NASA Budgets: Incrementalism vs. Punctuated Equilibrium Theory


This article will attempt to study NASA’s budget as a distribution to investigate changes in NASA’s budget from the years 1957-2014 using cutting-edge theories in political science such as measuring for leptokurtosis and applying a predictive distribution.  Understanding NASA’s budget changes are the crucial first step in understanding how NASA’s budget may change and proponents of NASA might find whether NASA’s budget has been incremental or show punctuations very useful. This paper will use kurtosis mathematical methods and Robinson (2007) calculations for budget changes.


I.    Introduction

NASA’s budget has not been fully understood because NASA’s budget has not been a source of scrutiny in the academic literature. The history of studying budgets may be found in political science works such as Jones et al. [4] yet no one has indeed applied these frameworks to NASA’s budget.

Understanding NASA’s budget will be crucial first step in understanding NASA’s Congressional decision-making process. First, NASA’s empirical budget may be the output to which researchers can calculate back, apply theory, and map the decision-making process. This information will be crucial for proponents looking to get NASA’s budget changed for example.

1.1 Spaceflight in Literature

Prior studies of interest include Steinberg (2011) who studied affect of public opinion on NASA’s budget, finding support for space exploration negatively correlated with NASA budget increases, when properly measuring NASA’s budget as a percentage total of budget [1]. The resulting negative correlation is likely not a relationship worth concern, it is likely that public opinion has no effect on NASA’s budget at all rather than public opinion having a negative effect on NASA spending.

Nadeau (2013) took this correlation a step further and sought predictors for public opinion support for a space exploration budget increase, finding white educated male baby boomers and those who have prior scientific knowledge and education are more likely to support an increase in the federal budget for space exploration. [2]

Nadeau (2013) improperly understood public opinion to have a desired effect on NASA budget spending changes. Instead, it is of note that of understanding that public opinion has a very negligible effect on spending in Washington due to spaceflight being such a negligible amount on overall US budget spending per a given year and taking up a small policy space on the overall US Federal agenda.

These studies do no address NASA’s budget as a source of investigation, and largely miss the point of spending as a variable to study. Spending is a result of a massive decision-making process and cannot be understood in terms of public opinion alone. Congress has a unique process for decision-making and without studying budget changes, it will be difficult to study the decision-making process.

1.2 Describing NASA’s budget

The first step to understanding NASA budget change is to effectively study NASA’s budget itself. If change is studied as a variable other predictors of change may be found to have an effect. Once these mechanisms are understood, proponents of NASA budget change (increases or decreases) may have what they need to pursue change at the federal level.

This study will continue upon prior studies, but in fact start with NASA’s budget as a distribution and analyze spending over time and apply cutting-edge theory in political science: Incrementalism and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory as a first step to determine ways in which NASA’s budget described.

1.3 Incrementalism and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Lindbloom (1959) and Wildavsky (1964) argue budgets are incremental, that is, exhibiting little change in allocation [3]. This is largely due to organizational/institutional friction according to Jones, Sulkin, and Larsen (2003) due to opposing forces within the system working against each other for change, resulting in a zero directional output [4].

Budget allocations are predicted to exhibit little changes because of institutional friction and therefore spaceflight as a policy issue for example would see little change in budget because internal forces cancel out any positive or negative resulting change. The budget would then be incremental, having only small changes per year and never seeing larger changes or shifts in budget spending. After studies measured budget allocations and Incrementalist theory, it was shown budgets in fact are punctuated meaning they show larger changes as incrementalist theory would not have predicted. [5]

Jones (2009) found budget distributions actually follow an Empirical Law of Budget Distributions such that budgets are predicted to show larger changes, contrary to what was predicted by incrementalist theories of budget allocations. [5]  Jones et al. (2003) modeled this distribution output and showed budgets exhibit signitures of Punctuated Equilibrium Thoery; the observed distribution exhibited leptokurtosis as illustrated with fat tails, sharp central peaks, weak shoulders. [6] This was contrary to Incrementalist theory and a new branch of political science was thought to understand why, if budgets are incremental, would exhibit large punctuations.

