A Radically Easier Path to Space Settlement

By Al Globus

Copyright © 2016 Al Globus
Published in the French language magazine Diplomatie
PDF version of this article

Very smart and capable people have been dreaming about space settlement for decades, but these dreams have not come to fruition. Why? Because building space settlements is extraordinarily difficult. There are two ways to overcome this: a lot of money or an easier way. An enormous pile of government money doesn’t seem to be headed our way, but it turns out there is a much easier way.

The location of the usual space settlement suspects includes the Moon, Mars, asteroids, and the Earth-Moon L5 point (or other high Earth orbit). They all suffer from one very serious problem: they are very far away, anywhere from 363,000 to 400,000,000 km from Earth. This makes everything we want to do extremely difficult.

All space settlements need pressurized habitat, power systems, thermal control, communications, life support, materials recycling, and radiation shielding. As radiation levels in space are high compared with Earth, the mass of the radiation shielding completely dominates the mass of most space settlement designs because inadequate shielding can lead to cancer, cataracts, and sterility. In orbits beyond Earth’s magnetic field, radiation protection requires about seven tons of water, or eleven tons of lunar regolith, per square meter of hull and a little bit less on the surface of Mars or the Moon. This amounts to millions of tons of material for a settlement big enough that people might actually enjoy living in it once the excitement of moving to space wears off, perhaps 100 m across at least. If the radiation shielding was not needed space settlement would be vastly easier. [See “Orbital Space Settlement Radiation Shielding,” Al Globus and Joe Strout, preprint, June 2016, which contains data and references for radiation related claims in this article.]

Figure 1. Radiation measurements taken on the ISS (International Space Station). Note the very low levels (blue) near the equator, which is on the horizontal line starting at 0 on Latitude scale. Image credit NASA.
Figure 1. Radiation measurements taken on the ISS (International Space Station). Note the very low levels (blue) near the equator, which is on the horizontal line starting at 0 on Latitude scale. Image credit NASA.

It is our incredibly good luck that there is a region of space, very close to Earth, where radiation levels are much, much lower than at the usual suspects. This is Low Earth Orbit (LEO) directly over the equator (or ELEO)—see figure 1. The Earth’s magnetic field protects this region from all but a small fraction of space radiation, albeit the most energetic part. Radiation levels are so low that below about 500 km it is possible, even likely, that no dedicated radiation shielding will be necessary. This means that a 100 m diameter cylindrical settlement in ELEO might have a mass of around 8.5 kTons, hundreds of times less than above the Earth’s magnetic field. [See “Space Settlement: an Easier Way,” by Al Globus, Stephen Covey, and Daniel Faber, June 2016, which contains data and references for settlement related claims in this article.] This entire mass could be launch by about 160 Falcon Heavy launches. This is not for a few capsules connected by tunnels, but an open living area comparable in size to a large cruise ship with zero-g recreation at the axis of rotation, full 1-g pseudogravity just inside the hull, and recreational space walks.

Figure 2. Artist concept of a small early space settlement. Note the curvature necessary to generate pseudogravity by rotation. Image credit Bryan Versteeg.
Figure 2. Artist concept of a small early space settlement. Note the curvature necessary to generate pseudogravity by rotation. Image credit © Bryan Versteeg.

If you are familiar with free space settlement issues you might object that to get Earth-normal pseudogravity with a 100 m diameter you need to rotate a settlement at about four rpm (revolutions per minute), which will make many people sick. That is true, but it is also true that people adapt to rotation at four rpm within a few hours or days and are subsequently just fine. If you were to move to Nepal you would be altitude sick for a few days, but Nepal is still a beautiful place to live. [See “Space Settlement Population Rotation Tolerance,” Al Globus and Theodore Hall, preprint, June 2015, which contains data and references for human response to rotation claims in this article.]

You might also note that most Mars/Lunar settlement schemes involve putting a module on the Martian/Lunar surface with far less than 160 launches. But that’s for a module a few meters across, similar to vehicles that have been in LEO off and on since the 1960s and much smaller than the ISS which has been continuously inhabited since 2000. For a given size, the total mass of the material needed from Earth for early ELEO vs Mars/Lunar settlements is about the same. Low radiation levels in ELEO mean settlements there require little or no radiation shielding. Although radiation levels on the Martian/Lunar surface are high, about half that in free-space, local materials can be used for radiation shielding. However, Mars/Lunar residents will rarely leave their habitat due to the radiation and LEO development will continue to be far ahead because LEO is at least 100,000 times closer than Mars and 720 times closer than the Moon giving ELEO a massive logistical advantage.

