Why spend money on space….?

It is often asked “Why spend money on space when we’ve got all these problems on Earth?” An eloquent response to this question was recently given by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson in a talk at the University at Buffalo. You can view his 5-minute answer on YouTube. Tyson is host of the PBS series NOVA scienceNOW and director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium.

The next great American frontier is UP!

The Space Development Steering Committee has released the following statement with accompanying graphic, which may be freely distributed:

In the 19th century, America redefined the global economy by opening a new frontier, a new landscape of real estate, resources, and opportunities. That American advance ended famine in Europe by giving the world the grain harvests of the Midwest. And some of the frontier real estate that seemed wildly overpriced at 80 cents an acre in 1836 is now worth over $12 million.

In the wake of the Great Recession of 2008, it’s time for America to pioneer again. This time by opening vast new landscapes not just to humanity, but to biomass, to ecosystems, and to the grand experiment of life.

In the shadow of the Chinese Century, one technology in which America continues to lead the world is access to space. Let’s use that technology to make the next great economic leap. Not just for ourselves, but for all humanity.

Click on image for larger version. May be freely distributed.
Click on image for larger version. May be freely distributed.

Statement on image: The next great American frontier is eight minutes above your head: SPACE COLONIES. Orbiting ecosystems with lawns, parks, fields and jobs. Housing, minus housing crashes, subprime mortgages, and foreclosures. 22 million square miles of real estate. Endless sunshine. And enough raw materials to end the energy and environmental crises back home. A new American dream. A new niche for nature. A new uplift for humanity. Google Search: O’Neill Colony.

The Space Development Steering Committee is an informal group of space experts, founded in 2006 by Howard Bloom, with which NSS is affiliated.

National Space Society Co-Sponsors NewSpace 2010 Conference July 23-25

The National Space Society (NSS) is pleased to be a continuing co-Sponsor of the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) NewSpace Conference. This year the conference will take place July 23-25, 2010, at the Domain Hotel in Silicon Valley, CA.

“The SFF NewSpace Conference seeks to expand the market place of ideas essential to growing the ecosystem of commercial/new space entrepreneurial companies and lay the foundation for opportunities to engage the wider space community,” said Gary Barnhard, Executive Director of the National Space Society.

On the heels of SpaceX’s successful Falcon 9 flight and the re-envisioning of NASA priorities, the NewSpace Conference is focused on the rapidly developing commercial space industry. The conference provides an opportunity to discuss the future of commercial spaceflight, as well as nurture entrepreneurial relationships in this field. Panel topics will cover space tourism, government-commercial cooperation, cutting edge technology, future missions, and more. The NewSpace Conference panels will be led by a host of CEOs, technologists, and thought leaders in the space industry.

Register now at the NewSpace 2010 Registration Page. The conference will be held at the Domain Hotel in Silicon Valley, CA., which is also providing an affordable group rate for guests attending the conference. For more information, visit newspace2010.spacefrontier.org and or RSVP on Facebook today.

New Space 2010

Space settlement is the alternative to a pessimistic future

NSS Senior Operating Officer Mark Hopkins writes on Alternative Futures in the latest issue of Ad Astra magazine:

Because the Earth is running out of resources, the media is full of stories about our limited future. The public has been told over and over again that we live on a planet with finite resources, that the economic system is closed, resource availability is declining, and the environment is deteriorating.

As a consequence, for the first time in history Americans are pessimistic. A fundamental part of the American dream is that each generation will be better off than the previous one. Polls taken before the current recession show that Americans no longer believe this to be true. Pessimism about the future among Europeans is even greater.

But the reason for all of this pessimism is not true. Members of the Space Movement know that resources are not limited to those which are available on Earth. We can tap into the truly vast resources that await in space. Space is the alternative to a pessimistic future.

Read full article.