Punctuated Equilibrium results in punctuations in budget, and this is theorized to be because of the lack of policy reprioritizations that arise when government rethinks a policy issue and changes allocation of funding between issues. This would be shown with a decrease or increase in budget per year given policy issue type. A punctuated budget would predict both stability of incrementalism but with rare dramatic changes. The greatest differences between Incrementalist and Punctuated Equilibrium Theory are that in incrementalist theory changes are small and punctuated equilibrium theory means larger changes are to be expected.

This article will attempt to plot NASA’s budget distribution along with a hypothetical distribution and apply Incrementalism and Punctuated Equilibrium theories to the budget distribution to analyze what type of distribution NASA budget allocation has fallen under. Secondly, this article will analyze changes in NASA’s budget and investigate where the changes have occurred and when. Lastly, this paper will discuss implications these findings may have on spaceflight.

II.    Finding NASA’s budget distribution

2.1 Measurements

We start with 66 observations (one per year of change), NASA’s budget as a percentage change per year over the course of NASA’s history, 1958-2014 as recorded by Policy Agendas Project, now Comparative Agendas Project. I use Policy Agendas Project (updated April 2016) because variables are coded as NASA’s budget rather than Comparative Agendas Project which codes the data under separate policy issues effectively not given NASA’s budget in relation to the total US federal budget. The coding is still consistent over time and effectively isolates NASA’s budget numerically. [8]

I measure percentage change not in Dollars, but as percent total value. I do this because of the zero-sum of attention per year (limited government funding, caps that force unequal allocation as government cannot attend to every issue by distributing money to it and certainly does not attend to every issue equally). This also helps set an even measure for the US federal budget spending outputs over time.) I use coded values that effectively measure NASA’s budget in entirety. There are 66 observations, one per year of NASA’s historical budget.

2.2 Measuring Kurtosis and Changes

Breunig and Jones (2011) effectively measured budget kurtosis using an L-moments test and K-S test using the observed distribution.[9]  We can effectively measure the level of kurtosis in the observed distribution by applying a series of tests, Kurtosis test, K-S test, and increasing tau4 value. [9] Once these tests are finished, it will be clear if the budget exhibits leptokurtosis as consistent with Punctuated Equilibrium Theory.

Another way to measure whether NASA’s observed budget will exhibit characteristics of Incrementalist or Punctuated Equilibrium theory are to measure the amount of changes in spending. If NASA’s observed budget was plotted against a normal budget and the budget were to be broken into different quadrants where the graph intersects such as Robinson (2007), the count of changes can effectively be measured and then compared to the normal gaussian distribution to see if there is a variance between counts. [3]

If the observed distribution is plotted against a normal distribution and plotted against a hypothetical distribution using the mean and variance of distribution, than cut points could be made as indicated by True et al.(2011). This was first done by Robinson (2007). The theory is Punctuated characteristics are an increase in the in the expected proportion of small changes, a decrease in the expected proportion of medium changes, and an increase in the expected proportion of large changes. [3]

III.  Results

3.1 Kurtosis Measurements

If starting at Table 1, it can be shown the discriptive statistics for NASA’s budget distribution output, showing a level of kurtosis given magnitude of the kurtosis, K-S Test, and lastly increasing tau value.  The resultant table is conclusive with Punctuated Equilibrium theory such that the values show kurtosis in the distribution.  Given test results it is clear the observed distribution of NASA budget changes exhibits characteristics of leptokurthic budget distribution signaling towards Punctuated Equilibrium theory of budget changes.

3.2 Changes

The second part of the analysis deals with investigating medium changes, and the observe distribution shows less medium changes that expected signifying punctuated characteristics.  Given there are only 66 observations and not 1000, looking at large changes is negligible given it takes a significant number of observations for rare occurrences to occur. [3]

IV.  Conclusion

In conclusion, it is clear the observed distribution showed signatures of Punctuated Equilibrium theory, as indicated by the results of the first analysis as shown the descriptive statistics of Table 1. The observed distribution passes the litmus test of whether the distribution shows characteristics of leptokurtosis as predicted by Punctuated Equilibrium theory or a normal distribution as predicted by Incrementalism.

