We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Obama transition team for space

It is a strange old world. About 2 weeks ago I was on a flight from Huntsville, Alabama, where I took part in the National Space Society board meeting, back to Washington, DC where I had some consulting work lined up. As I and two other board members walked to the luggage retrieval area, I commented that if someone had told me twenty years ago I would find three people from my address book on a Presidential Transition Team I would have thought them crazy.

One compatriot said, “You know what that means don’t you?”

“No”, was my puzzled answer.

“You’re now a genuine Washington Insider”, he replied.

I did know one of the Bush 2000 space transition team really well and a second shared many contacts with me. This time around is different. I find it very strange to find people I have known for decades and in two cases worked with for years, in actual position to define space policy for the next four to eight years.

The good news is, they are all good people who are both aware of New Space and who wish it to succeed. At least two of them have tried to work angles to get their own private sector trips into space. What I do not know is how much real influence they will have on globally important issues. I know for a fact all of them are aware of the disaster that is ‘ITAR’, a regime whose purported purpose was to prevent transfer of weapons related knowledge and hardware and whose actual, unintended consequence, has been the creation of competitive non-US space industries. Niches, whether biological or market, will be filled and all the State’s horses and all the State’s men working together can do nought but delay that inevitability.

With Hillary Clinton in State, there is a personal channel of communication available for this issue from within the transition team membership. I very much hope they use it.

14 comments to Obama transition team for space

  • Jacob

    I don’t know what Obama’s space policy might be, or if he has any. Not having a space policy would be a good thing for Obama.
    My advice for Obama (sorry, I’m not in your, or Obama’s adress book) – would be: keep away from any space activity. Only see to it that there are no regulatory hurdles in the way of private space exploration.

  • Dale Amon

    Of course what you want *is* a space policy of a particular sort. Obama will have a Space Policy, of some sort. How close that comes to something palatable depends on who is defining it and how much influence they have over the higher level decisions. The people who have been selected are about the best one could possibly hope for. The question then, is what is politically feasible for them?

    If someone has a gun aimed at your back, walking away might not be the way to safety. Staying really close and trying to keep the gun aimed away from your head may be the only viable option.

    The team that is in place may not be able to prevent us from being wounded, but they may keep us from getting shot between the eyes. In the best of all scenarios, they might even be able to do some good.

    I would have pretty much the same worries about a Republican administration. In many ways they are more dangerous to liberty: there are many poor fools out there who actually believe they will leave the market and our liberties alone. (Sort of like leaving that funny looking sheep alone in the hen house…)

    I see over $1T in freshly stolen money that says there is no difference worth speaking of betwixt the two parties. The only thing we can hope for is a few good men and women in the right places who will do the best they can.

  • Brad

    If someone has a gun aimed at your back, walking away might not be the way to safety. Staying really close and trying to keep the gun aimed away from your head may be the only viable option.

    You only stay close if you think you can physically beat the gunholder. Otherwise run as fast as you can in a zig zag pattern…….

    How that applies in this case I don’t know.
    Space exploration will become feasible when there is a cost benefit to it. The Government wasting billions on the Grant Based/Governmental Scientist Industrial Complex and multi-millionaires skimming the upper atmosphere just doesn’t do it for me. Real advancement comes from necessity. If society keeps together we may find a point where we are advanced enough to leverage ourselves into space and have the need to do it. Until then it seems to be the province of hobbiests and grifters.

  • tdh

    This may be a bit of a distraction, but there’s still an unknown risk that Obama will be found ineligible to be President. Perhaps whoever takes his place, if necessary, will choose the same transition team, more or less. There’s lots of interesting stuff if you Google: “clarence thomas” obama citizenship . This should be fun to watch.

    (It all hinges on whether Obama was born in the United States or not, unless SCOTUS decides that laws passed by Congress granting citizenship via naturalization at birth are somehow not “naturalization” per the 14th Amendment, or more likely that naturalization at the moment of birth creates a distinction between “native born” and “natural born.” But if naturalization at birth created citizenship at birth, why would citizens born abroad still have to go through naturalization to claim their citizenship? And if Obama had been born abroad, but never got naturalized, would he even be a US citizen yet?)

  • Dale Amon

    I take that whole thing with 2 grains of Sodium Chloride and you are right, it is rather off topic.

    Any decision other than that Obama is as much a citizen as you or I would be saying that thousands upon thousands upon thousands of military brats and foreign service kids (not to mention people with vacation homes in interesting places, newborn kids of US businessmen working in London and Paris with their families along, are *all* not eligible for President.

    That is just *not* going to happen, and if it did there would be hell to pay.

