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NASA integral as POTUS outlines 2020 National Space Policy

Stephen Kuper
NASA integral as POTUS outlines 2020 National Space Policy

US President Donald Trump has officially launched the US National Space Policy, which details the commitment to move space exploration goals beyond low-Earth orbit and return humans to the moon for long-term exploration and utilisation, followed by human missions to Mars and other destinations.

Since America’s first steps on the moon, the US has utilised its space capabilities to stimulate economic growth, enhance the quality of life for all Americans and people around the world, and advance the principles of democracy, human rights, and economic freedom.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine welcomed the announcement, saying, “The National Space Policy reflects bold leadership in this resurgent era of space exploration, as Americans once again step beyond Earth orbit, starting with the moon, and continuing on to Mars and beyond.”

As part of maintaining its position of leadership in space, the US National Space Strategy has identified specific guidance, including:

  • Operation of the International Space Station, in co-operation with international partners, for scientific, technological, commercial, diplomatic, and educational purposes while developing separate commercial platforms;
  • Space exploration technology development efforts to increase capabilities for future human and robotic space exploration missions while decreasing mission costs;
  • Capabilities to detect, track, catalogue, and characterise near-Earth objects to warn of any predicted Earth impact and to identify potentially resource-rich planetary objects;
  • A broad array of programs for space-based observation, research, and analysis of Earth’s surface, oceans, and atmosphere and their interactions to improve life on Earth; and
  • Space science for observations, research, and analysis of the Sun, space weather, the solar system, and the universe to enhance knowledge of the cosmos, advance scientific understanding, understand the conditions that may support the development of life, and search for planetary bodies and Earth-like planets in orbit around other stars.

“NASA will play a critical role via the Artemis program, in cooperation with private industry and international partners, in meeting the policy goals of establishing a permanent human presence on the moon while enabling dynamic science and commercial opportunities, including space resource utilisation,” Bridenstine added.

Additionally, the National Space Policy identifies a series of principles to ensure that space operations are consistent, including:

  • It is the shared interest of all nations to act responsibly in space to ensure the safety, stability, security, and long-term sustainability of space activities. Responsible space actors operate with openness, transparency, and predictability to maintain the benefits of space for all humanity.

  • A robust, innovative, and competitive commercial space sector is the source of continued progress and sustained US leadership in space. The US remains committed to encouraging and facilitating the continued growth of a domestic commercial space sector that is globally competitive, supports national interests, and advances US leadership in the generation of new markets and innovation-driven entrepreneurship.

  • In this resurgent era of space exploration, the US will expand its leadership alongside nations that share its democratic values, respect for human rights, and economic freedom. Those values will extend with us to all space destinations as the US once again steps beyond Earth, starting with the moon and continuing to Mars.

  • As established in international law, outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means. The US will pursue the extraction and utilisation of space resources in compliance with applicable law, recognising those resources as critical for sustainable exploration, scientific discovery, and commercial operations.

  • All nations have the right to explore and to use space for peaceful purposes and for the benefit of all humanity, in accordance with applicable law. Consistent with that principle, the US will continue to use space for national security activities, including for the exercise of the inherent right of self-defence. Unfettered access and freedom to operate in space is a vital national interest.

  • The US considers the space systems of all nations to have the right to pass through and conduct operations in space without interference. Purposeful interference with space systems, including supporting infrastructure, will be considered an infringement of a nation's rights.

  • Consistent with the defence of those rights, the US will seek to deter, counter, and defeat threats in the space domain that are hostile to the national interests of the US and its allies. Any purposeful interference with or an attack upon the space systems of the US or its allies that directly affects national rights will be met with a deliberate response at a time, place, manner, and domain of the US' choosing

Building on this, the strategy details the ongoing commitment of the US to “remain committed to fostering the ingenuity of the American people and working with like-minded partners around the world to improve our quality of life, to explore and learn, and to support peace on Earth and in the stars”.

The full US National Space Policy is available here. 

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