Given table 2, is it clear the budget when applied to the hypothetical distribution shows signs of Punctuated equilibrium theory as shown by the observed proportion of small changes greatly out predicts the hypothetical distribution and the predicted amount of medium changes is less than the amount of observed changes.

Further, it is of note the vast information this data presents and how predictors of budget change may find it as the crucial first step to understanding changes. NASA’s budget distribution exhibits characteristics of Punctuated Equilibrium, not Incrementalism. It is incorrect to describe NASA’s budget as Incremental despite the large numbers of small changes. This is simply not enough of a description. NASA’s budget also shows less medium changes than expected with Incrementalism and predicted by the normal distribution. This can still be because of internal forces cancelling out other forces resulting in small changes in the distribution and lack of medium ones.

What this information presents is that NASA’s budget is due for a large change eventually as predicted by the Law of Empirical budgets. NASA’s budget, given 1,000 observations, is likely to erupt in a large change and will not remain in stasis incrementalism forever. The data already with 66 observations show the budget is punctuated not incremental and therefore change is expected.

V.  References

[1] A. Steinberg, Space policy responsiveness: The relationship between public opinion and nasa funding, Space Policy 27:4 (2011) 240–246.

[2] F. Nadeau, Explaining public support for space exploration funding in america: A multivariate analysis, Acta Astronautica 86 (2013) 158–166.

[3] S. E. Robinson, Explaining policy punctuations: Bureaucratization and budget change, Midwest Political Science Association 51:1 (2007) 140–150.

[4] S. T. Jones, Bryan D., H. A. Larsen, Policy punctuations in american political institutions, American Political Science Review 1:1 (2003) 151–169.

[5] J. B. D. True, J., F. Baumgartner, Punctuated-equilibrium theory: Explaining stability and change in american policymaking, Theories of the policy process (2011) 97–115.

[6] B. D. Jones, et al., A general empirical law of public budgets: A comparative analysis, American Journal of Political Science 405 (2009) 885–873.

[7] S. T. Jones, Bryan D., H. A. Larsen, Policy punctuations in american political institutions, American Political Science Review 1.

[8] F. Baumgartner, B. D. Jones, The Policy Agendas Project, University of Texas at Austin, 2013.

[9] C. Breunig, B. D. Jones, Stochastic process methods with an application to budgetary data, Political Analysis 19 (2011) 103–117.

VI.  Graphs and Tables




Short Explanation of Space Policy & History

Short Explanation of Space Policy & History

By Dominique Awis

17 Nov 2016

The United States has the authority and legitimacy to conduct outer space activities because of U.S. space policy; space policy is an integration of both foreign and domestic policy, foreign policy through international law and relations and domestic policy through scientific research, education, and largely technological development. [1]

NASA was effectively established in 1958 when two executive orders by President Eisenhower transferred Department of Defense functions to NASA (Executive Order no. 10783,10793).  The Department of Defense had began space-related research and activities since the 1940s, largely with atmospheric and rocketry science. [2]  NASA integrated itself with other institutions such as NACA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and various U.S. propulsion laboratories. [2]

NASA’s main goals listed in the unamended National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 Congressional Declaration of Policy and Purpose are to do some combination of the following: a) peaceful purposes of outer space, b) aeronautical and space activities for state security, c) expansion of human knowledge of atmospheres and space, and d) development of aeronautical and space vehicle technologies.  The amended National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 includes Earth science, the commercial use of space, international cooperation of space activities, bioengineering research, ground propulsion systems, and potential hazards of near-Earth objects.


