Baen Memorial Contest Opens

Baen Books has opened the 2015 Jim Baen Memorial Short Story Award contest. Co-sponsored by the National Space Society, the contest focuses on stories of near-future space exploration. The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2015.

The grand prize includes publication on the Baen website at professional rates, an engraved award, an assortment of Baen books, free admission to the 2015 International Space Development Conference, a year’s membership in the National Space Society, and National Space Society merchandise. The winners will be honored at the 2015 International Space Development Conference in Toronto, Canada, May 20-24, 2015.

Eligibility requirements and more information.

New Watershed for Space Solar Power

The Case for Space Solar PowerBook Review: The Case for Space Solar Power, by John C. Mankins

Reviewed by: Paul Werbos, Executive Vice President, National Space Society

If you, like me, are one of those people who really want to do the most you can “to make the dream real,” you need to have a copy of this book on your shelves so that you can read it, reread it, and go back for all the important details. If you could only afford to have one book on your shelves, this should be it.

This book by John Mankins is a major milestone in doing the work required to translate the National Space Society’s general vision into a concrete reality with a viable business case. The author was the leader at NASA of virtually all the useful work on space solar power (SSP) by the US government in the last 25 years, so this book is a unique and authoritative source. Mankins also led the efforts in human and robotic technology in the first round of Bush’s “return to the Moon” program, and this book tells you a lot about what has been going on in those areas as well. In the final section, the book gets deep into concrete business plan options.

Not only does this book provide the blueprint for providing Earth with limitless clean energy, the book also offers a whole new basis for solid, realistic hope that we might succeed after all in the kind of vision which Gerard O’Neill inspired decades ago, where humans settle space in an economically sustainable way, beaming energy to Earth as part of a growing space economy.

Back in the late 1970s, when there was a lot of hope for SSP but the designs were unproven and questionable, many energy experts walked away and never looked back. In the 1990s, Mankins led the NASA Fresh Look work which exposed what was wrong with the old designs, and found new designs that would work but were still too expensive. When John and I worked together in a National Science Foundation study of enabling technologies for SSP in 2002, the most serious life-cycle cost estimates for the best available designs were still about 20 cents per kwh for the electricity. That was still more expensive than the average we pay for electricity generation today (about ten cents), and it required improvements in launch technology which were not then on the horizon.

But now, in this book, Mankins presents a new design concept, SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large Phased Array), for which the best guess on cost is only 9 cents per kwh. This year there is also new hope for launch costs, which is a necessary complement to better design and more realistic costs.

The great beauty of SPS-ALPHA is that it relies on a “Lego” kind of approach, building up a huge structure from modules which all weigh less than a ton. This gets rid of the need for heavy lift vehicles, and we can use whatever gets us to space most cheaply.

Some people may be disappointed that Mankins’ plan for SSP does not provide for many humans in space, but that is part of the plan’s strength in reducing cost. The Mankins plan instead shows the way to build up the infrastructure we need in space before we can have a realistic chance to expand human settlement further. If we fulfill that plan, there will be ever more opportunity and need to bring more and more humans along, step by step, perhaps starting out with a kind of swarm city more like a giant expansion of the International Space Station (but with a net positive revenue flow) than like the habitats we will build eventually.

As a matter of honesty, I have to say that the book does not tell us everything we need to know to make the dream a reality. The book tells us a huge amount about competing designs for SSP, some of which might work out better after ALPHA paves the way. But there are other possibilities in the same design space, such as new ideas from the Naval Research Labs about how to handle heat flow issues within the ALPHA approach, and there are additional approaches to reducing launch costs. Nevertheless, Mankins’ book is the game plan for bringing SSP itself to reality. To make a positive difference in the game, we need to have that game plan close at hand, not just on our bookshelves but in all of our strategic thinking for all of the things we can do to help.

The Case for Space Solar Power is available in hard cover and in an inexpensive Kindle edition from Amazon. If you don’t have a Kindle, there are free Kindle reader apps at that enable you to read it on your computer or mobile device.

New Book: The Case for Space Solar Power

A strong case for harnessing space solar power is presented in this ground-breaking new book. Author John C. Mankins, one of the foremost experts in the field, presents his latest research in The Case for Space Solar Power.

The Case for Space Solar Power

The Case for Space Solar Power recounts the history of the space solar power concept and summarizes the many different ways in which it might be accomplished.

