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ASA Vision for Space Exploration

Reaching Beyond Low-Earth Orbit

A Prescription for Cost-Effective and Sustainable Space Exploration

Prepared By
The Aerospace States Association Space Exploration Committee (Tel: 808-586-2388 / Email: jcrisafu@dbedt.hawaii.gov)

Introduction: The ASA Vision.

Over the past half century, the exploration of space has radically transformed our lives on Earth, as well as inspired far-reaching visions to extend humanity’s presence beyond our home planet.

Innovations born of the Pioneer, Mariner, Viking and Voyager Missions, the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Programs, Skylab, the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Magellan and Galileo probes, the Hubble Space Telescope, and other pioneering exploration initiatives have forged new inroads to scientific discovery, advanced our national engineering and manufacturing expertise, catalyzed revolutions in communications technology and computer science, enhanced environmental understanding and protection of our home planet, and ultimately afforded new frontiers for humankind to explore and develop.

Today, the exploration of space holds equal if not greater potential for innovation in science and technology that can uplift our national economy, enhance global security, educate a technologically proficient workforce, improve healthcare diagnostics and delivery, enable space-based renewable energy systems, and ultimately pioneer sustainable settlements on other worlds. Yet the recent retirement of the U.S. Space Shuttle and growing budget concerns nationwide are posing fundamental questions concerning America’s future capabilities and leadership in aerospace – particularly with regard to human space flight.

President Obama has challenged our nation to enhance humankind’s capacity to “work, learn, operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time”, and to do so in ways that will strengthen our vanguard on the frontiers of space. Congress also has called for a space program that will facilitate a “permanent human presence beyond low-Earth orbit”, coupling space exploration to both national and global needs. In light of growing federal deficits, rising energy costs, and other acute economic challenges, these goals will mandate innovative approaches to reduce the expense, enhance the feasibility and ultimately maximize the scientific, educational and commercial returns of future space missions.

To achieve these goals, we believe our nation needs to embrace a collaborative, multinational vision for space exploration – one that incorporates the extensive knowledge, resources and capabilities developed through our nation’s historic Earth-orbiting, Moon, Mars, and other planetary space missions, along with the substantial experience and achievements of other space-faring nations, to chart affordable and sustainable roadmaps for humans to inhabit the realms of cis-lunar space and beyond.

We also must leverage the substantial assets, expertise and entrepreneurial spirit of our private sector in pioneering the space frontier – not only to maximize the potential benefits from research and exploration, but also to facilitate development and utilization of extraterrestrial resources that can benefit people on Earth, as well as support long-term voyages to and settlements on other planets.

Finally (and to ensure sustainability), we need an inclusive, “participatory” approach to space enterprise that will engage and empower the public – an interactive portal, facilitated through the Internet and other networking media, that will enable citizens to envision and assist in the design of future space missions, and ultimately inspire future generations of scientists, engineers, humanists, artists, educators, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other key professionals who will orchestrate our spaceward migration.

The Role of the States.

The exploration of space is inherently a technologically and fiscally challenging enterprise – one that requires multiple assets and capabilities, as well as political will, to succeed. Although NASA and other federal agencies play important roles in defining and funding the potential opportunities and goals for our national space program, they must leverage the resources and expertise resident in states nationwide to ensure that future space missions are both affordable and sustainable.

In particular, states provide unique capabilities to combine federal resources with assets and capabilities in both academia and industry to:

  • Educate and train aerospace professionals (the next generation of scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs) who will pioneer the frontiers of space.
  • Develop, test and incubate new technologies across a wide spectrum of corporate, academic, and private innovation infrastructures.
  • Sponsor aerospace conferences and business roundtables to enable networking among key aerospace leaders.
  • Facilitate attractive tax structures, leverage venture capital, and seed public-private partnerships to promote entrepreneurship and expand space enterprise.
  • Provide adequate infrastructure (e.g., roads, communications, internet access) and leverage unique geographical assets (e.g., landforms, location, climate) to develop terrestrial analog test sites.
  • Dedicate public lands for space launch and other space-related activities, and create space research and education centers to both support these programs and facilitate technology transfer.
  • Convey the multiple scientific, educational and commercial benefits of space exploration to the general public.

The Role of ASA.

As a nonpartisan organization of Lt. Governors and other top-ranking community leaders from every state across the nation, ASA is able to represent states’ interests in federal aerospace and aviation policy development. It also advocates on behalf of all 50 states for research and design funding, workforce training, economic development in aerospace and aviation, and excellence in science, technology, engineering and math education. The primary goals are to help maintain U.S. leadership at the forefront of aerospace research and development, as well as to enhance states’ competitiveness in global aerospace markets. As such, ASA is uniquely qualified to help seed and support innovative synergies between state and federal programs that will strengthen states’ roles as both major contributors to and beneficiaries of national space enterprise.

How the ASA vision will help grow America’s aerospace industry, providing new business opportunities and high paying jobs to enhance both our economy and national security.

The ASA vision for space exploration (promoting multinational space initiatives that leverage entrepreneurship in the private sector and engage the public as stakeholders) is designed to stimulate industry growth by:

  1. matching common space exploration goals with complementary resources and capabilities among space-faring nations to promote collaborative utilization of assets (technological and human) that can reduce the costs and enhance the benefits of space missions;
  2. fostering public-private partnerships that strategically apportion intellectual and technical assets among government and corporate entities to maximize efficiencies and accelerate timetables for mission planning and implementation;
  3. promoting long-term, community-based advocacy for aerospace initiatives that reach beyond the policies and priorities of individual Administrations and Congresses to enable sustainable programs over decadal time periods; and
  4. focusing on initiatives that embrace a broad range of applications and deliverables through a balanced program involving both robotic and human exploration that can:

• advance space science, education and commerce;
• test, validate and deploy new technologies that can extract and utilize extraterrestrial resources in-situ; and thereby
• enhance humankind’s ability to establish affordable and sustainable settlements beyond low-Earth orbit.


The heady days of Apollo, which endowed our nation with a pioneering legacy second to none, dismissed “can’t” from our conventional lexicon and fueled human aspirations to reach for the stars. At this decisive juncture in our national space program, we must restore America’s “can-do” spirit – forging innovative and sustainable programs that will both rejuvenate our economy and invest in our future. For all the reasons cited above, multinational, entrepreneurial, and participatory space exploration is an excellent way to make this investment – “for all Mankind”! ASA is committed to partnering with federal agencies, industry and academic institutions nationwide toward achieving this goal.

Click here to dowload a PDF of the ASA Vision for Space Exploration