Space policy is a modern phenomena as the US government has grown in complexity over time, and therefore has increased attention to areas once not within the agenda sphere of the U.S. government.  The U.S. government created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA, as a result of this increased attention.  NASA was established when the U.S. government began to allocate attention to space, science, and technology policy in the 1950s and was mandated by law to focus attention to this area of policy. [3]  

The increase of attention to space, science, and technology policy, the creation of NASA is also largely credited from the pressures of national defense [2] such that the Space Race was a result of a crisis. Historians Logsdon (1970), Launius (1994), Beschloss (1997) have found that the US initiated the Space Race in the 1960s as a competition with the Soviet Union. [4]  The US is famously the first regime to place a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth in July 1969, effectively “winning” the Cold War Space Race.

  • dA

[1] Steinberg, 2011. Space policy responsiveness: the relationship between public opinion and NASA funding.

[2] Garber and Launius, 2005. A Brief History of NASA: Launching NASA.

[3] Jones and Baumgartner, 2005. The Politics of Attention: How Governments Prioritize Problems.

[4] Kay, 2003. Problem Definitions and Policy Contradictions: JKF and the Space Race.

Crash Course in Space Policy


Dominique M. Awis

BA Political Science

College of Charleston

May 2015


 .pdf available here:


Crash Course U.S. Space Policy 

Tweet or message to @spaceloss on Twitter for further help

4 Week Course


Week 1:

The Space Race, Creation of NASA, and Space History

Space Act of 1958



Logsdon, Introduction and Chapter One

Logsdon, John. Decision to Go to the Moon. 1970. MIT.



Sadeh, “Historical Dimensions of Space Age,” by Launius

Sadeh, Eligar. Space Politics and Policy. 2002/3. Kluwer Academic Publishers

Week 2:


Rationales for Space Exploration

 Sadeh, “Rationales of the Space Program,” by Handberg



Launius, Chapter 2

Week 3:


US Presidents and space exploration

 Logsdon, “10 presidents and NASA”



Sadeh, “Presidents and Space Policy,” by Krug

Week 4:


Congress and space exploration

  Sadeh, “Congress and Space Policy,” by Johnson-Freese



Hogan, Chapter 6. “SEI, Policy Streams, and Punctuated Equilibrium”

Hogan, Thor. Mars Wars. 2007.

*** Leave the rest up to you!! ^.^  





On NASA and “the fetish for the artifact”

On the “Fetish for the Artifact”

NASA’s dangerous venture into Technocratic Progress and why the US needs to realign civil space to serve National Security interests

By Dominique M. Awis

15 November 2016

Walter McDougal’s Pulitzer Prize winning book (a part of Roger Launius’ coined New Aerospace History) credits Soviet involvement in the Space Race of the 1950s and 1960s as stemming from Bolshevism (progress) and Communist lead technocracy, or leadership from technical experts.

The US, when seeing how a secure nation might benefit from technocratic progress, took up arms against the Soviets and entered the Space Race, effectively beating the Soviets to the Moon.  

In 1957 and 1958 Congress held many hearings with witnesses from all branches of the military to come together in an agreement on how to proceed, and a civilian agency was created called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

As Scott Pace tells us, Apollo days were geopolitical, meaning: long gone.  We effectively have no Space Race, we’ve already won.  As WD Kay would ask, [now] “what are the US’ space problems?”

Bottom line: we don’t have a direct space “problem” to solve; we just have an agency and money to get things done.  How can we use it to our best interests if we have no “enemy” to defeat and no objective to complete (Apollo)?

NASA hasn’t helped.  NASA is too focused on the progress and not focused on the Nation’s best interests.  For example, NASA was ordered by Congress to locate nearly all “city destroyer” sized asteroids, and NASA, a decade later, is still only at roughly 25% observations of those asteroids.  Without tracking them, it would be hard to protect ourselves and our cities from them.

You had one job NASA.

This is where the term “fetish for the artifact” comes into play.  The artifact is the machine, the science, the vehicle, the progress.  One gets so wrapped in the “fetish” (progress) and “artifact” (advancement) that one forgets civil space policy’s real purpose: to aid civilians and the government that serves us.  If we’re only chasing tomorrow’s progress, we’re missing out on what space can achieve for us today.