Buzz Aldrin "Dances to the Stars"

The National Space Society wishes Apollo 11 astronaut, and NSS Governor, Buzz Aldrin, great success in his latest adventure. As the next installment in his tireless efforts to raise public awareness of and support for the future of our nation’s space program, Buzz is trading in his moonwalking shoes for dancing shoes. By participating in the new season of Dancing with the Stars, Buzz (and the National Space Society along with him) will have a national audience, and a national stage from which to speak.

“My primary motivation for joining the show is to help bring NASA and the U.S. human spaceflight program to the front of popular consciousness. Until there’s a spectacular success or failure, the space program is not on everyone’s lips,” Aldrin says. “Dancing with the Stars has an audience of millions of followers and it would be great if those viewers became supporters of our space program. I’m hoping that all of my old friends and colleagues in the space community can tune in and cast their vote for the octogenarian on the dance floor!”

As long as Buzz remains a contestant on the show, he will be able to engage every American household in the debate about the importance of space exploration, development, and settlement to our nation’s future. Please support Buzz in his efforts to pump up public support for a new direction outward for America’s human space program.

Space Artist Robert McCall Passes Away

The National Space Society is greatly saddened by the news that renowned space artist and long time advocate for human space exploration and settlement, Robert McCall, passed away February 26 at Scottsdale Memorial Hospital Osborne in his home town of Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 90 years old.

Robert McCall served for many years on the National Space Society Board of Governors. One can see the influence McCall had by going to the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum, where his vast mural depicting man’s conquest of the Moon covers an entire wall on the Museum’s main floor, as well as in old movie posters for 2001: A Space Odyssey, and in a two-decade-long series of postage stamps depicting space themes. An art school graduate from Columbus, Ohio, with a lifelong fascination of things that fly, McCall has illustrated the reality and the dreams of the space age since it all began in the 1950s.

McCall's Expanding the Frontiers of Flight commemorates NASA Langley Research Center contributions to aeronautics and space.
McCall's "Expanding the Frontiers of Flight" commemorates NASA Langley Research Center contributions to aeronautics and space.

Famous for his large murals, Robert was the creator of the Tour of the Universe Mural at the Challenger Space Center in Peoria, Arizona. The mural is six-stories high, encircling the entire interior rotunda of the main floor of the building. Utilizing 27,000 square feet of canvas, this phenomenal piece of artistry took six months to complete and is believed to be the largest mural in Arizona.

Our thoughts are with Louise, his wife of 50 years, his family and friends and all of those who appreciated the man who has shown us what the future would be like if we just believe and work hard enough to achieve our space goals. The Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society was especially honored to have had Robert join them as an integral part of their Yuri’s Day 2008 celebration at the Peoria Challenger Space Center.

For more on the art of Robert McCall, see mccallstudios.com.

McCalls art graced this cover of the L5 News for January 1980.
McCall's art graced this cover of the L5 News for January 1980.

Why Space Matters

The Coalition for Space Exploration (of which NSS is a member) has released a new PSA video on how space affects our everyday lives. Historically, every dollar spent on space exploration has yielded significant returns in the form of innovations that touch our lives here on Earth. We experience the benefits from space every day, each time we use our GPS systems, talk on our cell phones or get the weather forecast.

See this short video in high definition on You Tube here.

Hopkins on The Inevitability of Space Settlement

The Inevitability of Space Settlement by Mark Hopkins

It is only a matter of time before the large scale move into space begins. It is the goal of NSS and more generally the Space Movement for this to occur sooner rather than later.

According to Michael Griffin, former NASA Administrator, “One day, I don’t know when, but one day, there will be more humans living off Earth than on it” (February 2006). NSS looks forward to that day.

Beyond Tranquility

Our species and our ancient forbears were and remain innately a migratory species. The lure and call of distant lands and new horizons is an ancient passion. Modern science offers us tantalizing evidence of this wanderlust and has helped us weave a tale that is the stuff of legend. This migratory history is written in our genes and the fossil record. It is the story of how our species emerged out of Africa and spread out across the globe to become a planetary species.

It is a narrative that spans four million years and one hundred and sixty thousand human generations and chronicles an odyssey that has taken humanity from the rift valley of Olduvai Gorge to the Sea of Tranquility. It is a tale of survival and bravery in the face of great dangers and it is a tale of conquest and discovery.