Specifically, the book describes in detail a highly promising concept — SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite by means of Arbitrarily Large Phased Array) — and presents a business case comprising applications in space and markets on Earth. It is possible to begin now with technologies that are already at hand , while developing the more advanced technologies that will be needed to deliver power economically to markets on Earth.

The Case for Space Solar Power lays out a path forward that is both achievable and affordable. Within a dozen years, the first multi-megawatt solar pilot plant could be in operation.

Given that space solar power can transform our future in space, and provide a new source of virtually limitless and sustainable energy to markets across the world, the book poses the question, “Why wouldn’t we pursue space solar power?”

The book is now available both in hardcopy and in an inexpensive Kindle format at If you don’t have a Kindle, there are free Kindle reader apps at that enable you to read it on your computer, tablet, or other mobile device.

New Book: Psychology of Space Exploration

A new NASA publication is now available for free download from the NSS website: Psychology of Space Exploration — Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective, edited by Douglas Vakoch. The 267-page book is NASA Special Publication SP-4411 (2011).

Publishers description:

As we stand poised on the verge of a new era of spaceflight, we must rethink every element, including the human dimension. This book explores some of the contributions of psychology to yesterday’s great space race, today’s orbiter and International Space Station missions, and tomorrow’s journeys beyond Earth’s orbit. Early missions into space were typically brief, and crews were small, often drawn from a single nation. As an intensely competitive space race has given way to international cooperation over the decades, the challenges of communicating across cultural boundaries and dealing with interpersonal conflicts have become increasingly important, requiring different coping skills and sensibilities from “the right stuff” of early astronauts.

As astronauts travel to asteroids or establish a permanent colony on the Moon, with the eventual goal of reaching Mars, the duration of expeditions will increase markedly, as will the psychosocial stresses. Away from their home planet for extended times, future spacefarers will need to be increasingly self-sufficient and autonomous while they simultaneously deal with the complexities of heterogeneous, multicultural crews. Psychology of Space Exploration: Contemporary Research in Historical Perspective provides an analysis of these and other challenges facing future space explorers while at the same time presenting new empirical research on topics ranging from simulation studies of commercial spaceflights to the psychological benefits of viewing Earth from space.

In addition to examining contemporary psychological research, each essay also explicitly addresses the history of the psychology of space exploration. Leading contributors to the field place the latest theories and empirical findings in historical context by examining changes in space missions over the past half century, as well as reviewing developments in psychological science during the same period. The essays are innovative in their approaches and conclusions, providing novel insights for behavioral researchers and historians alike.

Free Copies Of “The High Frontier” To School Libraries

Attention all teachers:  Free copies of The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space by the late Princeton physicist Gerard K. O’Neill are being offered to high school and college libraries by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) and the Space Frontier Foundation.

School librarians, teachers, or other school staff or officials that desire to receive a copy for placement in their school library may request the free copy here:

Click on image for request form
Click on image for request form

O’Neill’s book is viewed as one of the seminal works in the modern aerospace industry. First published in 1977, it provided an optimistic ideal of the incredible things that could be accomplished in space even using Apollo era technology, while at the same time providing a roadmap of how we could get there. O’Neill’s work had a great effect on the industry that grew after it, often through the effect it had on those who would grow up to eventually join it. The High Frontier has had an incredible effect on inspiring students into participating in fields in the sciences and aerospace, many of whom have become remarkable contributors to industry and the sciences.

It is hoped that placing these books will inspire students to have more interest in the sciences and aerospace, key to developing the future of our industry. There is no charge for either the book or for shipping.

SEDS and the Space Frontier Foundation received a generous targeted donation for this  joint educational outreach project to distribute copies of the Second Edition of The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space to high school and university libraries across the country currently lacking a copy. The Second Edition (pictured above) was published by the Space Studies Institute in 1989 as a 5×8-inch high-quality trade paperback, with a new introduction and appendix by the author and a Preface by Astronaut Kathy Sullivan.

See also the NSS Review of the Third Edition of The High Frontier.

Defending Planet Earth: National Research Council Final Report

The latest addition to the NSS website Planetary Defense Library is Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report (June 2010), by the National Research Council. The 132 page book is available for free download or for purchase in hard copy.

