This morning, Aerospace Industries Association chief executive Marion Blakey petitioned the White House for a detailed plan and unflagging commitment for U.S. space activity.
"We require a roadmap for the future, with milestones along the way and a sense of urgency that space exploration is important to our country and proclaims in clear terms that this is who we are as Americans," Blakey concluded (PDF of speech here).
President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak Thursday in Florida on the future of the space program, and the National Space Symposium is going on now in Colorado Springs, Colo. Blakey insisted that America needs specific metrics for a concrete commitment to human spaceflight beyond low-earth orbit, including clear goals and milestones. Shifting the focus of human spaceflight programs is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the main goal is keeping America strong and in the lead.
“In 1962, President Kennedy didn’t say we’d go to the moon today; he said, this decade,” Blakey said at a meeting of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fla. “Despite the financial troubles that lapped at his feet, President Kennedy stepped up to the challenge and urged us forward, with a goal and a vision and a plan. Today, a lack of urgency and specificity will not sustain the vision and, as we know, where there’s no vision, the programs – and the skills and workforce that go with them − perish.”
This is not quite a throwing down of the gauntlet, it seems to me, but Blakey's plea is the closest thing I can remember in recent years to industry laying clear the need for genuine leadership from Washington. Yes I know AIA and others have been calling for as much for a long time, but under most of the last decade the space industry was besieged by cost and schedule issues for milspace programs and President George W. Bush's impassioned-but-forlorn return-to-the-moon vision. Now AIA is making it clear that wherever Washington wants the space industry to go, it will go, but Washington has to be in front and stay engaged.