While space settlement may be vastly easier to get started in ELEO than anywhere else, it is still a massive task. Launch vehicle prices need to come down by a factor of perhaps 50, reliable nearly-closed large-scale life support must be developed, and a million engineering problems must be solved so that people can live comfortably, safely, and enjoyably in space. Absent a gigantic pile of government money, how can this been done? One word: tourism.

Tourism can supply the two things essential to market-driven equatorial LEO settlement development:

  1. A very high flight rate to make fully reusable launchers economically viable. We estimate at least > 10,000 flights per year is needed, compared to < 100 today.
  2. A market for ever larger and more sophisticated space hotels starting with the ISS.

Seven paying tourists have flown to the ISS (one twice) on a 7-10 day trip, but right now no seats are for sale. Rumor has it that the first few space tourists paid about $20 million and the most recent flight was on the market for $50 million. While this is discouraging (the price is absurdly high and headed in the wrong direction) surveys suggest that if someone could drop the price a bit, much larger numbers of people would want to go.

The good news is that the best advertised price to fly to LEO so far is $26.25 million, although the vehicle is still in development. If this is successful and makes a profit, as more flights are booked economies of scale can reduce the price, which in turn increases the size of the market, which enables a reduction in price, which increases the size of the market … and so on. We need to get on this virtuous spiral of dropping costs leading to bigger markets leading to lower cost. If the cost is low enough the market is measured in millions of customers per year, which is the sort of market needed for the kind of low-cost high-flight-rate transportation system necessary to settle space regardless of destination.

All those tourists need somewhere to go, meaning we will need space hotels. The first ones may be small to keep up-front costs down but if space tourism is successful the desire for bigger, more sophisticated, and more comfortable hotels could drive constant improvement.

As luck would have it, most of what is needed for ELEO settlements is also important for hotels: recycled air, water, and food, power systems, communications with Earth, etc. Hotels may even want artificial gravity, achieved by rotation, so that guests need not learn how to use a 0-g toilet—which is difficult and, when you screw up, disgusting as everything floats around and gets into places you would rather it not. Also, staff can have longer tours of duty, reducing transportation costs, as their bodies will not be continuously subject to weightlessness, which can cause a number of problems. Once hotels have developed most of the necessary technology and supporting infrastructure, building the first space settlement should be not much more difficult than building another hotel.

The first settlement in ELEO might look something like Kalpana Two:

Image credit: Bryan Versteeg.
Image credit © Bryan Versteeg.

In an internet survey of space enthusiasts, 30% of respondents said they would very much like to live in Kalpana Two in ELEO, including raising their children, and are willing to spend 75% of their wealth and lifetime income to do so. That’s enough to get space settlement started.

Although building Kalpana Two after a few decades of space tourism development may be much easier than starting from scratch, it is still a monumental effort requiring a great deal of money and those funds will be easier to raise if Kaplana Two and later settlements have a mass-market product to sell to Earth.

Kalpana Two residents could assemble and test extremely large communication satellites, much larger than those launched today. Large comsats are attractive because the larger the spacecraft antenna and the larger the power-producing solar arrays the smaller the antenna on the ground must be and the less battery power is needed, two things for which there is a large and growing market. ELEO is also a good place to manufacture ultra-light solar sails, as the sails need not be folded into a fairing, launched and unfolded. While the market for solar sails is small, if you cover one side of the sail with power-producing electronics you have extremely light power arrays which can be used for large comsats. Put fiber lasers on the other side of the sail and you can beam power, first for in-space applications, such as power for Kalpana Two, and later to deliver power to Earth—a gigantic market. [See “Towards an Early Profitable PowerSat,” Al Globus, Space Manufacturing 14: Critical Technologies for Space Settlement, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA, October 29-31, 2010, and “Towards an Early Profitable PowerSat, Part II,” Al Globus, Ion Bararu, and Mihai Radu Popescu, International Space Development Conference 2011, National Space Society, Huntsville, Alabama, 1822 May, 2011.]