We are a species that has faced and survived the vicissitudes of a changing global climate, the fire and ash of super-volcanism, the long chill of a volcanic winter and fire storms raining from the heavens. We survived because we were voyagers and explorers.

The question now facing humanity today is whether or not this wanderlust will continue unabated – is the human species indeed poised to take its next giant leap and settle the solar system? Are we ready to voyage beyond Tranquility?

Many seem to think that there is inevitability to all of this. That space colonization and the human Diaspora out into to the solar system and beyond is humankind’s manifest destiny. Yet, this destiny is not in any way written in our stars but, in ourselves. The choice is entirely ours to make.

“…the stars in their courses fought — A fearful tempest burst upon them and threw them into disorder”. –Judges 5:20

But, the evidence of modern science has shown us that the fate of humanity’s long term survival is indeed determined by the stars in their courses.

Many ancient civilizations of both the old and new worlds – the Sumerians, the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the ancient cultures of the Indus valley, the Mayan, the Anasazi Indians, and the ancient aboriginal peoples of Australasia had all fallen victim to the vicissitudes of a suddenly shifting global climate. Whether these shifts were solely caused by terrestrial agencies or triggered by celestial bombardment is still a topic of great controversy. But, what ever the causes it was our intelligence, ingenuity and the fact that we were dispersed globally that helped ensure our survival as a species.

Yet, many of our fellow citizens and our political and economic leaders are not accustomed to thinking in terms of geological and cosmological timescales. Many of us have become complacent –serene in our assurance of our dominion over matter and the natural world. Nevertheless, the natural world still throws calamity our way. Be it tsunamis, the occasional global pandemic or a localized geological and climatic upheaval. Our twenty-first century technological civilization is still at the mercy of nature’s fury. And, the Cosmos still reminds us every now and then that it can wreak its own havoc on us.

Back in July, 1994 during the week of the twenty-fifth anniversary marking man’s first steps on the Moon the heavens provided a massive fireworks display of its own to mark the occasion. The planet Jupiter sustained twenty individual impacts from the fragments left over from the disintegration of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Any one of these impacts would have been sufficient in itself to wipe life off the face of our globe in a real Extinction Level Event (E.L.E).

Exactly 15 years later, and as if to punctuate the importance of the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, nature conspired again to offer up another doleful reminder that humanity’s future is indeed tied to events out in the starry ferment. On July 20th, 2009 new NASA images indicate that an object hit Jupiter. Do we need any more convincing that space exploration is vital to humanity’s long term future?

We must explore and colonize space. Our long term survival as a species depends on this. Humankind faces an Extraterrestrial Imperative which is just as much a survival imperative – Colonize space or die. And, with our passing the light of human reason and thought will have been forever extinguished from the Cosmos.

Do we have to wait for a latter day Tunguska event over a major metropolitan city to convince ourselves that we are imperiled? While arguments rooted in fear do have there own intrinsic value in the short term, history has shown that people have short memories. We are quick to forget the lessons of the past. Be it the relatively recent past of one or two lifetimes ago or lessons rooted in the dim recesses of ancient history.

In the short term, over the course of the next twenty to forty years, what will drive humanity to venture forth from our planetary cradle? To answer that question lets go back a mere forty-eight years into the past to Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the Moon” speech:

“………no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space”.

“Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the Moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding”.

President John F. Kennedy at Rice University, September 12th, 1962

Existential fears notwithstanding, what will drive the human expansion into outer space in the short term will be the same geopolitical, security concerns and economic arguments that were central and of primary importance to President Kennedy two generations ago and as recently voiced by NASA’s new administrator, former astronaut Charles Bolden:

“Today, we have to choose. Either we can invest in building on our hard-earned world technological leadership or we can abandon this commitment, ceding it to other nations who are working diligently to push the frontiers of space. If we choose to lead, we must build on our investment in the International Space Station, accelerate development of our next generation launch systems to enable expansion of human exploration, enhance NASA’s capability to study Earth’s environment.”

