The topic of weaponizing space is a sensitive one, and Arquilla, who is privy to much classified military information, would not comment on whether the U.S. plans to launch weapons into orbit. But he notes that many defensive methods don’t require offensive capabilities–in particular, a proposed system called the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space (ANGELS), which will allow the United States to move its satellites to safer locations.
The new space policy does more than just re-assert America’s freedom of action in space. It also calls on NASA and other agencies to gear up for technological innovation and “human and robotic space exploration programs.”
“The policy is in its early stages, and at this point we are continuing to go forward with the programs currently in operation, such as the Mars Rovers and several of the long-term missions,” says Robert Mirelson, a senior NASA official. “There are no real big 180-degree changes under the national space policy as it pertains to us, [and] the time line remains the same.”
As part of that time line, which runs until 2030, NASA plans to complete the International Space Station and shuttle program by 2010 and to develop a new crew exploration vehicle (CEV) for a return to the moon. The CEV, named Orion, is part of the new Constellation Program, which is scheduled to be ready for testing in 2008. If all works well, Constellation will launch in 2014.
“We depend on Congress for our budget, and that affects programs,” says Mirelson. “Until you see that in black and white, you can’t talk specifics across the board. I mean, nobody is expecting any radical reductions and certainly not any radical expansions for [fiscal year] 2007.”
Despite experts’ concerns about the new NSP, most are also hopeful that the United States will collaborate and cooperate with other space-faring nations if technology, budgets, and policies permit. These experts hope that the use of space, as the NSP states, will continue to “enhance security, protect lives and the environment, speed information flow, serve as an engine for economic growth, and revolutionize the way people view their place in the world and the cosmos”–not just for the United States but all “hosts of nations, consortia, businesses, and entrepreneurs” that use space.