The first equatorial LEO settlement is the hardest to build. The second and subsequent ones will be easier because lessons will be learned and infrastructure developed. We estimate there is room for at least a few million people spread out in a few hundred settlements in equatorial LEO. This can provide the key requirement for commercially viable lunar and asteroid mining: a decent sized market in space. It is hard for extraterrestrial materials to compete on Earth due to transportation costs. However, in space lunar and asteroidal materials have the edge due to high launch costs from Earth. The problem today is that the in-space market is a single satellite designed for in-space refurbishment (the Hubble Space Telescope) and six people on the ISS, which is tiny. Equatorial LEO settlement is a game changer for lunar and asteroidal mining.

Once the mining infrastructure to deliver substantial materials to equatorial LEO is in operation and ELEO fills up with settlements, it will be time for the next step: settlements in orbit beyond the Earth’s protective magnetic field. These settlements will require millions of tons of radiation shielding, which can provide a market for a huge expansion of lunar and asteroidal mining. This, in turn, can provide economic support for mining settlements on the Moon and co-orbiting with asteroids. This network of settlements can then expand to Mars and the asteroid belt. Of course, for Mars and the Moon the problems associated with raising children in partial-g including but not limited to growing up with weak muscles and bones will have to be addressed.

At this point we will be well on our way to turning the resources of this solar system into living, breathing settlements in huge numbers. The next step, of course, is to send groups of settlements to Alpha Proxima and start the billion-year project of greening our galaxy. After all, if you have lived for 50 generations in orbital space settlements does it matter much if you are close to Sol or on the way to the nearest star? Probably not, at least for some, but that is a task for future generations. Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to get space tourism on track to develop the technology and infrastructure necessary to build Kalpana Two in equatorial LEO. This tape will not self-destruct.

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Al Globus is a member of the National Space Society Board of Directors.

National Space Society Congratulates Orbital ATK on a Successful Return to Flight for the Antares

On October 17, 2016, the upgraded Orbital ATK Antares rocket returned to flight following an October 14th, 2014 launch accident. The Antares is boosting a Cygnus cargo capsule to the International Space Station loaded with supplies and scientific equipment.

Dale Skran, NSS Executive Vice President said, “NSS applauds NASA’s support of multiple providers in the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program. The successful return to flight of the Antares/Cygnus at a time when the SpaceX Falcon 9 is grounded underscores the value of launch services provided by technologically independent sources.”

Antares

“Reliable access to space is critical to an expansive human future in space,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “NASA’s initiative in requiring multiple competitive cargo providers to the ISS is a key step laying the groundwork for the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Today that vision made another step forward.”

Roadmap to Space Settlement 2017 International Student Art Contest

In our Roadmap to Space Settlement 2017 International Student Art Contest, the National Space Society (NSS) is looking for student artists to create ORIGINAL illustrations for the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Submitted artwork should REALISTICALLY illustrate one of this year’s two themes.

This year’s themes:

1. People Living and Working in Space Settlements
OR
2. Medicine and Medical Manufacturing in Space

All full-time students at any grade level between the ages of 13 and 25 are eligible. The deadline for submissions is March 16, 2017.

Example of the first theme, People Living and Working in Space Settlements:

Mars from a Young Perspective
Image info

Example of the second theme, Medicine and Medical Manufacturing in Space:

Pioneers of the Cosmos
Image info

See contest details.

Enterprise In Space and Kepler Space Institute Launch Competition for University Teams to 3D Print Aboard the International Space Station

Enterprise In Space (EIS), a non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), and the Kepler Space Institute have partnered with Made In Space (MIS), Sketchfab, 3D Hubs, and Prairie Nanotechnology to launch the “Print the Future” competition. In order to drive innovation forward in space manufacturing technology, EIS and its partners are offering university teams a chance to 3D print a NewSpace experiment aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

MIS has made history by installing two 3D printers aboard the ISS, including the Additive Manufacturing Facility (AMF), the first commercial 3D printer in space. As humanity expands its exploration of the cosmos, 3D printing in microgravity will be a key NewSpace technology for manufacturing goods away from Earth.

“An essential technology to extending humanity’s reach in space is in-space manufacturing,” said NSS Director and Made In Space Co-Founder and Chief Engineer Michael Snyder. “By manufacturing new designs in space, we’ll be able to forgo the high cost of shipping supplies by rocket and instead fabricate them directly in microgravity.”

For the Print the Future competition, university teams are encouraged to push the bounds of 3D printing in microgravity to craft new designs that will serve humanity in expanding its presence among the stars. Designs should meet the requirements of the AMF aboard the ISS and demonstrate concepts that can aid the human species in interplanetary transport, construction, and habitation.

