Space Policy

In 2019, I participated in the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Congressional Visit Day (CVD). Every year through this program, the AAS brings volunteers to Washington, DC, to learn how to advocate for federal support of their science with their members of Congress. The experience culminates with a full day of meeting with members of Congress and their staffers on the Hill to put our new skills to the test. It was a truly amazing experience and I encourage any early-career astronomers interested in science policy to apply to the program!

Here is a photo of my team representing Hawaii, California, and Arizona after we met with staffers at Senator Dianne Feinstein's office.

During 2009-2012, I studied and worked in Washington, DC, on various issues related to space science policy. I obtained a Masters in International Science and Technology Policy from GWU, while also working at the Space Policy Institute and NASA Headquarters. Below are a few of the issues I worked on during this time.


Published in Acta Astronautica with Pascale Ehrenfreund and Chris McKay.

Ambitious plans to build new space infrastructures, transport systems, and space probes will require international cooperation if they are to be sustainable and affordable. Partnerships must involve not only established space powers, but also emerging space nations and developing countries to provide bottom-up support that will aid program continuity, generate more active members in the space community, and increase public awareness of space activities. How can the evolving space community learn to cooperate on a truly international level while engaging emerging space nations and developing countries in meaningful ways? We propose a stepping stone approach toward a global space exploration program, featuring three major elements: (1) an international Earth-based field research program preparing for planetary exploration, (2) enhanced exploitation of the International Space Station (ISS) enabling exploration and (3) a worldwide CubeSat program supporting exploration. For each of these three proposed stepping stones, recommendations for coordination mechanisms are presented.

Crew from the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz mission (Image Credit: NASA).

Language Protocols in International Human Spaceflight

Published in the Space Policy Journal and winner of the 2011 Sacknoff Prize for Space History. Also contributed to this article.

As international partnerships increasingly look to be the way forward for sustainable human space exploration, the need to think about language protocols becomes more pressing. Using the historical examples of three international human spaceflight missions, I show how each language protocol was dictated by contemporary political realities, and how often difficulties arose during implementation as a result. I argue that, in order to optimize operational environments in future human space exploration, the international space community should adopt a standardized, single-language protocol, similar to commercial aviation. While English may appear to be the most obvious candidate, other languages, particularly Russian and perhaps even Chinese, may also be worth considering.

Active Space Debris Removal

Published in Princeton's Journal of Public and International Affairs

Space debris increasingly threatens the provision of satellite services that are now integrated into the operations of the global economy and U.S. military. While studies suggest that annually removing as few as five massive pieces of debris in critical orbits could significantly stabilize the space debris environment, countries have hesitated to develop space debris removal systems due to high costs and classic free-rider problems. I argue that the United States should take the lead in immediately developing systems to remove space debris with the greatest potential to contribute to future collisions. Although leading by example will entail certain costs and risks, U.S. leadership in preserving the near-Earth space environment will result in not only long-term benefits for the United States, but also the fulfillment of U.S. national space policy and broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.

Artist's rendition of space debris in orbit (Image Credit: MIT).


Full report and audio of panel discussion available here.

While the advent of emerging space nations certainly creates opportunities, it also raises new concerns. Balancing these new sets of opportunities and risks requires an understanding of the rationale and development paths of all space actors, in particular emerging ones. An analysis of six emerging space nations (South Africa, Brazil, and India compared against Nigeria, Venezuela, and Malaysia) reveals opportunities and challenges to space sustainability. We examine the selected nations' space policy development and interest (or lack thereof) in international cooperation, assessing how best the United States and the international community can reach out to these emerging space actors in the advancement of space sustainability. We also look at the European Union's draft Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities to assess how the countries examined in this research may view this proposed mechanism for space sustainability. Finally, we discuss the role that the United States has played to date in these regions and suggest ways in which the United States might enhance its efforts in the future.