Here’s what I propose:  

  1. Going to the Moon: Lot’s of security there; communicating with China and Russia yet keeping them at a safe distance.
  2. Privitization or rather, boosting commercial space industries instead of allowing NASA 16 billion on its own.  Give SpaceX some Mars money.
  3. End NASA’s climate crusade and let it focus on space and give NOAA NASA’s infrasctructure to handle the climate (the real climate agency should handle it to be fair).

**** dA

Free Path Loss

Free Path Loss

By Dominique M. Awis

December 20 2016

Planet Earth is ravaged by civil unrest and destruction, humanity has ultimately destroyed itself.

Meanwhile, the robotic sentient being on a planet called Elonia in Alpha C bear witness to humanity’s destruction and send a league of their best as humanity’s last hope of survival.

Alpha C – Elonia

Tori sat, shoulders stretched over his computer, watching colored lights flash along his screen.  He inhaled, took a sip of his hot organic liquid drink, and began touching the screen furiously with one hand.  Today was going to be a long day.

Humanity was at it’s near end.  Humanity, the faithful little animal and ‘human’ planet Elonians have been observing for decades.  Humanity lived on Earth, the third planet from Sol.  Elonians observed Humanity around its own star Alpha Centauri.  It was humanity that taught our sentience about passion and hope, about destruction and chaos.

Worst part about Humanity was its disregard for not only its human life, but of the animals whom Elonians have been really observing these past few decades.  Animals.  The four legged creatures, the hunters, the wanderers, the forgotten; or the sea creatures: the turtles, the sharks, the whales that breathe oxygen… All these animals we worshipped on Elonia.  And the Humans threatened to destroy it over politics.

Tori sat and sipped his organic drink and sighed again to himself.  Well, at least we always have the plants.


Clutch grappled her waist belt fixed with all sorts of gadgets, and waited patiently until a couple walked past her on the market square.  After the couple was out of sight, she walked briskly across the street towards a small kiosk tucked off the street, somewhat hidden in shadows of a sunny afternoon.

Clutch approached the kiosk, and a small robot greeted her.  
“Hey Clutch!  Back for the usual?”

“Not today,” replied Clutch.  She touched her waist belt again.  “Company duty.”

“Right, right…” said the small robot.  The robot slipped her a small piece of paper with some numbers sczn6igjvqaa5xsvcribbled on them.

“Thank Meti,” Clutch said quietly.  She nodded towards the small robot and darted out of sight.

Clutch heard Meti whistle a tune as she czn6igkuuaacixswalked off quickly, Rolling Stones probably.  Earth music was very popular here, as was Humanity in general.  Clutch remember when she heard the news Humanity was on the brink of destroying itself, and nearly all its wildlife.  Clutch would not let that happen.  Humanity’s survival was too important to Elonia.  

She ran quickly through the streets towards a large square building covered in glass panels.  Company headquarters.  Her pace slowed as lasers scanned her as she walked up the brick-covered ground floor.  Entering the building, she took an elevator up to the fourth floor.


Tori was sitting in his chair, watching a Human documentary about lions, and wondering what it’d be like to on safari when he heard footsteps through the hallway and a loud bang on his door.

czn6igkusaaps_uHe look up and saw a female sentient, gears exposed as the symbol of a former soldier, waist belt full of gear as a soldier often carries.  Her face pressed against the glass and she wore a stupid grin on her face.

“Look what I got, Tori!” She exclaimed and pressed a piece of small paper up against the glass.

“Dammit Clutch!” Tori growled.  He got out of his chair, nearly spilling his hot drink, and pressed a finger to open the sliding glass door.

Barging in, Clutch took a sit in Tori’s chair.

“Let’s see the codes,” Tori said.  Clutch handed him the piece of paper and smiled widely again.  “It’s up to us to save the lions,” she said pointing at Tori’s screen.  Tori closed his browser window.

“Alright, alright, I have work to do,” Tori said.  It was up to them to save Humanity and therefore the wildlife after all.