All entries will be submitted and displayed on the popular 3D modeling community Sketchfab. While finalists will have their projects prototyped free of charge through 3D Hubs, a network of 3D printing services, all contestants are encouraged to iterate designs via 3D Hubs as well.

The grand prize winner will work with MIS to 3D print their project on Earth before printing aboard the ISS. The project will be returned to Earth, where the winner will be able to leverage Prairie Nanotechnology’s advanced research equipment to study the results. Three members of the grand prize team will also receive R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships valued at $5,000 each at the Kepler Space Institute to be applied towards a full certificate program. The R.S. Kirby Memorial Scholarships aim to encourage space advocates the world over and to develop technologies, laws, philosophies, and a moral and societal framework to aid the global community in extending life through our solar system and beyond.

“We’ve all seen those exciting sci-fi films in which the human species has colonized the galaxy and is exploring space in order to answer life’s deepest questions,” said NSS President and EIS Program Manager Alice Hoffman. “But if we’re ever going to be able to pull that off, we still have to develop the NewSpace technologies that will make interplanetary travel and colonization possible. And we’ll need to train the next generation to drive those technologies even further.”

To learn more about the Print the Future competition or to enter, readers may visit the contest page at enterpriseinspace.org/print-the-future where entrants can become a part of NewSpace history.

Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition is an exciting STEM Challenge for Kids

Everyone agrees – we need to get more kids interested in STEM careers. National Space Society is doing its part by lending support to the Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition. In this year’s contest, students are gearing up to build and launch a solid-fuel powered rocket. This is a fantastic way to turn kids on to the STEM subjects. Nothing lends itself to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math like a launch. After all – this is rocket science!

rocket competitionThe five national winners in the 2015-2016 Reach for the Stars ~ National Rocket Competition will be celebrating in grand fashion this Saturday, October 15, under an October Sky event at Space Camp / US Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Each winner will receive a Space Shuttle Challenger commemorative medal and a certificate signed by Astronaut Jon McBride. Captain McBride piloted the Challenger on her early missions. The winners get to conduct a victory launch of their rockets from Homer Hickam Field – named after NASA engineer and author of the memoir, Rocket Boys that became the movie October Sky. NSS Director Ronnie Lajoie will also present students with a congratulatory certificate from the National Space Society.

The only thing more exciting than a rocket launch – is a rocket competition. And, excitement is building for the 11th annual competition, 2016-2017. Open for ages 10 to 18 – competitions are being hosted across the USA by schools, YMCAs, Scouts, Challenger Learning Centers, 4-H, Boys & Girls Clubs and other youth groups. Held at their own location, there is no travel expense or hassle to compete. It is fun, affordable and easy to run.

The Competition honors the memory of Christa McAuliffe, 1st Teacher-in-Space. Everyone involved in the Competition receives a certificate that bears Christa’s likeness and her quote, “Push yourself as far as you can. Reach for the stars!” The background of the certificates is the artwork of astronaut and moonwalker, Alan Bean.

Ten astronauts recommend this competition. Several have presented medals to the national winners. Two, US Senator Bill Nelson and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, encourage the kids in video clips prepared especially for the competitors.

Contestants will compete at an event held in their area. After two launches and parachute landings, the closest average distance from an on-field target wins. Local winners’ results are sent to the national headquarters to determine the five national winners.

Competition director, Jack Colpas says, “We promise the national winners – memories to last a lifetime and bragging rights for generations to come. Launching their rockets from a historical location and receiving a medal presented by an astronaut allows us to fulfill our promise.”

This year’s competitions are already beginning to be held across the country. Local competitions can be held anytime throughout the year. Your kids can’t win it – if they’re not in it!

For photos and more details about the competition go to www.RocketCompetition.com.

Enterprise In Space Partners with Sketchfab and 3D Hubs for NewSpace Education

Enterprise In Space (EIS), a non-profit program of the National Space Society (NSS), is thrilled to announce two new partnerships with 3D Hubs and Sketchfab to further develop the world’s first NewSpace education program.

EIS is embarking on a bold initiative to establish a next generation educational model in which students from K-postgrad are given open access to high quality education using cutting edge technologies. Through the online EIS Academy, students of all grade levels work with skilled educators, NASA scientists, and NewSpace innovators to learn science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) skills, all with the help of an AI tutor named Ali. The program’s first Academy-wide project is the design, construction, launch, and retrieval of the 3D-printed NSS Enterprise spacecraft, which will blast into Earth orbit carrying 100+ student experiments.

