Scott Pace leaves the White House of the National Space Council today –

Scott Pace will return to George Washington University starting tomorrow, January 1, after a three-and-a-half-year leave of absence while serving as executive secretary of the White House National Space Council. In a statement, he said he was looking forward to resuming his career “educating future space leaders.”

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

Pace was director of the Institute for Space Policy at the Elliott School of International Affairs at the GWU, before being exploited by the Trump Administration to lead the staff of the National Space Council. He returns to this 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 employees of the Space Council, which includes seconded from various government agencies, will continue their work.

In a statement, Pace, who is also the president’s deputy aide, said his time with the Trump administration is “the honor of life.”

In an interview, Pace highlighted the Trump administration’s achievements, particularly in bringing a government approach to space policy in which the relationship between the space of civil, commercial, and national security is recognized and understood.

He expressed enthusiasm for bipartisan support for space in Congress, though a little disappointed that legislation that includes a new NASA authorization act and a commercial space bill has not been passed.

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

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

This was only the first of six space policy directives dealing with the area of ​​civil, commercial and national security. The White House also issued two space-related Executive Orders and other reports and strategies.

  • The Space Policy Directive 1 (SPD-1), 11 December 2017, replaces two sentences from the 2010 National Space Policy relating to NASA’s human spaceflight program. He urges NASA to return humans to the lunar surface as a cornerstone for human exploration of Mars instead of an asteroid as planned by the Obama Administration.
  • The national space strategy, March 23, 2018, provides the strategy for implementing the national space policy of security, commercial and civil.
  • The Space Policy Directive-2, May 24, 2018, takes steps to designate the Department of Commerce as a “one-stop shop” for commercial space regulations.
  • The Space Policy Directive-3, 18 June 2018, sets out the roles and responsibilities of agencies for space awareness and space traffic management.
  • Space Policy Directive-4, February 19, 2019, which proposes the establishment of a US space force as part of the US Air Force.
  • Executive Order on “Strengthening National Resilience through the Responsible Use of Positioning, Navigation and Synchronization Services, February 12, 2020. PNT is more commonly known as the DOD satellite system that provides those signals, the Global Positioning System (GPS). Other countries have similar systems, collectively referred to as Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).
  • Executive Order to Encourage International Support for the Recovery and Use of Space Resources, April 6, 2020, establishing US policy on mining resources on the Moon and other places in the solar system, in particular as regards commercial exploration, recovery and utilization of these resources.
  • A new era for deep space exploration and development, July 23, 2020, presenting the reasoning of the administration for human deep space exploration.
  • Space Policy Directive-5, 4 September 2020, laying down the principles for space cybersecurity.
  • US National Space Policy, December 9, 2020, 2010 National Space Policy Update.
  • Space Policy Directive-6, 16 December 2020, National Strategy for Energy and Nuclear Space Propulsion (SNPP), setting objectives, principles and a roadmap to demonstrate the US commitment to use SNPP systems “safely, efficiently and effectively responsibility”.
  • National Planetary Protection Strategy, 30 December 2020, implementing a section of the national space policy on planetary protection (protecting the Earth from harmful contamination by microbes from other parts of the solar system and vice versa).

President Trump has also re-established the US Space Command as the 11th unified combat command. It is separated from the US Space Force, a sixth military service created by Congress and Trump in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. Military services “organize, prepare and equip” personnel who are then available to the unified commanders of combatants engaged in warfare.

The Space Council met eight times in open session, most recently on 9 December. It is composed of cabinet officials, including secretaries of state, defense, trade, transportation, energy and internal security, the director of national intelligence, the NASA administrator, the chief of staff and several assistants and advisers to the president. Its user advisory group, made up of external experts, met five times.

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