Clutch waited patiently for Tori to work.  She didn’t know what he was doing exactly save pressing symbols and numbers on a colored screen.  The screen moved too quickly for her to follow; Tori was fast at his work.  

She was eager to see what the codes would produce, but as a soldier knew to take her time and wait when waiting was called for.  At the Battle of Bast, she had waited days for her comrades to relieve her; she sat still for 5 days preserving all her organic calories until she was rescued.  Her body was programmed to endure the hardest work, her body produced chemicals for her muscles to run for dozens of hours, to lift the heaviest objects, and to take on intense physical damage.  Her mind was her own, and this took great strength of mind.  Training for her mind to endure what her body was built to was hard but proven to kept her alive all this time.  

And she was prepared to wait.

“Got it!” Tori said pleased.  He wiped sweat from his brow and leaned back in his chair, arms folded touching the back of his head.  

The screen changed into the familiar white noise of the distance from Alpha C to Elonia, sprinkled with the noise of the cosmic microwave background.  The screen flashed an assortment of colors in stripes, then a podium could be seen with familiar flags in the background.

“What’s up Earth?”  Clutch said smiling.


Sol – Earth

Esther scanned the reporters huddled in the massive White House Press Room, most of them, prepared with their cameras and microphones, awaiting the President’s arrival.  She could see big named reporters from newspapers from the US’ largest cities.  They were awaiting the President to ease their concerns; humanity was in danger and the Press was prepared to make it known to the public.

The doors to the Press Room opened and President Obamer walked in with his press secretary, a good friend of Esters, as well as Eshai, the President’s personal assistant robot.  Eshai had earned the highest grade military service of any robot and earned the President’s highest esteem, yet never took office himself despite public opinion of doing so.

Ester approached the podium.  “The President is here and will give the Press a short briefing of the task at hand, then the floor will open up for questions.  Mr. President please,” she ushered with her hands.

The President said a few words, mostly bringing up the disaster than had befallen mankind.  Mankind was ravaged by a disease that plagued software, and effectively data transfer had ceased to exist.  Banks were communicating through robots transporting data, space based electronic cut off from solar storms, asteroids were taking out cities in massive numbers.  The world was in crisis.

Ester waited for the President to discuss how the Administration was handling the problems, mostly through communicating with separate agencies to ensure proper handling of disaster relief.

As the President spoke, Ester thought of the massive rallies around the world about robotic rights and how Mankind’s dependency on hardware was a source of outrage from the American people.  She closed her eyes and thought of how much trouble the Administration was in and brainstormed further ways to control public outrage.  For now, the Administration was taking the crisis one day at a time and her Administration was in damage control mode.  She had to figure out solution to these crisies and fast or else humanity was doomed.


Alpha C- Elonia

“Well, that was hopeful,” Clutch said smiling.  She looked at Tori who only shook his head.

“I have more work to finish,” he said, putting his drink away and closing the browser window.  “I’ll send you a backup of this recording,” he told Clutch and turned his back to her.

“Good because I have more business to attend to,” Clutch said.  As Clutch was leaving, she heard a knock on Tori’s door and Zube entered.

“Hey Clutch, I have a favor to ask,” he said, handing Clutch a flash drive.  I need this delivered to this address.  Clutch scanned the address, saved it to her memory, and placed the flash drive in a small pocked on her gearbelt.

“And I need it deliver quick,” Zube said.

“I got this,” Clutch said and walked out the door.  She headed back down the hallway and threw the elevator and exited the building.

“I got your fast,” she said and entering traffic, forged her body on all fours like a vehicle.  She could feel her muscles changing shapes, her bones forming new joints.  She ran down the street faster than any motorcylce and pretended she was running with a pack of wild cheetas.




Why space needs a popular revolution

Why space needs a popular revolution

by: Dominique M. Awis

13 November 2016

Dr. Alan Steinberg (2011) performed one of the most important studies in the small yet interesting canon of the quantitative space political sciences by finding the crucial relationship between public opinion and NASA spending: a negative relationship was found suggesting as spaceflight gains popularity and support, NASA’s budget will actually decrease.

