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Effective influence in Washington today often requires not just grassroots lobbying but also political action committees that can raise and donate money. (credit: J. Foust)

Introducing the Committee for the Advocacy of Space Exploration

It’s time for the space advocacy movement to kick things up a notch. In fact, it’s time for the space advocacy movement to kick things up several notches.

Earlier this year, the Committee for the Advocacy of Space Exploration came into being. It is a fully-empowered political action committee devoted to the promotion of a robust American space program. As such, it will fill a critical gap that has hindered the space advocacy movement for far too long.

There are many outstanding space interest groups. They do critical work in educating the public, raising awareness about space exploration and undertaking such amazing independent projects as the Planetary Society’s Cosmos 1 solar sail. In addition, they often encourage their members to notify their elected representatives about various space policy issues.

The Committee will fill a critical gap that has hindered the space advocacy movement for far too long.

But none of the existing space interest organizations can do what a political action committee can do. Because of the limitations imposed by their tax-exempt status, none of the existing groups can openly endorse or oppose candidates for office or make financial contributions to political campaigns. Tax status aside, there is an understandable reluctance among many in the space advocacy community to getting involved in the murky world of electoral politics.

In my time, I have worked on political campaigns as a policy analyst and staffer, learning the ropes in the cutthroat world of Texas politics (if you think politics in Washington is rough, try spending some time in Austin). I have walked the halls of the Texas Legislature and the United States Congress as a professional lobbyist. The issues on which I have worked run the gamut from children’s health insurance and identity theft protection to reducing interest rates on student loans and reforming the electoral process.

But ever since I attended Space Camp as a young boy, the exploration and colonization of space has been my passion. By establishing the Committee for the Advocacy of Space Exploration, I hope to use my experience in politics and lobbying to further the cause of space exploration and contribute to the goal of creating a spacefaring civilization.

For far too long, space exploration has been an invisible issue on the political campaign trails of America. While the 2008 election cycle has seen more discussion of space issues than we have seen in previous years, it still ranks very far down the list of priorities when compared to nearly every other issue. Not surprisingly, candidates tend to avoid the subject of space exploration on the campaign trail, either through simple disinterest or to avoid giving their opponents an opportunity to accuse them of fiscal extravagance. Since space exploration is not an important subject on the campaign trail, there is not much incentive to make it a major issue in Congress.

This disastrous political cycle is the main reason why we were not on Mars two decades ago and why ships with human crews are not voyaging into the outer solar system today.

The lack of a fully-empowered political action committee has been a major contributing factor in the lack of strong political leadership on space exploration. Politicians must be made to know that they will gain by supporting space exploration and will suffer if they don’t. Until the space advocacy movement learns to play political hardball, its efforts will continue to be largely ineffectual. After all, if there were no such thing as the National Rifle Association, how many politicians would care about gun control?

Until the space advocacy movement learns to play political hardball, its efforts will continue to be largely ineffectual.

The challenge of our generation is the same as that faced by the Europeans in the early 16th Century. Vast new territories had been unveiled to them by the early explorers of the Americas, promising unimaginable opportunities. But the social upheavals of the Reformation, the menace of the aggressive Ottoman Empire, and a series of bitter dynastic quarrels always threatened to turn the gaze of the West away from the New World. Despite the momentous issues facing their society, however, a small group of bold and visionary people refused to be distracted and embarked on a centuries-long effort to explore and colonize the New World.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, we face the threats of global terrorism, economic uncertainty, social malaise, environmental challenges, and a multitude of other dangers. But we cannot allow these pressing issues to distract us from the great task lying before us, which is nothing less than the exploration and colonization of the solar system.

The Committee for the Advocacy of Space Exploration is determined to make the dream of a spacefaring civilization a reality. We hope you will join us.


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