Will space be the place for the next major government infrastructure projects? Lincoln built the Transcontinental Railroad. Roosevelt’s New Deal built the Grand Coulee, Hoover and Tennessee Valley Authority Dams. These authors think space will be where Obama build his great infrastructure projects.
Lincoln and railroads, Obama and RLVs? by Taylor Dinerman
In the years before the Civil War politicians in Washington fought a series of bitter battles over the Transcontinental Railroad. The Southerners fought for a southern route that would enrich and further empower their slave-based economy and the North rejected this. The war settled the question and the Pacific Railroad Act was signed by President Lincoln on July 1, 1862. Six years later the job was finished and California was connected to the East Coast. The nation was now an economic as well as a political whole.
Since the late 1980s the US government has been unable to find a way to develop a new low-cost vehicle that will put payloads into orbit. The travails of the DC-X, the X-33, the X-37, the Orbital Space Plane, and other programs have been as frustrating to serious advocates of space exploration and settlement as the congressional battles of the 1850s must have been to the Californians of that age.
Solution: Energy From Space by Ralph Nansen
When Grand Coulee Dam rose on the Columbia River during the Great Depression, it not only employed thousands of people but also provided an abundant source of cheap energy for the Pacific Northwest, ushering in a long era of economic prosperity for the region. As we now confront an economic crisis approaching the scope of the Great Depression, we are also forced to confront the severe consequences of our addiction to finite fossil fuel resources.
Solution: Energy from Space presents a bold solution for the problems we face today: dependence on oil as our primary energy source, global climate change caused by the proliferation of carbon dioxide, and the threat of wars over diminishing oil supplies. It explores how our energy situation is driving these major world problems, and how developing energy from space could bring unprecedented economic prosperity and opportunity to the world, just as Grand Coulee Dam did for the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s.
I am presently writing comments on a Space Policy Paper and I was pointing the author to a column written by my father, John G. Cramer for Analog Magazine TWENTY years ago. The second paragraph is terribly timely so much so it is scary.
I’ve just returned from Vancouver, BC, where I was Science Guest of Honor at V-Con. Dr. David Stephenson, a Canadian space scientist, remarked there that each nation seems to play its own national game in space. The Russians play Chess, plotting their moves with a strategy that looks decades into the future. The Japanese play Go, systematically surrounding each technological territory with their pieces until they make it their own. The Europeans play Bridge, kicking a lot under the table while presenting a smooth performance above its surface. And what of the USA? Well, in the 1960’s we were playing Monopoly. But now, under the present policies of NASA, we seem to have switched to Trivial Pursuits …
By the time you read this some 4-6 months from now, our democratic processes will have elected a new president. He will, among other things, have to decide what to do about the NASA problem. At minimum a new NASA Administrator must be appointed, and perhaps the space agency will also be restructured as some critics are presently suggesting. Will there be further plodding along the dismal path that has lead from the triumph of Apollo to the Challenger Disaster? Will the agency continue to place science far down in the priority queue, going always for the Premature Choice and the job security of mammoth engineering projects. Will NASA continue to withhold any investments in the future, in advanced propulsion technologies, and in new ideas? I hope not.
I hope that the new President will choose carefully when making the decisions on the new head for NASA and on whether to restructure the agency. The new President can get advice from anyone he chooses. I think that he should have a very long talk with Freeman Dyson.
From Dyson on Space in Mid-December-1988 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact Magazine
George Abbey, Neal Lane and John Muratore wrote Maximizing NASA’s Potential in Flight and on the Ground: Recommendations for the Next Administration for the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. The recommendations are basically to fly the shuttle until 2015, focus on Energy and environment, focus on robotic science, and focus on aeronautics. They favor international over national programs. They favor research enabling solar power satellites for the long term but discount its development until launch costs drop. They also favor use of private launch providers for access to space after the shuttle. Unfortunately they don’t address reducing launch costs or encouraging the development of a private space industry.
What the recommendations really lack is the answer to the question, WHY?
Why should we fly the space shuttle for 5 more years? Won’t that be very dangerous and expensive?
Why should we do space projects internationally rather than nationally. Don’t we want the US to lead in space?
If energy and environment are national priorities which NASA should concentrate on, then the development space solar power is the best place to put NASA’s expertise. If we really want space solar power on a large scale then NASA must develop technology to use lunar resources and focus on reducing launch cost.
NASA should avoid trying to duplicate the efforts of NOAA and the Department of Energy. NASA should concentrate on the development of space and space resources for the future of the United States of America. Energy and the environment are critical issue for the future of our country and the development of space solar power is the best way NASA can address the needs of the citizens who have faithfully funded them for 50 years now.
At the Rationale and Goals of the U.S. Civil Space Program meeting Neil DeGrasse Tyson said NASA should get out of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). His main argument was that NASA should not be doing the routine; NASA should be doing space exploration. It is very tempting to agree with him since in my opinion the Space Shuttle and the Space Station were major steps backward, which will lead no where, which suck up all available funds and block actual space exploration and development. But if NASA gets out of LEO there is a problem.