Abstract: The United States spends approximately $4 million each year searching for near-Earth objects (NEOs). The objective is to detect those that may collide with Earth. The majority of this funding supports the operation of several observatories that scan the sky searching for NEOs. This, however, is insufficient in detecting the majority of NEOs that may present a tangible threat to humanity. A significantly smaller amount of funding supports ways to protect the Earth from such a potential collision or “mitigation.” In 2005, a Congressional mandate called for NASA to detect 90 percent of NEOs with diameters of 140 meters or greater by 2020. Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies identifies the need for detection of objects as small as 30 to 50 meters as these can be highly destructive. The book explores four main types of mitigation including civil defense, “slow push” or “pull” methods, kinetic impactors and nuclear explosions. It also asserts that responding effectively to hazards posed by NEOs requires national and international cooperation. Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies is a useful guide for scientists, astronomers, policy makers and engineers.

Recent NSS Book Reviews

In case you missed any of them, here are some space book reviews recently added to the NSS website book review section:

The New Space Race: China vs. the United States, By Erik Seedhouse. The “race” with China for the dominance of space is more subtle than the old US-Soviet race. Reviewed by Ted Spitzmiller.

Krafft Ehricke’s Extraterrestrial Imperative, by Marsha Freeman. Biography and selected writings of one of the great thinkers of the space age. Reviewed by David Brandt-Erichsen.

Missions to the Moon, by Rod Pyle. With relatively few pages, this book is oversized and crammed with information — even with all the other histories out there, a valuable and fun book. Reviewed by Steve Adamczyk.

Impact, by Douglas Preston. This fiction book is not a disaster novel but a clever story focused on a mysterious meteorite impact. Reviewed by Marianne Dyson.

Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context

A new NASA publication, Cosmos & Culture: Cultural Evolution in a Cosmic Context (NASA SP-4802) is available as a free 612-page 4MB PDF download. Editors Steven J. Dick and Mark L. Lupisella present a series of essays integrating concepts from philosophical, anthropological, and astrobiological disciplines to explore the interdisciplinary questions of cosmic evolution.

A couple of interesting quotes are below.

The first quote is by Howard Bloom (a member of the NSS Board of Governors) from an essay entitled “The Big Burp and the Multiplanetary Mandate”:

Evolution is shouting a message at us. Yes, evolution herself. That imperative? Get your ass off this planet. Get your asses, your burros, your donkeys, and as many of your fellow species as you can—from bacteria and plants to fish, reptiles, and mammals—off this dangerous scrap of stone and find new niches for life. Take the Grand Experiment of Cells and DNA, the 3.85-billion-year Project of Biomass, to other planets, moons, orbiting habitats, and galaxies. Give life an opportunity to thrive, to reinvent itself, to turn every old disaster, every pinwheeling galaxy, into new opportunity. Do this as the only species nature has generated that’s capable of deliberate travel beyond the atmosphere of Earth. Do it as the only species able to take on the mission of making life multiplanetary. Accept that mission—the Greening of the Universe—or you may well eliminate yourself and all the species that depend on you—from the microorganisms making folic acid and vitamin K in your gut to wheat, corn, cucumbers, chickens, cows, the yeast you cultivate to make beer, and even the bacteria you use to make cheese. What’s worse, if you fail to take life beyond the skies, the whole experiment of life—including rain-forests, whales, and endangered species—may die in some perfectly normal cosmic catastrophe.

The second quote is from an essay by Seth Shostak on “The Value of ‘L’ and the Cosmic Bottleneck” (where “L” is the average lifetime of a technological civilization):

We have seen that, if the dismal, albeit trendy, apocalyptic scenarios of war, environmental degradation, and short-term cosmic threats can be thwarted, our future might be anything from thousands to million of years. However, even with this sunnier prognosis, there is little doubt that—sooner or later—we will be obliged to move at least some of our population into space. Earth, being spherical, has the minimum surface area for its mass. Resources—both the obvious ones such as arable land, as well as the less obvious ones, such as platinum—are finite, and in many cases already scarce. So, putting aside the possibility that, by engineering our own successors or joining the “galactic club” we may introduce a major discontinuity in the story of Homo sapiens, there’s one reasonably reliable expectation we can have for our activities of the next 100 years: the expansion of habitat to the nearby, extraterrestrial realms of the solar system. This settlement of a new frontier could have a telling, and salubrious effect on the Earthly value for L.

