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Reagan and Obama: A Comparison of Space Policy

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Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama both served two terms as president of the United States. As president, both men enjoyed a measure of success with the space program and NASA in general. Each president chose a different set of goals for NASA, however. These goals reflect the presidents’ views on America’s place in the world as a scientific and commercial leader as well as the times in which the two presidents served. President Ronald Reagan inherited the space policy of his predecessor, Jimmy Carter and was not satisfied with its current objectives and lack of direction (Logsdon, 1995). He put together a transition team to draft a new chapter for NASA which was left in an “untenable position” by Carter’s lack of direction for the agency. The NASA transition team leader, George Low, remarked that NASA can be “the best in American accomplishment and inspiration for all citizens” (Logsdon, 1995). The team provided input to Reagan that would drive space policy during his eight year tenure. Reagan was a free-market capitalist and felt that America’s space interests were best served by a public and private partnership. Economically the United States was just digging itself out of a long period of stagflation and budgets were tight. To ease the burden on taxpayers and create a sustainable space program, he and Congress passed the Commercial Space Launch Act of 1984 which set the stage for the partnership between NASA and the private industry that endures today (Kay,
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