The problem with NASA leaving LEO and concentrating only on space exploration is then who does the space development? Many will say private industry. But in truth, there is very little private space industry in human space flight. Most plans for future private human space flight anticipate demand from the government. That leaves a vacuum in space development.
If the government is footing the bill for space development which part of the government should be in charge of developing space? The one with the most experience. Which government agency has the most experience in space? NASA.
That begs the question, is there any space development to be done in Low Earth Orbit? I have to admit I have never bought into Werner Von Braun’s vision of lots of space infrastructure illustrated so beautifully in the Movie 2001. Shuttles, and space stations etc. are expensive to maintain and of limited utility. Sure it is said to be efficient in terms of energy. But in space with the right technology, energy is cheap. Hardware is expensive and probably always will be.
What kind of space development needs to be done in LEO? The answer is the construction of working technology demonstrations of Solar Power Satellites. The government needs to do the initial technological demonstration of Space Solar Power otherwise there may never be a business case for solar power from space. Either the Department of Energy or NASA should demonstrate Space Solar Power. So if NASA is doing anything in Low Earth Orbit it ought to be to develop Space Solar Power. If NASA is not interested in Space Solar Power or Space Development, then Neil DeGrasse Tyson is right NASA should get out of Low Earth Orbit.
The National Space Society and the Space Exploration Alliance are having the 2009 Legislative Blitz February 22-24 in Washington DC. Come to the Capitol and tell your congress people and their staff how important space is to you.
For more information http://www.nss.org/legislative/
Register at https://www.nss.org/cgi-bin/register/tdregister?$Origin=Blitz09
Bring your warm clothes.
Please provide input by January 30, 2009!
The committee invites you share your views with the study committee by responding to the questionnaire below. Questions that you might consider when framing your input to the committee:
What should be the rationale and goals for the civil space program?
How can the civil space program address key national issues? For the purposes of this study, the U.S. civil space program encompasses activities from NASA, NOAA, FAA, and the commercial space sector.
PLEASE LIMIT YOUR INPUT TO 600 WORDS.
Note: This is not an National Space Society Initiative
The Space Renaissance Initiative is working, together with other pro-space organizations and groups, to organize a world wide Space Renaissance Forum, to be held just before the next G20, in April 2009, in the same place where the G20 will be held.
The goal of the forum is to indicate clearly the only way to escape the global recession:
-to develop the low cost Earth-Orbit and return space flight,
-to industrialize the Moon,
-to run the Space Tourism industry,
-to run the Solar Power from Space,
-to begin using the Near Earth Asteroids resources and the immense energy flowing just outside our mother planet, in the Solar System.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration is reportedly favored to be nominated as the next NASA Administrator according to MSNBC. His space experience was as White House Fellow working for Hans Mark. He has military experience. But his biggest credential is he is close to Obama which may matter more than anything to aid NASA in the future.
Dave Noble who led the effort to mobilize gay and lesbian voters for Obama will serve as the White House’s liaison to NASA, according to a source for Washington Blade.
Bringing in outsiders may be a benefit, but I hope they are good listeners and good managers.
Check out http://obamanasa.uservoice.com/ to vote nominate and comment on other peoples choices.
Obama will most likely appoint a new NASA Administrator. Who would you like to see as the next NASA Administrator?
NSS Executive Director George Whitesides has been nominated and is running 18th . Past NSS Executive Director Lori Garver has been nominated and is running 7th.
Rick Tumlinson is actively campaigning for votes.
Today, I attended the Committee on Rationale and Goals of U.S. Civil Space Program meeting in Washington DC. Dr. Buzz Aldrin was testifying, (member of the National Space Society Board of Governors). He made it very entertaining.
First, Neil DeGrasse Tyson spoke. Dr. Tyson was making a point that the United States is not the space pioneering nation, we like to think of ourselves and said “We redefined the contest to be whoever gets to the Moon first, wins.” with Buzz Aldrin sitting close by. Then Dr. Tyson talked about Apollo worship and I pretended to bow down to Dr. Aldrin which got a few chuckles. Later, I remember that I had been accused for being a member of the Moon Cult by a NASA Administrator. I used to surround myself with Lunar and Apollo memorabilia. My Husband proposed marriage in the next to the Saturn 5 Model at the National Air and Space Museum. My first daughter, born less than a week after I attended Pete Conrad’s funeral, on the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Splash Down on return to Earth and named, Selena. (My Second daughter is named Diana.) So maybe I do worship Apollo a little or at least the Moon.
Dr. Buzz Aldrin gave a presentation showing many options for NASA in the Future, which I could not do justice trying to explain. I hope he uses this blog as a place to publicize his ideas. Dr. Aldrin did suggested that we should fill the gaps between programs with extra programs. He also attributed the success of Apollo to principles- Flexibility and Open Minds. Those are principles which need to be embraced today.
Dr. Aldrin also said that Inauguration Day was his birthday and that he had asked to march in the Inaugural Parade. He is now waiting for Secret Service approval. I hope you get your birthday wish, Buzz.