We have visited the Moon, and our mechanical proxies have landed on Mars. Both worlds could be colonized, and in the case of Mars, made more amenable to life (Wood 2007). That this will happen is less a question of “if” than “when.” While the initial colonies will be small, historical analogs suggest that within a century they will have populations measured in the tens of thousands or more.

The carrying capacity of these nearby bodies is limited. However, the numbers of humans living in orbit could dwarf their populations. Two decades ago, Gerard O’Neill (1977) and Thomas Heppenheimer (1979) described in detail how we could build artificial habitats in space: slowly rotating aluminum cylinders, having diameters of several kilometers, that could house entire villages and towns. Their prediction was that by the 1990s, millions of Earthlings would be living in these space habitats. That hasn’t yet happened, but not because it’s technically impractical. Rather, at the moment, building such artificial cities in orbit is economically and politically impractical.

In the somewhat longer view, perhaps one to two centuries hence, we can consider colonizing the larger bodies of the asteroid belt.

While the exact time scale of these projects is subject to the vagaries of political will, one can conservatively foresee that within two centuries, at most, enough of us will be off the planet—in O’Neill colonies, on the Moon and Mars, and burrowed into the asteroids—that total annihilation of human society will be as impossible as the total annihilation of Earth’s ants. We will be dispersed, and dispersal is the ultimate insurance policy for survival. Modest colonization will inoculate us against self-destruction. It might be possible to exterminate all the individuals in one habitat, but not the entire populace of all habitats.

Energy Policy and the Future of Space Solar Power

The Age of Oil is ending where it began in Pennsylvania as G20 leaders agree to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.  Since U.S. subsidises fossil fuels 2.5 times more than renewables. While the effect of phasing out fossil fuel subsides may take a decade or more to have noticeable effect.  It does start to tip the playing field in favor of space solar power.   It is really hard for the new kid to compete against the huge established players when the established players are subsidized.

In Cassandras of Climate By PAUL KRUGMAN in The New York Times, makes a point which illuminates why it is so hard to get space solar power taken seriousl.

the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

Hopefully soon our leaders will begin to actually fund space solar power development.   Considering that research into wood has received more money than space solar power, any criticism of space solar power as being too expensive or that launch costs are too high is premature.   Space solar power is now at the technological development level of Hero of Alexandria’s steam engine.   Space solar power is a seed kept dry without dirt or light.   We will never know if it can become a competitive power source until it gets a reasonable level of development funding.

Space solar power is getting much more interest lately. The Space Solar Power Face Book Fan Page now has over 800 members.  Here are two new books in which Space Solar Power is discussed.

Turning Point by Douglas Mallette


Energy Crisis: Solution From Space by Ralph Nansen

Buzz Aldrin's The Long Journey Home from the Moon and Rocket Experience

The National Space Society is proud to announce the “launch”, on June 23, 2009, of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s dramatic memoir, Magnificent Desolation – The Long Journey Home from the Moon.  In his new book, Dr. Aldrin, an honored member of the NSS Board of Governors, provides a gripping account of the lunar landing (and as to how close it actually came to failure), as well as a frank and open discussion of the personal challenges that awaited him upon his return to Earth, including his difficult, but ultimately successful, battle to overcome depression and alcoholism.  It also details his tireless work as an advocate for space exploration, development, and settlement.   

In conjunction with the release of his memoir, Dr. Aldrin also recorded a new “rap” song, “Rocket Experience”, which he recorded with the assistance of two other famous “rappers”, Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli. His friend, Quincy Jones, and admirer, Souljaboy, also appear in the Funny or Die video made of the song in support of Buzz’s track. This dual launch of his new memoir, and his new career as a rapper, were the subject of television appearances on The Today Show, CNN, and Access Hollywood.  
We invite you to check out two online videos involving the recording of Dr. Aldrin’s rap song, the first one called, “The Making of Rocket Experience”, and the second one called, the “Rocket Experience Music Video”: 
Dr. Aldrin has announced that a portion of the proceeds from the “Rocket Experience” song will go to his non-profit corporation, ShareSpace Foundation, and also to other non-profit space advocacy groups such as the National Space Society, in order to further space exploration, development, and settlement.
For additional information about Dr. Aldrin and ShareSpace Foundation, check out his website at