Popular Mechanics has published a short summary of talks given at the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference, including interesting views from two former NASA astronauts.

Lt. Gen Thomas Stafford (USAF-ret.), who commanded of the Apollo-Soyuz mission and now chairs the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee, is very concerned about foreign competition. The Russia Academy of Sciences has created a 30-year plan for human exploration, which involves multiple nations and “has the management structure of the International Space Station.”

“Looks the like Russians are ahead of the US,” General Stafford said.

This latest plan shows how far Russia has progressed since the Cold War. During the Soviet  era, ministries could only produce 5- and 20-year plans. A 30-year plan represents a 50% increase in planning productivity!

On the other hand, former Shuttle commander Col. Pam Melroy (USAF-ret.), who is now director of field operations for the FAA’s office of Commercial Space Transportation, said American companies are leading the world in suborbital spaceflight. “Right now the only ones doing substantial work in suborbital are in the United States,” Col. Melroy said.

Our take: Russia clearly has the lead in producing viewgraphs and calling for unwieldy international bureaucratic structures, although we expect Congress will soon take action to catch up. The United States, however, has the lead in developing actual hardware and reducing the cost of access to space , thanks to the private sector.

Written by Astro1 on September 23rd, 2012 , Military Space, Space Policy and Management

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