Sketchfab and 3D Hubs have joined EIS in its mission by offering their knowledge and resources. Sketchfab is the leading community devoted to 3D modeling and 3D scanning for use in augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D printing, and more. The company will provide professional accounts to educators and students participating in EIS international education competitions.

3D Hubs is the world’s largest distributed network for 3D printing services. Offering a variety of additive manufacturing technologies, 3D Hubs allows anyone to 3D print prototypes, end parts, and other goods locally and on demand. For EIS competitions, 3D Hubs will make available its vast network to provide prototyping and 3D printing services on demand to participating students.

The Enterprise Centers for Excellence (ECEs) are housed within the EIS Academy. These now span ten cutting edge topics from space-based solar power to tissue regeneration in microgravity. They offer university and postgraduate students the opportunity to collaborate with high-level researchers and NewSpace companies to learn advanced technologies and develop experiments for the NSS Enterprise spacecraft.

The Sketchfab team is made up of the ideal experts for heading up the ECE for Virtual and Mixed Reality. The 3D Hubs team will join Made In Space to run the ECE on Space Additive Manufacturing, contributing their extensive knowledge of 3D printing. Both firms will populate the ECEs with educational content and work with the EIS education team to develop curricula in their respective subjects of expertise.

EIS and its new partners have already begun work on a new project that will come to fruition in the very near future. Stay tuned and follow the progress of the historic EIS program or donate at www.enterpriseinspace.org.

Report on the 2016 NSS/SFF/ASD August Home District Blitz

By Dale Skran, National Blitz Coordinator

Left to Right: Randy Gigante (SFF), Miriam Winder Kelly (NSS), Rep. "Dutch" Ruppersberger (MD-2), Joe Gillen (NSS)
Left to Right: Randy Gigante (SFF), Miriam Winder Kelly (NSS), Rep. “Dutch” Ruppersberger (MD-2), Joe Gillen (NSS)

Sponsors: The August 2016 Home District Blitz was jointly sponsored by the National Space Society (NSS), Space Frontier Foundation (SFF), and the Alliance for Space Development (ASD).

Highlights:

  • The Blitz team in Maryland obtained a picture of the team with Rep. Ruppersberger (above).
  • There was a fierce battle between Illinois and Florida for blitz leadership, but Florida finished with five total visits, topping Illinois with three. Overall, a total of 20 visits were conducted spread over ten different states.
  • The Senate Authorization sub-committee solicited input privately from ASD. ASD responded with a letter of comment jointly signed by NSS, SFF, and SEDS. This may be the first time that this has occurred, and it is certainly the first time in recent memory. It represents a real breakthrough for NSS in terms of DC influence.
  • 25% of the members of the Senate Authorization Committee were visited.
  • The combination of March Storm and the August Blitz appears to have had a significant effect on the Senate Authorization process, with the current version of the Senate “NASA Transition Act of 2016,” which was marked up by the Committee on 9/21/16, reflecting strong ISS “gapless” language and weaker but still significant support for space settlement.

Budget: No NSS, SFF, or ASD money was spent on the Blitz.  All activities were of a volunteer nature.

Themes/Objectives:  The two major themes of the 2016 Home District Blitz were:

  1. Moving into legislation calling for a gapless transition from the ISS to future commercial LEO stations (ASD developed draft text).
  2. Moving forward H.R.4752 (Space Exploration, Development, and Settlement Act) in both the House and the Senate.

International Astronautical Congress 2016 in Guadalajara, Mexico

IAC

Text and photos by Alla Malko, PhD

On September 26, 2016 3,000 delegates from 80 countries gathered in Guadalajara, Mexico, for the 67th International Astronautical Congress. The theme of this year’s congress was “Making space accessible and affordable to all countries.” The Congress aims to show how more and more countries are becoming involved in space exploration.

During the conference, policymakers and industry representatives discussed the latest technological breakthroughs and developments in space exploration. This Congress was full of important and interesting announcements, panels, presentations and lectures.

The most popular was Elon Musk’s keynote speech entitled “Making Humans a Multiplanetary Species.” Musk discussed the long-term technical challenges that need to be solved to support the creation of a permanent, self-sustaining human presence on Mars. The technical presentation was focused on potential architectures for colonizing the Red Planet that industry, government and the scientific community can collaborate on in the years ahead.