Upon repeating this analysis using a wider range of days yet the same metric of measurements, this correlation stays the same: negative.  Since the budget hasn’t increased all that much since the 1970s (Graph 1), popular support may appear to actually be working against a NASA budget increase (Graph 2).

[Graph 1] and [Graph 2]

The relationship shows that while public opinion of spaceflight is overall popular with the public, positive popularity really isn’t helping space’s cause.  There might be many reasons for this but one is mainly that public opinion of space, despite being popular, doesn’t have an effect on space flight spending at all.

Space as a popular issue with the public doesn’t mean that much in Washington

This is likely because space policy isn’t all that popular in DC (demand for it by states) and that overall while the public is on board with spaceflight spending, they lack the motivation to push government for it.  One thing is certain: our remedy that increasing popular support for spaceflight incrementally is going to dramatically increase NASA spending is not working.  Incremental efforts don’t yield dramatic results; dramatic efforts could however.  Wonks typically have one remedy for getting a popular issue on the government or commercial table for a budget increase: popular crisis.  

Space needs a popular revolution.

Space needs a crisis and fast.  A good crisis; the kind of crisis you rally behind to promote an idea that will fix actually everyday problems.  A popular crisis.  A revolution in fact.  Space wonks need to get the word out that investing money and effort into space now is going to fix popular problems.  What popular problems can space fix?  Space can “fix” all sorts of “problems” ranging from national prestige and defense, to economic and scientific problems, even more modern rationales for space spending such as humanitarianism, sustainability, and species survival, but these “fixes” don’t address popular “problems.”  We don’t quite have a problem of species survival despite Elon Musk’s futuristic concerns.  So how can we make space a solution to a popular problem?

Everyone can use a little escape especially given the current economic and political climate.

Escape isn’t a tough sell given the economic difficulties and borderline toxic political discourse and “selling space” isn’t hard given space is a free and unlimited resource.  

Space …..

Good luck everyone!!

Citation: Steinberg (2011) Space Policy Responsiveness: the relationship between public opinion and NASA funding. Space Policy Journal.


Crucial thanks to Dr. Matthew Nowlin from College of Charleston whom I’ve learned a great deal about policy process models and budgets under the advisement as a research assistant June-November 2015.  I would also like to thank Dr. Jordan Ragusa also from the College whom I’ve learned a great deal about public opinion research while his research assistant June-July 2016.

spaceloss blogthoughts – Oct/Nov.


spaceloss blogthoughts

Oct/Nov. 2016                              



spaceloss, very limited


.pdf available here:  awis_spacex__gilleygazettenewspapertemplate-16



Dominique M. Awis

B.A. Political Science ||

College of Charleston ||


Dear Reader,

I don’t write typically.

Thanks and best,


Mars (Pics: NASA)

Crucial Thanks

Thank you, Reader, for taking the time to read the articles presented here.  I have tried the best to give proper credit where credit is due.  This includes crediting journals, journalists, Representatives, public figures, photographers, etc. to my greatest and humblest confidence.  Forgive me Twitter, if you say some clever verbatim I will mention, however, I do not have adequate access to credit individuals.  I also try to write from memory and thoughts alone, without clinging to notes to build a blog that isn’t reseach heavy as a break from my normal routine.  Forgive me and thanks again.  dA

Human Exploration to Mars and US policy

By dA

It’s no secret that the U.S. government has plans to eventually get to Mars, however, a point that is largely missed here is the natural inefficiency of government to get things done.  A wonk might use the term “institutional friction” here, largely, forces working against the system to get the system changed or competing forces for change within the system, however when it comes to Mars one may conclude we don’t have a direct plan to get humans there.


We do however have unlimited routes for the US government to take, we have companies like SpaceX and our own government agency NASA to do the heavy lifting for us, and we have a total of about $16 billion tax dollars per year to spend.  We have a new Presidency coming in 2016, and therefore a new space agenda to be set.  One can only hope for the best and expect Congress to match the President’s direction.

