Videos: Wilbur Ross, Lamar Smith on the New Era of Space

Video Caption: Introduction by Hudson President and CEO Kenneth R. Weinstein followed by a Keynote address by Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Maintaining U.S. leadership in the face of global competition warrants a reevaluation of the U.S. political and legal landscape governing space. On July 24, Hudson Institute was joined by the Secretary Wilbur Ross and House Science, Space, & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to discuss the Department of Commerce’s evolving role in the space sector.

The web of national, regional and international institutions—organized to guide and serve an industry undergoing dramatic transformation—needs to be updated. Rising to meet this challenge, Congress and the Executive Branch have been working together to reshape the legal environment for the commercial use of outer space. Keynote addresses by Secretary Ross and Congressman Smith will be followed by a panel with senior government officials responsible for executing the reform agenda laid out by the Trump Administration.

Hudson Adjunct Fellow Brandt Pasco talks to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Panel discussion: Regulatory Efficacy and Efficiency in Space Commerce

Space Policy Directive 3 Brings Space Traffic Coordination to Commerce Department

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON, DC (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Donald J. Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive 3 (SPD-3), America’s first National Space Traffic Management Policy.  The policy acknowledges the rapidly increasing volume and diversity of commercial space activity and announces that the Department of Commerce should be the new civil agency interface for space traffic management (STM) and space situational awareness (SSA).

“I commend President Trump and the National Space Council for reaching yet another important milestone as we work to ensure U.S. commercial leadership in space,” said Secretary Ross. “I look forward to working closely with DoD and other departments and agencies as we meet the challenge of increased commercial and civil space traffic.”

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Secretary Ross Praises President Trump’s Signing of Space Policy Directive – 2

Wilbur Ross

WASHINGTON (Commerce Department PR) — Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross praised President Trump’s signing of Space Policy Directive – 2 (SPD-2), which directs the Department of Commerce and other agencies to implement reforms of the U.S. commercial space regulatory framework that will unshackle private space industry.  The President’s approval brings into force several recommendations made by the National Space Council in February that will ensure America remains the flag of choice for space commerce.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, and the National Space Council is making great strides toward ensuring that the U.S. is the leader in space for generations to come,” said Secretary Ross. “I commend Vice President Pence and the rest of the Council for their hard work.”

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Wilbur Ross Talks Deregulation, “Hundreds of Feet of Solid Ice” on Moon

The interview with Ross starts out well enough, with the Commerce secretary talking about simplifying government regulations to spur commercial space developing. Then it veers off into lunar geology, which the secretary appears to have a far lesser grasp of. Vanity Fair did a bit of fact checking on his claim.

Ross said that the White House hopes to “turn the moon into a kind of gas station for outer space,” which it will do by using “the dark surfaces that you see when you look up at the moon, [which] are actually hundreds of feet of solid ice”; “break[ing] the ice down into hydrogen and oxygen,” and “us[ing] those as the fuel propellant.” The only problem? According to Dr. Kevin Peter Hickerson, nuclear physicist and Surely You’re Joking host, Ross is ostensibly talking out of his ass.

“Hundreds of feet of solid ice? That’s not even remotely true,” Hickerson told me, noting that the patches Ross referred to are actually ancient lava flows. “Yes, there is water on the moon, but it’s not pure ice, it’s about 0.1 percent of the mass and locked up in rock.” He added that, while there is ice on the moon’s poles, “and we can possibly extract water and make fuel from that . . . it’s not the cost-effective venture he’s suggesting.” Perhaps, Hickerson noted, Ross was referring to the “sci-fi fuel of the future” called Helium-3 that does exist on the moon, but that scientists haven’t figured out how to use yet. “Maybe someone mentioned that to [Ross] and he got confused,” Hickerson posited.