    Now get back to space. I will be deleting any further discussion on Obama, Citizenship of.

  • Paul Marks

    Hillary Clinton a good contact for people interested in private space industries.

    The economic advance into space “inevitable”.

    Oh the uplift.

  • peter

    Why do we need space? Leave it up to private firms, and keep your hands off my tax dollars.
    As I see it, every time they need money, they come out with a press release about how this rover found evidence of water, or that orbiter found ice etc etc all of which is geared to produce another vomit of cash for them from the taxpayer.
    They could find a dozen green men on mars but that won’t help me pay my bills. Quite the reverse.

  • Dale Amon

    I can see that quite a few persons do not have a clue about space policy.

    First: Read up on ITAR. It is a government created problem that can only be fixed by the government changing the rules. The rules are set by the State Department. if you want to do commercial space in the US and not go to prison for a very long time, you follow the ITAR rules, as asinine as they may be. If Hillary is in State and someone I know has a good contact with her and also knows why ITAR sucks, then that someone working that connection would just be politics in favor of the free(r) market.

    As to the government spending your money on NASA, that is going to happen anyway. You haven’t a prayer of stopping it in this or any other administration. The only thing you can hope for is that the American Design Bureau’s (ie Boeing, Lockmart, etc) don’t get to kill off the really entrepreneurial companies.

    You can’t get a free market space program by holding your breath until you turn blue, by imagining three impossible things before breakfast or by wishing *REALLY HARD*.

    This is not an article on theory. This is an article by someone (me) who is in the game and knows that sticking my head in the sand is not a way forward to a successful private enterprise.

    You either play the game in Washington or you are road kill. That’s the fact’s m’am.

  • “You either play the game in Washington or you are road kill”

    OK, but what’s the game?
    What would you advise Obama if asked?
    Give us a few items you would want Obama do to.
    Would you advocate phasing out NASA ?

  • Dale Amon

    I am not looking for miracles, which seems to be what everyone else is asking for. I’d like to see ITAR reigned in to something a bit more reasonable; I’d like to see enough in COTS and DARPA to help keep the young New Space industry from getting clobbered by the Old Aerospace industry. The dinosaurs must be kept fed until the mammals have a chance to evolve and grow a bit. I’d like the current FAA/AST regulatory regime to be kept as-is rather than changed the way some prick like Oberstar would like to see it.

    Those are all possible in the real world.

    NASA is not going to be phased out; Ares is probably not going to be cancelled and replaced with Falcon (at least not until Falcon-9 Heavy, which is some years away); ISS is not going to be sold off, probably not even after it is cheaper to do the same on a Sundancer.

    And what I want has little to do with it anyway. It’s what I estimate this transition team will do versus what damage an anti-free market group could do.

    The next time we have a Libertarian President, talk to me about phasing out NASA and the rest of it as I would probably be invited on *that* transition team. But until then, I live in the same real world as the business I am in.

  • Alice

    If we are depending on a back channel contact to Hilary (Oops! Sorry about that) to save the US space effort, then we need to admit the truth to ourselves — the good space ship USS Titanic has already sunk.

  • Dale Amon

    Alice: Please read up on ITAR. I am not talking about ‘saving the space program’. I am talking about the US government shooting the entire American Aerospace sector (and others) in the head. This has been going on for over a decade and has been a frigging disaster. Decade after decade the State keeps coming up with plans for ‘protecting’ US Defense capabilities. Funny thing is, every time they do it our private sector pays the price.

    Why is Arianespace such a major competitor in satellite launches? Go back to the time the US Government refused a launch of a European satellite. The European response was a diplomatic ‘eff you’ and the creation of an aerospace job sucking giant.

    The US Government time after time wrecks our industries. If someone could talk Hillary into doing something that would help free our industry to compete in a global market (instead of following insane and highly expensive regulations, which include paying for a State Department Expert to be present during all negotiations with Foreign Partners and Arms Export Licenses to have a teleconference with your joint venture partner in the UK..
    then don’t you think it just might be a good idea to try that route?

  • Dale Amon

    Btw, I have just been following the picks for the economic team. It is not at all what I would have expected. As such things go it is a stellar team. Not just Paul Volcker, the guy Reagan picked to end Carter’s stagflation… but even some Chicago school. While this is not the item in which to discuss it, I am sure one of our other editors will take note and expound upon it.

  • I noticed Obama’s connection with Chicago economists a few months ago, and didn’t know what to make of it. Naomi Klein doesn’t like it, so that’s got to be good.

    As for space, I think less regulations would be fantastic. I hope this team can do that.