In the foreseeable future economics, national prestige, national and environmental security concerns will drive humanity’s settlement of the solar system in incremental steps. The development of the mineral and energy resources of the Moon and near Earth space will be the driving force that will one day take us to Mars and realize our long term dream of settling the solar system.

Our natural satellite the Moon processes vast untapped mineral and energy wealth that can help humanity solve many of its present day and future environmental and economic concerns for generations to come. Developing the industrial scale infrastructure that will help humanity develop this wealth will be the first major step in transforming our present planetary based civilization into a spacefaring civilization ready to make its home amongst the stars.

The nations of the Old Worlds of Europe and Asia, foremost amongst them China, see these vast new opportunities out in the new frontier of space and are willing to commit themselves to this challenge. The United States must lead in this pursuit.

Those of us involved in space advocacy can transform the post Apollo dream of Solar System Settlement into a reality by educating and convincing our fellow citizens and our economic and policy makers that space is a vital part of humanity’s future economic activity and a crucial element of our nation’s long term economic and political vitality.

At the 44th Robert H. Goddard Memorial Symposium presidential science advisor John Marburger made a powerful and profound policy statement on why we must explore and develop the space frontier. In his keynote address Marburger stated emphatically and concisely one of the most important priorities of NASA’s current space vision.

“As I see it, questions about the vision boil down to whether we want to incorporate the solar system in our economic sphere, or not.”

The Space Study Institute’s director Dr. Lee Valentine and the late Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill (founder of the Space Studies Institute and author of The High Frontier) both provide a broad vision of incorporating the solar system into humanity’s economic sphere and ensuring global environmental security.

Our space program must also be directed to the long term goal of maintaining the health and vitality of this planet in all its realms – land, air and sea. All of which are integral to the long term habitability of our world. It must also commit itself to reversing the tide of global environmental and climatic degradation and a long term program of planetary defense from the possibility of cometary and asteroidal impact.

Nearly five decades after Kennedy we must reassess and reaffirm this nation’s commitment to the high frontier of space and link that commitment to the present political realities we face as a nation in the post 9/11 world. Our present national space objectives must reflect and address our current short and long range national and global security concerns. And, in order to do this we must choose to return to the Moon and do the other things and state clearly what those other things are precisely.

The Cold War is not quite over yet and as a nation we face new adversaries and with some of our former adversaries old habits die hard. Communism and tyranny have not gone away and we face many new political and economic dangers in this new millennium.

We can no longer remain a nation held captive by our political and ideological foes by solely relying on the strategic mineral and energy resources controlled by nations and despotic regimes which neither share our democratic values nor our love for individual human liberty. A common definition of a strategic mineral is a mineral that would be needed to supply the military, industrial, and essential civilian needs of the United States during a national emergency. Furthermore, they are not found or produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet this need. We can no longer allow ourselves to remain bound by this status quo.

Nor should we relinquish nor endanger our leadership as defenders of the free world by making political and diplomatic compromises with these same nations. And, neither should we allow ourselves to be forced to engage in reckless military actions, that would compel other nations to question our real commitment to democratic values throughout the rest of the world, in order to secure our hold on these resources.

Our nation and its allies must commit themselves to a long term program of energy independence and give up their debilitating addiction to Mid-eastern oil and its dependency on strategic minerals located in the most politically unstable and volatile regions of the World.

A crucial first step in meeting these objectives is to embark and commit our nation to a long term post-Apollo space program with the clear objective of developing the mineral and energy resources of the Moon and cis-lunar space (the space situated between the Earth and the Moon). We must also develop the technologies that will allow us to capture and utilize the vast mineral wealth contained in the Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that cross our planet’s orbital path and threaten our existence and thus at the same time embark on a program of planetary defense from the possibility of cometary and asteroidal impact.

By choosing to return to the Moon, this time to stay, we will have taken a bold step towards attaining the goal of making the dream of Solar System Settlement a long term and viable certainty.