This past Monday, the Council on Foreign Relations had an evening session in DC about whether America was taking the right stance toward space exploration. The question included whether the many balances involved in space policy -- between manned and unmanned flights, between commercial and government-sponsored efforts, between international and strictly American projects, between military and civilian motivations -- were being set the right way. It's a topic I recently addressed in the magazine (subscribe!), with this q-and-a with Eric Anderson of Space Adventures. Also, previously with Elon Musk.
You can see the results below. The comatose moderator on the right side of the screen is me, aphasic from having been up through the previous night on writing duty. But I direct you to the two guests: Robert Walker, a former Republican congressman (and chairman of a national aerospace commission, and close aide to Newt Gingrich during the 2012 campaign); and Scott Pace, long of NASA and now of George Washington University. I thought they made very interesting points about what is working, and isn't, in America's exploration policies. They also addressed whether the main balances involved therein -- between manned and unmanned missions, between commercial and government-sponsored efforts, between military and civilian uses of space, between mainly American and international projects -- are being set in the right way.
To get a sample of the discourse, you could skip to time 38:20. There you'll hear an admirably direct question from an audience member: Why, exactly, is manned space flight sensible? And two interesting answers -- first Walker's on the history of national exploration ventures in general, then Pace's emphasis that a successful manned mission requires a broader range of competencies and achievements than almost anything else human beings try to do, and therefore is valuable in a skill-advancing sense. Pace also goes into that point starting at time 27:40 -- and much earlier, around 12:40, talks about how our plans for space exploration differ, depending on whether we see outer space as more similar to Mt. Everest or Antarctica. You can go to that section for fuller explanation.
If you find this engaging, there's a lot more in the hour of discussion. Groggy as I was, I was glad to hear it myself.