16.891J | Spring 2003 | Graduate

Space Policy Seminar


A 1-page memo on a relevant topic is due almost every week. These 1-page memos are typical of what a high-level decision maker would expect when they ask you for background information or your recommendation. Memos must be clearly written, succinct, and give make a reasoned case to a decision-maker. They will be graded for spelling and grammar as well as good aesthetic presentation.

Detailed Description of 1-Page Memo Assignments

Memo based on Stone’s reading

You are a special assistant to the President of the United States for Space Matters and you have only been on the job for one day. The President has just read the first two chapters of the Stone book “Policy Paradox” and likes the cake story. He wants a one page memo from you that pairs each of the cake distribution methods cited with a government policy (past or present) that is based on that method. He would like you to use space policies but would understand if you cannot.

Satellite Flyover Memo

It is 1956. You are the National Security Advisor to President Eisenhower, and the President would like to understand the implications of over flight of US sovereign territory by satellites of foreign origin. Since this has never happened before, he has asked you for a 1 page memo describing the potential courses of action (responses) the US could take if the Soviet Union were the first to overfly the US with a satellite. He wants the memo on his desk in the Oval Office in one week.

Moon mission architecture based memo

It is 1963 and you are the Science Adviser to the President. The President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), which you chair, has recommended the development of an earth orbit infrastructure for the lunar missions. This will develop infrastructure for the long term but delay the moon landing. President Kennedy has asked you for a 1 page memo advising him on what to do about the PSAC recommendation- should he take it or reject it?

Apollo Memo

It is 1970. The Congress is considering terminating the Apollo program, and discontinuing all missions after Apollo 17. You are a Committee Staffer for the House Science Subcommittee on Space, and have been asked by the Subcommittee Chair to write a 1-page memo detailing the important reasons to continue the Apollo Program. In the memo, you should also address the chief arguments for terminating the Program and rebut these. The Chair eagerly expects your memo in one week, at which time he goes to battle with opposing Subcommittee members.

Challenger Memo

It is late afternoon on January 28, 1986. In wake of the Challenger explosion that morning, the NASA Administrator has appointed you head of a select NASA committee chartered to recommend a course of action for the Agency in response to the tragedy. The Administrator has asked you for a 1-page memo describing what NASA should do to reestablish the American people’s faith in the space program and get the space shuttles flying safely again as soon as possible. He is particularly concerned with what attitude NASA should portray to the American people, and how much they should know about the accident. He wants your memo in one week.

ISS Hab Module Decision Memo

You are the Special Assistant to the NASA Associate Administrator for Space Station. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recommended to President Clinton that NASA discontinue funding for the International Space Station Habitation Module as currently planned, and instead procure a habitation module commercially. The Associate Administrator has asked you for a 1 page memo detailing what course of action NASA should pursue and why. Specifically, she needs to know if she should concur with the OMB recommendation or go against it.

Moon Treaty Decision Memo

You are a Committee Staffer for the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space. The UN Moon Treaty has been passed to your Subcommittee for review and comment. The Chairman of this Subcommittee, Senator Frist, has asked you for a 1 page memo on whether or not the Senate should ratify the Treaty. As always, he expects a sound justification to back up your recommendation. He is meeting with the full Subcommittee soon, and wants your recommendation at that time in order to present it to the subcommittee members.

Next US Space Endeavor Memo

You are the Assistant Director for Space at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Your boss, the Science Advisor to President Bush, has been asked by the President for a recommendation on the next space project the US should undertake. Your boss has asked you for a 1 page memo describing several project options, and recommending which one the OSTP should back. He reminds you that you work for the President, and any projects should support his agenda for the country. He needs the memo in a week, as he has an afternoon meeting with the President a week from today and will need a some time to review your recommendations.