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May 26, 2010: News, Research & Events from the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
Baker Institute Update: NASA starts a new chapter

A new chapter for NASA

Since Mercury astronaut Alan Shepard blasted off in the Freedom 7 capsule in 1961, NASA has been primarily responsible for sending Americans into space. Its ambitious new plans to explore distant worlds while encouraging international collaboration and private-public partnerships represent a new chapter for NASA, and are both pragmatic and visionary, said NASA administrator Charles Bolden at a recent space medicine conference hosted by the Baker Institute.

"It's economics. In today's environment you can't do everything," Bolden said, noting that developing the capability to send humans into deep space is "important for our generation" to do for the next generation. "It is a risk, yes, but we have to be brave enough to take that risk."

Bolden's comments came during his keynote address at the International Space Medicine Summit (ISMS) 2010, the fourth-such conference in a series to address the challenges of long duration space flight. More than 140 leading physicians, space biomedical scientists, engineers, astronauts, cosmonauts and educators from space-faring nations attended the three-day event. Representatives from Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom were included in their number.

Bolden — a former astronaut who flew four space shuttle missions, including two as commander — acknowledged that President Barack Obama's plans for the space program could mean job cuts at NASA in the near term. But shifting budget priorities, which include turning over space shuttle duties to private industry, mean that NASA can focus more of its funds on research and development to explore the cosmos. "As hard as it is to accept, it will free us up to build the proper vehicles to get us onto Mars and asteroids. It's the right thing to do," he said.

Bolden also stressed the importance of attracting a new generation of scientists and engineers to the space program. To that end, NASA's 2011 budget will fund the education of 500 graduate students who plan to work in aerospace. "They will be the first wave of the new generation of technologists, engineers and scientists," he said. In addition, he said it is important for government to "bring academia back into the mix" by "giving them money to do research and development."

George Abbey, the institute's Baker Botts Senior Fellow in Space Policy and former director of the Johnson Space Center, called the ISMS a success, saying international cooperation and collaboration will pave the way forward for deep space exploration. "We will go to the moon again, and Mars, but will do it with people from other countries to make the best use of the expertise, knowledge and capabilities of other nations to achieve a common goal," said Abbey, pictured above (second from left) with Neal Lane, Baker Institute senior fellow in science and technology policy; Charles Bolden; and Baker Institute founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian.

The ISMS series is co-hosted by the Baker Institute and Baylor College of Medicine.

View videos of the International Space Medicine Summit 2010, including remarks by NASA administrator Charles Bolden.


Research & News

  • Are composite measures of quality useful for profiling pediatric health care providers? The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy-Baylor College of Medicine Joint Program in Health Policy research considers the use of composite scores to measure the quality of health care providers. 
  • Borders key to peace talks. In a Houston Chronicle op-ed, Baker Institute founding director Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian writes that an agreement between Israel and Palestine on territory and borders could facilitate forward movement on other, more controversial issues.

For a complete list of research and commentary, visit our publications page.


Webcasts: NASA and Space Policy

The Baker Institute has presented a number of programs on space science and policy throughout the years. View webcasts of some of the more recent events, listed below. 

For a complete list, visit our webcast page.


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The James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan public policy think tank located on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. The institute's distinguished fellows and scholars research and collaborate with experts from academia, government, the media, business and private organizations on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy.
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