The Best Way for Bad (Space) Policy to Triumph…

It’s been interesting watching the space corner of the blogosphere during the last several months. Many of my friends in the space advocacy community tend to support the Republican side of things, and it was sad to see how many of them started nearing the boarder of tinfoilhatdom during the course of the Presidential campaign.  Thankfully, now that silly season is over things are getting back somewhat to normal.

Unfortunately, I’ve been noticing some disturbing trends over the past day or so, particularly regarding the rumor floating around that James Oberstar might be selected to head up the Department of Transportation.  As Jeff Foust helpfully points out, people are jumping the gun on this.  It’s been interesting how many people snatched at this rumor as instant proof that Obama was going to screw commercial space.

Quite frankly that kind of attitude is the best way to guarantee that bad space policy carries the day.  The good news is that from what I’ve seen, the people who are actually close to the DC side of things are saavy enough to realize that even if their guy lost, that they ahve to find a way to work with the new team.  And that’s what the rest of us should be doing.  Criticism of bad moves is totally appropriate.  But jumping to conclusions and prematurely condemning actions that are still in the rumor phase as though they already had been made is silly.

What people should be doing right now, is trying to respectfully engage the new administration on issues like space policy.  Make your case, try to show some empathy and find common ground.  Don’t just turn your backs on them and then whine about the results.

Sure, there’s a chance that you’ll just be wasting your time, but it reminds me a lot of something one of our investors told me:  We were talking about a potential customer, and I was expressing skepticism that they would really be interested in working with us, since our stuff was somewhat dissimilar to what they’re trying to do.  He told me “Let them decide whether they’re interested or not–if you don’t at least ask, the answer is definitely no”.

We can’t control whether or not the Obama administration listens to us, but we can at least put the ball in their court by constructively engaging.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
Jonathan Goff

Latest posts by Jonathan Goff (see all)

Jonathan Goff

About Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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6 Responses to The Best Way for Bad (Space) Policy to Triumph…

  1. Adam Greenwood says:

    Letting the new administration know that some of its choices are acceptable while some aren’t *is* constructive engagement.

  2. Gary C Hudson says:

    Frankly, I don’t think that Oberstar could be much worse than what FAA lawyers are already doing to AST. Once you reach bottom, it really doesn’t matter if the next guy wants to pile on a few rocks to make sure you don’t float back to the surface.

    That’s not to endorse him, to be sure, but merely an observation on the obvious: AST is proven unable to act in a reasonable and rational fashion as it develops regulations for the industry.

  3. Good post.

    It can’t be assumed that the Obama administration will be monolithic in it’s approach to various issues. No administration ever is.

    Ironically, this new administration may be very receptive to the idea of increasing the scope of COTS and other private/government cooperative efforts. I say that because of the serious budget crunch we will be facing, and the fact that NASA has a propensity for unwittingly sabotaging its own programs through mission creep and cost overruns.

    While Obama and friends appear to have a flair for the grandiose, it likely won’t apply to the space program. This could be a good opening for insisting that NASA, DoD and DOT promote less costly access to space more aggressively. The argument should be that lower-cost space access and greater private sector involvement would multiply the options and flexibility as to what can be done in space. This latter point should be more important than big Moon/Mars missions.

  4. Rand Simberg says:

    It’s been interesting how many people snatched at this rumor as instant proof that Obama was going to screw commercial space.

    OK, so how many people did do that, Jon? Maybe you’ve seen other instances, but I’ve only seen one–the usual suspect. I (and Clark and a few others who will remain nameless behind the scenes) simply thought that it was useful to point this out now, before it became more than a rumor and a fait accompli, and it was relatively easy to fight it.

  5. Jonathan Goff Jonathan Goff says:

    Rand,
    I probably should’ve been more clear–I was more talking about the commenters than the bloggers. Between your and Clark’s posts, I count at least five instances of what I was talking about. I had also had a conversation with a friend offline that had got me thinking about the topic. Sorry if I overreacted to a perceived overreaction.

    ~Jon

  6. anon says:

    Think in terms of the pitch up the chain of government, if he does get in –

    “Strangling innovation in a new industry is surely not a good idea in a recession? Remember the light aircraft industry?”

    The trick is to pitch the counter argument at what the guys at the top want to see – Obama in this case.

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