Space Policy in the 21st Century


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Post December 16, 2007, 11:30:07 PM

Space Policy in the 21st Century

First, thank you, Mr. Smith, for a thought provoking look at the question of space exploration in the near term.  You plumbed a different perspective than those I usually hear.

However, I disagree with you on the idea of leaving space to governments.  Military and government uses of space are, invariably, going to focus back towards earth with an eye towards dominance.  While I see that as a necessary step in securing our three dimensional borders, I don't believe the governments of the world will move as quickly to explore space -- not only exploring the solar system itself, but in finding economic uses for whatever we find out there in plentiful supply -- as companies with customers to satisfy.  

I foresee free enterprise as the best means to quickly build human inroads in near space exploration and utilization (man I hate that word).


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Post December 17, 2007, 10:34:42 AM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

Interesting comments. My own two cents: Throughout history governments have been able to marshal the resources, human and financial to take on projects that for the normal human being and or business were too expensive, held too much risk or were of dubious value, but still expensive. Some times these efforts were conducted in conjunction with the business class. A few quick examples: The Great Wall Of China, The Grand Canal, The Zheng He expeditions from China,Over Seas Exploitation by Spain, then the rest of Europe, as mentioned space exploration today if one can call it that, and medical efforts from NIH and such. You get the idea.

Business has a place however, on has recourse, generally, if governments get out of hand too abusive or loose their mandates encompassing the legitimate call for change or rebellion/revolution. Business has no such built in safeguards. A good example is the Company Coal Town, pollution of the earth and again I could go on.

Government bureaucracies are inherently inefficient, but I would much rather have the power of recall then leave the world to the commercial environment (see lockheed with their screwed up Coast Guard Cutters, botched up Mars Landers or Unisys with Dept. of Homeland inSecurity (DHS) covering up a huge successful cyber attack). Yes Government types with DHS were involved but the current batch of satraps in government are nothing more then mouth pieces for industry.
However,
The point is we do have the ability to recall the people in the executive and legislative areas and make slight modifications. I mention slight because we will never get rid of money interests whose goals at times will run counter to the greater good, defined as???. Were this a straight business enterprise we'd be SOL.

So I guess that while some think that business alone should be the driver in space exploration exploitation, I say that until space flight and moon mining and such become common and every day, the cost of which (financial and human) will drop because of the initial investments made by governments, the safer solution, in a democratic sense, would be for the worlds governments to band together in a common goal of say moon mining, Mars colonization and ??? by X date. We have the technology and it is foolish for each country attempting to demonstrate its technology prowess, to be reinventing the space wheel.

Will this ever happen? Short of an attack by an alien space fleet, probably not. Welcome to The COMPANY MINING TOWN OF NEW WEST VIRGINA ,MOON BASE # 34.

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Post December 17, 2007, 10:49:52 AM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

I don't envision governments scaling back their space programs in the 21st century. Doing so would leave them vulnerable to other nations, both from a militaristic and economical vantage. I believe one problem the US has had is that no one has pushed them since the fall of the USSR. That, in my opinion, will change soon as China and the EU gain more capabilities in space exploration.

Also, another issue with governments is that they tend to hoard their secrets. While that also exists in the corporate world, it's more difficult to be covert when your product is exposed to the masses at large.

I do agree, however, that unregulated access to space by corporations will result in abuse and unethical practices. Corporations, by their very nature, are amoral constructs. A laissez-faire attitude would cause long-term harm and instability.
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Post December 17, 2007, 10:55:54 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

Good points, Rick. I agree, it will have to be a joint venture. I would love to see the US go back to the moon. We should have done that years ago, but our focus on space has been in satellite development. A good thing, but it leaves much to be desired when it comes to exploration. The Mars rovers have been wonderful, but I worry about the follow up, because we failed miserably in following up on our successes with moon landings.

Your idea of setting joint goals is great, but so hard to do. I think it's more realistic to set US goals of returning to the moon with an idea of establishing the first human research lab, and then invite other nations to participate.


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Post December 18, 2007, 05:14:34 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

Didn't Heinlein predict in "the Man Who Sold the Moon" that it would take an entrepreneur with self-interest at heart to trick mankind into doing what is best for us?  (Then again, he also saw the moon used as a penal colony. Hmmmm)

Here in Oz we have a number of "public/private partnerships" designed to help fund and build infrastructure such as major roads.  So far, they have succeeded in getting the roads built, but the net result has been unhappy road users forced to pay ridiculously high tolls (20% ROI for the investment banks!) or, in one memorable case, the partnership going bancrupt because the public boycotted the toll road.

