a similar sentiment that commercialization should be encouraged if we want to be able to advance space exploration and perform missions. Commercialization is crucial to protect national security. There are many threats posed to the United States if we cannot continue to focus on defense efforts because of the lack of funding.

Christensen agreed with the importance of a commercialized space ecosystem. She mentioned that having a variety of players in space can lead to a productive application of resources, whether larger companies acquire smaller companies who do not have enough budget, whatever it may be, it can fuel more space activity.

The 2022 Midterm Elections: Politics and Space

As 2022 comes to an end, the Space Matters speakers reflected on the legislative arena and its potential effects for the upcoming year and space exploration. The shared sentiment was the importance of a bipartisan perspective when it came to appropriating space endeavors.

“In my world, I am seeing some promising bipartisan effort on the Hill to address something we have talked about on this forum before, which is a little bit of a messy regulatory government environment,” Cooper said. “Particularly for developing space rules and establishing clear authority and oversight for novel space activities.”

Cooper shared that there are promising regulations in place, such as the Satellite and Telecommunication Streaming Act and the Secure Space Act which can help update some regulations for one of the longest commercial space activities, which is both communication and imagery satellites. Cooper hopes that these acts can improve the licensing process and give authority to areas where there hasn’t before been much clarity.

Continuing Resolutions and Government Funding: What’s Next

The speakers noted that as we approach the end of the year, we can expect the possibility of more continuing resolutions (CRs). Bridenstine shared the issue that CRs can bring to space projects.

“The goal is to avoid continuing resolutions as they put a halt on projects and prevent the start of new projects,” Bridenstine said.

Walker and Bridenstine mentioned the importance of Members in Congress who care about advocating for space. They shared that often people in key positions will fight for appropriations if they have a NASA center in their district or other parochial interests. Bridenstine mentioned the importance of key position holders who fight to protect space budgets for the nation’s interest—like protecting national security.

“The best outcome is a continuing resolution that takes us through the end of the calendar year and a cobbled together omnibus at the last minute in the calendar year,” Christensen said.

Stay Up To Date On Important Space Policy Discussions

As we enter the new year, there are plenty of important topics up for discussion. If you want to stay informed on trending topics in the space community, Symposium365 has various resources available.

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.