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NASA Gets Recommendations From Advisory Committee To Enhance Space Activity

A number of recommendations in areas ranging from advertising to export control have been given to NASA by a new advisory committee, the Regulatory and Policy Committee, to enhance commercial space activity. The first meeting was held on November 16, 2018 at the NASA headquarters. The committee, which is mainly comprised of space companies’ representatives, was announced by NASA Advisory Council in August. Its job is to examine issues regarding commercialization of NASA activities in addition to their support for commercial space. This change was welcomed warmly by people like Mike Gold, who is the chairman of the committee. During the 3-hour-long meeting, recommendations, findings and observations were approved on various topics, with perennial focus being on export control which had been under ITAR till 2014. Reforms in these areas have been recommended. Items designed for the ISS and any future missions are excluded from US Munitions List. Not applying export control rules when the technologies are available widely on the international market was recommended which Gold said that reflected Space Policy Directive 2’s spirit of language that calls for streamlining space-related export control regulations. Further recommendations included NASA seeking from Congress ‘legislative relief’ about intellectual property rights issues. Jeffrey Manber said that one of the blockages in the commercialization of space is the involvement of pharmaceutical companies.

Other recommendations include- some ISS resources not directly contributing to NASA missions should be reserved for supporting commercial activities, and that NASA should assure guaranteed access to companies that produce private ISS facilities. Manber said that having no access is another issue to such companies. Jim Bridenstine of NASA seemed open to the idea of reserving resources for commercial space use. The committee further recommended NASA to allow commercial crew companies to sell excess seats to commercial customers on future missions. Bridenstine also talked about placing advertising on spacecrafts and launch vehicles and endorsements by astronauts and added that sponsorships are another issue for NASA. Some people like John Logsdon however, said that this move might weaken the brand of the agency by making spacecrafts look like stock cars. Issues about planetary protection were also addressed. NASA has been recommended to work with other agencies for protection of the Earth and other celestial bodies against economic, social and scientific benefits private and public space missions. Lawyer Gabriel Swiney stated that the use of ‘harmful contamination’ instead of ‘planetary protection’ sounds less restrictive. However Bridenstine acknowledged a potential clash between human exploration and science as far as this issue is concerned. He added that a balancing act has to be performed as striking other planets might be in the cards in the future as humans aspire to visit other planets.