The National Space Council, recently reconstituted by President Donald Trump, is having its first meeting in some decades on October 5, 2017. Vice President Mike Pence, the Council’s chairman, set out the task it has to undertake in a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Set NASA to explore deep space again

The vice president wants to refocus the space program on exploring deep space again. The new policy, much the same as the ones expressed by President George H. W. Bush 28 years ago and President George W. Bush 13 and a half years ago, will be to return to the moon and then go on to Mars.

Space national security

Pence also wants to attend to defending American military assets in space, communications, navigation, and recon satellites, from enemy action. The task will involve the development and deployment of new technology.

Empowering commercial space

Finally, Vice President Pence wants a number of reforms to empower the growing commercial space sector. Regulations will have to be made more business-friendly. Technology with commercial applications will have to be developed. Education initiatives will have to be created to turn out more students in the STEM fields.

It is all in the execution

As NASA Watch points out, other presidents have made brave announcements about grand space goals, only to see them dashed against the rocks of politics.

The success of any new initiatives will be seen in the execution. Otherwise, nothing but cynicism and disappointment will result.

One exciting bit of news that Pence revealed in his article is the creation of a Users Advisory Group drawn from the commercial space sector. The idea of having private business provide direct input to government space policy is something new.

The essence of the approach to space being conducted by the current administration will be a massive reliance on the commercial sector, following a path first developed by President George W. Bush.

That doesn’t mean that Congress should fail to step up. A proper space exploration program is going to need funding, something that has been lacking since the end of the Apollo program.

The real mark of the seriousness of any plan that proposes to send astronauts to the moon, Mars, and beyond will be how much the government is willing to pay for it. Funding is the key even when the commercial sector is being leveraged for such an effort.

Still, a rare sense of hope and excitement seems to be percolating. Maybe the third time will be a charm where it comes to space exploration.