The Space Foundation says it spent a year researching and writing this report. They've talked to nearly 100 senior NASA and aerospace leaders, and hope what the recommendations help sustain U.S. leadership in space.
Next week, it will be 40 years since man last set foot on the moon. The Space Foundation claims many NASA advocates wonder now why the space program since has never reached such an out-of-this-world achievement. It's gone from a presence on the moon to operations only in lower Earth orbit to retirement of the space shuttle now with no U.S. capability to get astronauts back into space.
"You need to have a plan that's in place that everybody agrees to and says yep, that's the plan," Space Foundation CEO Elliot Pulham said.
In releasing a 70-page report Tuesday on Capitol Hill, Pulham said NASA needs to refocus, to redefine its mission, to rededicate itself to the pioneer spirit that once landed man on the moon.
"We have barely scratched that surface, and so we think that there is a limitless supply of pioneering to be done for our space agency," Pulham said.
The foundation is asking for an amendment of the Space Act, to officially assign "pioneering" as NASA's primary purpose and institute an agency-wide evaluation and overhaul of facilities and infrastructure to support that pioneering. It also is calling for eliminating tasks that are no longer relevant.
The foundation suggests strengthening not just NASA's focus, but its oversight and funding. It also wants to develop both a 10-year plan with specific dates, goals and objects and a 30-year proposal with longer term targets for achievement. It suggests this would reduce a shift in priorities as presidential and congressional power changes. To that end, the Space Foundation also wants to change the timing of the NASA administrator's appointment. It suggests moving it to every five years so that it no longer always coincides with presidential elections.
"If we could remove some of the shackles and restrictions and give focus, I think, there is no end to what NASA can do for our country and the world," Pulham said.
A NASA spokesperson says the agency appreciates the recommendations of the report, telling us:
"The President and Congress, in bi-partisan fashion, established the nation's strategic goals for civil space when it enacted the NASA Authorization Act of 2010. NASA is making steady progress implementing the bold and challenging goals of this direction."