Another extraordinary event was a special live coverage of the final descent toward the comet of the famous spacecraft, Rosetta. The final moments of this historic mission were broadcast live from ESA’s mission control in Germany and gathered about 1,000 attendees at 5 am on September 30. ESA’s Director General Johann-Dietrich Woerner, as well as the heads of the German, French and Italian space agencies, were in attendance at the event.

As always, members of NSS took an active part in this important astronautical forum. John Mankins, Dr. Paul Jaffe, Gary Barnhard,  and professor Nobukaia presented their research at the Space Power Symposium. Mark Hopkins, CEO of NSS, did a lot of networking with important commercial space organizations and key people, introducing NSS as the number one organization to promote space settlement.

Next year the International Astronautical Congress will be organized in Adelaide in Australia.

Rosetta final mission, 5:30 am, IAC2016, Guadalajara, Mexico
Rosetta final mission, 5:30 am, IAC2016, Guadalajara, Mexico
NSS members at the Expo during IAC2016
NSS members at the Expo during IAC2016
3,000 attendees at Elon Musk’s presentation
3,000 attendees at Elon Musk’s presentation
Space Solar Power track at IAC2016
Space Solar Power track at IAC2016

Heinlein Award Delivered to Dr. Jerry Pournelle

By Dave Dressler, NSS Conferences Committee Chair

At the International Space Development Conference 2016 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I promised to deliver the coveted Heinlein Award directly to Jerry Pournelle. Mission accomplished! I met with Jerry, son Alex, Larry Niven and Larry’s wife Marilyn on September 11, 2016 at the Four ‘N 20 Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, CA (West LA).

From left to right: Larry Niven, Dave Dressler, Alex and Jerry Pournelle at the Four 'n 20 in West LA
From left to right: Larry Niven, Dave Dressler, Alex and Jerry Pournelle at the Four ‘n 20 in West LA

Over the summer, I read three acclaimed collaborations from Jerry and Larry: A Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, and Footfall, all available at Amazon. (Revenue from Amazon enabled Blue Origin—go Blue Origin!)

The usual question people ask them is “How do you two work together?” and the answer, spoken in unison, is “Superbly.”

I asked Jerry what he thought about Starshot (from Breakthrough Technologies, Pete Worden’s latest venture) as it relates to A Mote in God’s Eye, and science fiction moving into the realm of science fact. Jerry gave credit to physicist Robert L. Forward, the creator of the beam-pushed lightsail concept in 1985.

Jerry told in depth stories about the times he shared with Robert and Virginia Heinlein and where they lived. I further realized how appropriate the Heinlein Award was for Jerry as he was a very close friend of Heinlein’s. The Heinlein Award features a brass cannon inscribed with one of Heinlein’s favorite acronyms, “TANSTAFL.” The original title of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was to have been The Brass Cannon, but reasonably, the publisher changed it. The cannon is featured in that novel as a symbol of the Lunar Republic.

Jerry shared his personal account of Robert’s relationship with the cannon:

The story about the cannon is not one that happened to Robert or anyone he knows so far as I know. I have heard him tell it several times over the years, and it’s always about a nameless city councilman’s brother-in-law who was given a sinecure job polishing the brass cannon in front of the court house. One day he came home from work, saying that he’d had this job for years and was very good at it, but he wasn’t getting anywhere, so he had decided to quit. His wife was alarmed and asked what he would do. He told her he had thought about this a long time, saved up his money, and bought his own brass cannon, so now he was in business for himself.

The story about TANSTAFL was originally my father’s and wasn’t associated with the brass cannon. Dad was fond of telling about free lunch counters, and always added There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch, TANSTAFL. A well known San Francisco news columnist told this, crediting Mr. Heinlein, who took the trouble to get the chap – I forget who he was, but apparently he was well known in San Francisco – to say in one of his Sunday columns that Robert had got it from me, and that my father, who was in radio in the 30’s and at one time the general manager of WHBQ in Memphis as well as Chief announcer and sales manager, was actually the originator. I grew up hearing it. If dad got it from anyone before him I never knew it.

Robert eventually acquired his own signal cannon. Now Jerry has one too.

What a privilege and honor it was to spend quality time with two of the giants of hard science fiction. I only wish I had a cannon to share with Larry Niven. I invited Jerry and Larry to be guests of honor at ISDC 2018 in Los Angeles. They gratefully accepted and appreciated the convenience. Thank you NSS Membership for supporting ISDC, the Awards Committee and the awards we bestow on the movers and shakers that are opening the frontiers of space.