Mike Pence’s space council is big on business, small on science

Its new advisory board makes clear that the priority is commercial and military space applications.

Yesterday evening, Vice President Mike Pence announced the candidates asked to serve on the National Space Council's Users Advisory Group. Members will have to be officially selected by the Administrator of NASA (a position which remains open). The selections draw heavily from the space industry, including former astronauts and executives from private spaceflight companies, and a few conservative political appointees.

The full list of appointees is as follows:

  • Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut

  • Tory Bruno, President and CEO of United Launch Alliance

  • Wes Bush, CEO of Northrop Grumman

  • Dean Cheng, Scholar at the Heritage Foundation

  • Eileen Collins, 4-time Shuttle astronaut, first female shuttle commander

  • Steve Crisafulli, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives

  • Mary Lynne Dittmar, President and CEO of The Coalition for Deep Space Exploration

  • Adm. Jim Ellis, Retired 4-star Admiral, former head of STRATCOM, and member of the Space Foundation Board of Directors

  • Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space

  • Newt Gingrich, Author, former Speaker of the House

  • Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation

  • Homer Hickam, Author of the book "Rocket Boys" and former NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center engineer

  • Governor Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama

  • Fred Klipsch, Founder and Chairman of Hoosiers for Quality Education

  • Les Lyles, Retired 4-star Air Force General and member of the NASA Advisory Council

  • Pam Melroy, 3-time Shuttle astronaut and former Deputy Director of the Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

  • Dennis Muilenburg, CEO of the Boeing Company

  • Fatih Ozmen, CEO of the Sierra Nevada Corporation

  • G.P. Bud Peterson, President of the Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Jack Schmitt, Apollo 17 Astronaut and former Senator

  • Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX

  • Bob Smith, CEO of Blue Origin

  • Eric Stallmer, President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

  • David Thompson, Founder and CEO of Orbital ATK

  • Pamela Vaughan, Board Certified Science Teacher

  • Mandy Vaughn, President of VOX Launch Company

  • Stu Witt, Founder of Mojave Air and Spaceport, former Navy pilot, former Chairman of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

  • David Wolf, 4-time Shuttle astronaut and physician

  • Pete Worden, Former Air Force General and NASA Ames Center Director

There are definitely some expected names on this list: Executives from Blue Origin, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada, the United Launch Alliance and more are present to represent the interests of private spaceflight companies. There are also military interests, engineers and former astronauts. There isn't much science represented on this list (though Jack Schmitt was a scientist-astronaut); it makes clear that the focus of this administration in space is on commercial and military applications. And of course, there are also some conservative political appointments, such as Newt Gingrich, Steve Crisafulli and Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation.

President Trump revived the National Space Council last year. It will advise the president on matters concerning space and coordinate different sectors, from commercial interests to exploration. The Council is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence.