The SPACE Act
The measure of a person is what they do with power. Pittacus, considered one of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, is the person to whom this quote is attributed. He considered his role as a populist governor the common man’s approach to common sense law making. Popular rule, or rule by the people, has evolved since humans first started living and working cooperatively.
The Athenians in ancient Greece documented their systems of rules and law. Possibly this is one reason western civilization is more familiar with democracy. Demos is the Greek word for people, krates is the Greek work for rule. People rule. Power forms the foundation of government, society and religion.
There are physical laws of power that describe and predict how natural phenomenon occur. They are codified in the laws of physics. The laws that govern citizens of the United States are captured in our codes, regulations and laws. We elect our leaders in Congress to represent us. Our laws proscribe conduct, they do not predict but rather dictate how we conduct ourselves, our business, and govern our cities, counties and states.
Most of the time, we the people don’t like the job of law making. We elect people to represent us and they make our laws. This process implies a great deal of trust in our fellow humans. Ronald Regan assured the American people when working with Michael Gorbachev on nuclear arms limitation, he would trust but verify. Presidents was one of the most trusted Presidents since Lincoln. How do we find the sweet spot when extending trust?
Steven M.R. Covey wrote in his book, The Speed of Trust, extending smart trust is part of how we govern ourselves. He mentioned law professor Stephen Carter’s observation, “Civility has two part; generosity when it is costly, and trust, even when there is risk.” Extending trust is one of the hardest things I do. It is the constant challenge of parenting and leading.
Recently the commercial space industry witnessed debate in Congress by the House of Representatives Science Committee which approved four commercial space bills. The law is an update to the commercial launch law called the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship, or SPACE Act.
The bill’s central provisions include extending the “learning period” that limits regulation of commercial human spaceflight safety through 2023. This provision allows companies like Virgin Galactic to continue to work and plan their flight test program. Congress has decided, based on input from commercial space companies, to continue limiting regulation on this industry.
Our congressional delegation of course watches out for our spaceport. Congressman Lujan’s office called me to verify, will this extension of the learning period impact our spaceport. Yes. Positively. The House passed H.R. 2262, the Spurring Private Aerospace Competitiveness and Entrepreneurship (SPACE) Act, on a 284-133 vote after nearly two hours of debate. Nearly 50 Democrats joined almost all the chamber’s Republicans in voting for the bill.
“This bill is the future of space,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science Committee, during floor debate of H.R. 2262. The bill, he said, “facilitates a pro-growth environment for the developing commercial space sector.” House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is the lead sponsor of the SPACE Act.
Keep in mind, our neighbors to the east have 1 FAA licensed spaceport in Midland. This spaceport will be the operations center of XCOR Aerospace. There is one private spaceport owned by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin – a commercial space launch company, and 2 launch sites owned and operated by SpaceX.
Some members of the House, and the FAA’s Office of Space Commercialization, believe the learning period should end sooner rather than later. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, led the debate against the bill.
Edwards specifically mentioned the bill’s extension of the regulatory learning period, as well as requiring spaceflight participants to sign cross-waivers of liability with launch providers. The requirement of the cross-waivers required of the people who will fly out of our spaceport has already been addressed by our legislature in New Mexico.
The Senate still has to weigh in on the SPACE Act. Most believe the current bill will have changes, but the general belief is the learning period will be extended. Do we need to strictly regulate this industry right now? The laws of physics dictate how the vehicles will perform. The sweet spot for smart trust in the commercial space industry is leaning toward extending trust. I’m pretty sure there will be some of Ronald Regan’s philosophy in there once the Senate gets involved. I will keep you informed, as I watch how the Senate uses their power.