SpaceX and Mars Colonization

By dA

Mulling over recent coverage of fatal SpaceX firexplosion (Twitter) or rather, anomaly, upon which a payload valued at $200 million dollars (largely a Facebook satellite meant to bring internet to poor South Africans) was destroyed, I’ve concluded SpaceX has isolated the incident to a problem through SpaceX’s own fault, with fueling the spacecraft.  Skipping any and all hype about the incident, I wanted to move on and discuss SpaceX involvement and plans to colonize Mars.

Elon Musk gave a rather boring but rich-in-content, hour-long presentation about SpaceX’s ambitious plans to go to Mars, this past 27 September.  There are quite a few articles that explain Musk’s details of the plans, and I encourage reading many articles about the “lecture”, or simply watching the presentation yourself.

In conclusion, the current price for ticket to Mars would be 10 billion dollars, far more money than anyone, even perhaps Musk, has for the venture.  The tricky part is lowering the cost of the ticket.  My next point will be criticism from those who look at Mars as an endeavor that can be achieved with let’s say, $10 billion.  This is too high of a cost to pour money into.  The price of this “ticket” must simply come down, and Musk either 1) Foresees the prices to drop; or 2) needs $10 billion to get his project off the ground.

The crucial detail here is you can’t “colonize” Mars without getting humans there first, and without humans occupying Mars land in some form, through NASA or SpaceX, etc, then we simply don’t have human exploration of Mars program.  We have visions and plans, costs, benefits and investors, astronauts, physicists, lawyers and engineers, but we lack a human presence simply because the technology for an affordable ticket for one individual just isn’t there (yet).    

Sci-Tech Today covers SpaceX explosion inquiry results in more detail: “SpaceX Closer to Understanding Rocket Explosion at Pad” by Marcia Dunn.  Dated: 1 November 2016

SpaceX HQ is located in

Hawthorne, CA.

Spaceloss Blogthoughts page 2
Attracting the Talent for Tourism

By dA

Talent is key here.  We need a massive amount of talent to create the technological advances to cut down the costs of making Mars tourism possible.  This talent isn’t going to come from SpaceX alone.  In Musk’s late september presentation, a question was asked about allowing international employees to work at SpaceX to which excitement arose (I mean, who doesn’t pretend they work with SpaceX?), to which Musk responded about the law prohibitions and “Green Cards”, etc.

This is largely missing the point.  To Aldo from said lecture, who expressed concern regarding water systems and Burning Man, these are the types of innovators who will be largely key in bringing costs down with their ideas and efforts.  International companies, even small startups, can create a water filtrations systems, and attract investors by being adaptable to harsh environments such as deserts.  Creating a project that successfully serves hundreds or thousands of people can create a piece of technology that will serve an important purpose now and perhaps cut the cost of a ticket to Mars down in the future.

Attracting the Workforce

By dA

Talent is one thing, a talented workforce is another.  Talent comes from an idea, a company, investors, scientists, artists, engineers, etc.  A talented workforce are individuals that are motivated, willing to put in hard work and willing to wait until benefits may be reached.  A talented workforce isn’t afraid of making tough decisions that could potentially ruin a project, and still be motivated enough to try again and re-attack the problem, often re-starting from a difficult point.  Individuals make crucial decisions, prepare for consequences, and must be resilient.

These traits sound easy and no-brainers, and of course things are far easier said than achieved.  Young people need inspiration and motivation, they need to be inspired and need room to grow, but they also need to be disciplined, trained to anticipate failure, and able to making tough decisions in a short time.  Individuals are resilient and far more capable than we often give credit for, however, these traits are hard to measure and often a huge problem or disastrous inevitability must happen before the desired traits in individuals are tested and proved.  NASA is an agency that has proven itself countless times to bounce back, redirect projects, change management, rebrand, and reproduce.  Credit to both NASA and SpaceX for their stunning project achievements and successful workforce management.  

Photo Credits

Page 1

  [1]  National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  [2]  National Aeronautics and Space Administration