Scott Pace leaves the White House National Space Council today –

Scott Pace will return to George Washington University effective tomorrow, Jan. 1, after a three-and-a-half-year leave while he was executive secretary of the White House National Space Council. In a statement, he said he was eager to resume his career to “educate future leaders in space.”

Scott Pace (center) at the National Space Council December 9, 2020 meeting, Kennedy Space Center, FL. Screenshot.

Pace was director of the Space Policy Institute at the Elliott School of International Affairs at GWU before being asked by the Trump administration to lead the staff of the National Space Council. He returns to that position.

President Trump re-established the Space Council in 2017 as part of the president’s executive office after a 25-year hiatus. It is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.

The Trump administration has a few more weeks to go and other staff at the Space Council, which includes details from various government agencies, will continue their work.

In a statement, Pace, who is also the president’s deputy, called his stint with the Trump administration an “honor of a lifetime.”

In an interview, Pace highlighted the accomplishments of the Trump administration, particularly in bringing a whole-of-government approach to space policy where the interrelationships between civil, commercial and national security space are recognized and understood.

He expressed enthusiasm for bipartisan support for space in Congress, though a little disappointed that legislation including a new NASA licensing law and a commercial space bill was not passed. adopted.

Looking back over the past four years, while the administration may not have gotten everything they wanted, at least “we’ve got the ball rolling” in many areas of space policy, said Pace.

The Space Council has been very active throughout the Trump administration, starting with Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1) in December 2017, reinstating moon landings in NASA’s human exploration program. The Obama administration has avoided landings on the lunar surface, focusing instead on sending astronauts to Mars. The question of whether the return of the astronauts to the Moon, just three days in an emergency, as a proving ground before embarking on missions to Mars, of the order of two years round trip, remains debatable. President Trump himself has questioned the need for lunar landings even as he accelerated the timeline to do just that from 2028 to 2024. However, the current plan, named Artemis, definitely includes not only astronauts using the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars, but a sustainable lunar exploration and use program with commercial and international partners.

It was only the first of six space policy directives dealing with civil, commercial and national security space. The White House also issued two executive orders related to space and other reports and strategies.

  • Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1), of December 11, 2017, replaces two sentences of the 2010 National Space Policy regarding the NASA manned flight program. He orders NASA to bring humans back to the lunar surface as a stepping stone to human exploration of Mars instead of an asteroid as the Obama administration intended.
  • The National Space Strategy, March 23, 2018, sets out the strategy for implementing the national, commercial and civil space policy in terms of security.
  • Space Policy Directive-2, dated May 24, 2018, takes steps to designate the Ministry of Commerce as the “one stop shop” for the regulation of commercial spaces.
  • Directive 3 on space policy, of June 18, 2018, defines the roles and responsibilities of agencies in terms of knowledge of the space situation and management of space traffic.
  • Space Policy Directive-4, February 19, 2019, proposing the creation of a US space force as part of the US Air Force.
  • Decree on “Strengthening national resilience through responsible use of positioning, navigation and timing services, February 12, 2020. PNT is better known as the DOD satellite system which provides these signals, the Global Positioning System (GPS). Other countries have similar systems, collectively called Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).
  • Executive Order on Encouraging International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, April 6, 2020, establishing U.S. policy on mineral resources on the Moon and other places in the solar system, particularly with respect to concerns the commercial exploration, recovery and use of these resources.
  • A New Era for Deep Space Exploration and Development, July 23, 2020, exposing the administration’s rationale for human exploration of deep space.
  • Space Policy Directive-5, September 4, 2020, establishing the principles of space cybersecurity.
  • United States National Space Policy, December 9, 2020, updating the 2010 National Space Policy.
  • Space Policy Directive-6, December 16, 2020, National Strategy for Nuclear Energy and Space Propulsion (SNPP), outlining goals, principles and a roadmap to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to use SNPP systems “in a safe, efficient and responsible manner”
  • National Strategy on Planetary Protection, December 30, 2020, implementing a section of the national space policy on planetary protection (protection of the Earth from harmful contamination by microbes from elsewhere in the solar system and vice versa).

President Trump has also reinstated US Space Command as the 11th Unified Combat Command. It is separate from the US Space Force, a sixth military service created by Congress and Trump in the National Defense Authorization Act FY2020. The military services “organize, train and equip” the personnel who are then placed at the disposal of the unified combat commands in charge of the war.

The Space Council itself has met eight times in open session, the last time on December 9. It is made up of representatives of the Cabinet, including the Secretaries of State, Defense, Commerce, Transport, Energy and Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, the Administrator NASA, the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and several assistants and advisers to the president. Its advisory group of external experts has met five times.

The new Biden administration has not indicated whether it plans to maintain the National Space Council. It was created by statute (the NASA Authorization Act of 1989), but presidents can choose to fund and staff it as part of their White House operations. President George HW Bush did, but Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama did not. They managed space policy through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Security Council (NSC).