By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.
Faculty Director, School of Business, American Military University
Infiltrating the politics of the national space policy are a variety of space advocacy coalitions that apply pressure on policymakers in many different directions. These space development coalitions can be divided into four main groups:
- the human destiny coalition
- the space science coalition
- the national defense coalition
- the space business coalition
The Human Destiny Coalition Feels that Mankind Will Become a Spacefaring Species
The human destiny coalition generally carries a common vision that mankind is fated to become a spacefaring, multi-planet (and perhaps multi-system) species. Support for this vision comes from a variety of arguments. Chief among them is the romantic idea that the universe calls to us for exploration and discovery.
The late Dr. Carl Sagan wrote at length about this in his many books and poetically spoke about voyaging into the “cosmic ocean” in his celebrated television series Cosmos. That series has recently been revived with Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson as host.
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One of the most active constituents in the human destiny coalition is The Planetary Society, originally founded by Sagan himself and led today by TV science celebrity Bill Nye. The Planetary Society is an active organization that uses its resources to promote astronomical scientific progress and lobby lawmakers to fund and support government programs that do the same.
The Space Science Coalition Wants to Further Scientific Knowledge
The second coalition, the space science coalition, is generally comprised of space scientists in the public and private sector who advocate for the pursuit of furthering scientific knowledge on the “final frontier.” In some ways, this coalition overlaps with the others. For example, many scientists who support the need for humans to leave Earth and colonize the galaxy — such as those from the human destiny coalition — also argue that scientific development is just as important a motivator.
However, this is not always the case, and sometimes these groups butt heads with respect to policy choices. A key member of the space science coalition is the Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, which promotes scientific work in space as a global imperative.
The National Defense Coalition and the Development of Space Infrastructure
The third coalition is that of national defense. As the name intimates, this group is concerned with the development of space infrastructure for the purposes of national security. In the 21st century, access to and use of space technologies such as communications and surveillance satellites has become an absolute need for superpower nations to remain competitive in terms of potential warfare capability. And even though international treaties prohibit overt military installations in orbit, these passive intelligence tools have been vital to monitoring foreign threats and maintaining battlefield advantages.
This coalition is largely comprised of the Department of Defense, its private contractors, and other interested parties. Naturally, these constituents have strong motives — financial and otherwise — for wanting to see that American space resources are used to support national security and defense.
The Space Business Coalition Is Concerned with the Economic Benefits of Space
The final advocacy group is the space business coalition, which is primarily concerned with the economic benefits of space development and exploitation. It has been said that the world’s first trillionaires will be those who capitalize first and best on future industries like space mining. Suffice to say there is ample motivation for the promotion of space-based economies.
The main stakeholders in this group include major space logistics companies such as SpaceX and Boeing, as well as the lawmakers who represent the districts where these industries are based. As with some other groups, here again there are overlaps. As an example, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman would naturally be part of the national defense coalition, but they would also be interested members of the space business coalition as well.
In some cases, these groups have conflicting and/or competing interests, but more often than not they work collectively toward the mutual goal of increasing funding and legislative support for space exploration and development.
About the Author
Dr. Gary Deel is a Faculty Director with the School of Business at American Military University. He holds a J.D. in Law and a Ph.D. in Hospitality/Business Management. Gary teaches human resources and employment law classes for American Military University, the University of Central Florida, Colorado State University and others.