What has this to do with space?  Not much, except to show that I do not think that a public/private JV would get us too far into space.  Richard Branson, on the other hand, would have Virgin running moon shuttles if he could work out how to make a buck out of it.

Oh, and Dave? How do you know that there isn't a secret US base on the moon already? After all, if they can cover the stargate missions by running that ridiculous TV show...
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Post December 18, 2007, 11:24:32 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

I ask you, when do we have time for a moon base while we're servicing all those secret space stations orbiting this blue marble?

http://www.greatdreams.com/etsecret.htm


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Post December 19, 2007, 09:06:53 AM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

I will mention a set of factoids: you are aware that our ocean scientist were taken by the science conducted by the Navy. The "new data" was astounding, the same for some space science.
So who is to know exactly what's been going on? If you subscribe to Janes Defense and Aviation Weekly a new world of data opens up. With these and a few other technincal magazines in the Open Literature arena you can get a picture of the launches and trajectories. If you really wanted to look I would look at launches from Vandenberg especially. From that one can put together a possible and probable idea of what they are carrying. Moon launches require certain angles and boost capabilities. Add to that the weight of equipment for XYZ applications.... you get the idea, do the math. The data is also there for other countries. Interesting stuff.

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Post December 19, 2007, 09:40:03 AM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

The US is putting satellites in space. Small (relatively speaking), expensive, advanced satellites. This information is not secret, it's obvious. But even small satellites can be seen from earth via dime store telescopes. Larger telescopes can pick out geosynchronous and -stationary sats that orbit 22k miles away. In the scheme of solar observation, these satellites are not large, and yet armatures can pick them out if they watch the skies.
Large space stations would be much easier to pick out. Even if the govt built one in secret, it could not stay secret for long. Although these conspiracy theories make good fodder for sci-fi (and long night discussions on Coast to Coast), they don’t make good sense in reality.
I place the idea of secret space stations right up there with the US Navy having launch sites out of New Mexico that empty into the Pacific.



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Post December 19, 2007, 11:53:18 AM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

It is not easy to predict the future. Will corporations turn space into a ’Wall Street?’ Will the moon be mined? Most likely. And the planets? Well only a fool would say no!

What I didn’t see in the article is one of the most important possibilities of space exploration and colonization. Self government! When colonies on the moon and other planets become self-sufficient, will a growing unrest develop within those colonies? I think it will, whether the colony was formed by a corporation, a government or a joint venture.

Just imagine living and working for years or even generations on a distance mining installation or research center and you have been self sufficient for many of those years. Earth will become unimportant, but its long arm dictating rules, regulation and demands will continue until you had enough. At this point in the far future, your colony gives everything to earth, yet you receive nothing in return!!

Just another thought.
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Post December 19, 2007, 12:52:15 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

A number of books and movies relate to the subjects you just mentioned. A Declaration of Independence from a King George? How the wheel could turn. I would guess it would be a more repressive situation given the nature of Nature out there. However I would agree that given the distance and totally different environments, the inhabitants and rulers would want to be free of earth bound control. (Total Recall anyone?)

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Post December 27, 2007, 01:17:28 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

Well, this essay certainly covers a lot of ground.

I do have to say that the conquest of space by corporations is not necessarily evil.

Some corporations do indeed act rather immorally. However, if one looks around one's neighborhood, one will see that there are millions of corporations all around us. Chances are that corner gas station or Mom & Pop shop is going to be at least an LLC. Partnerships or wholly-owned is awfully rare, and for good reasons considering tax structures and liabilities. So, those people down at the café are hardworking, honest folk, but tend to be corporations by definition.

This is a technicality, I realize. "Big Business" and Mom & Pops are worlds apart.

However, I think it is important to look at history. If no one thought there was money to be made across the sea, explorers would never have left their homeland. Europe wanted a cheaper route to or source of goods from the orient, so Columbus got that nod. Northwest Passage to "discovering" ways to the Indian Ocean, people were in it for the money or resources. At first, it was governments who sponsored the expeditions, but later it was private groups funding settlers in return for their guaranteed commerce, the "Big Business" of their day.

The United States went to the moon to beat the Soviet Union to the punch, but in so doing, also funded a lot of private enterprise, bolstering the economy with the direct income and subsidiary products from technologies that were discovered.

Money is the power behind exploration. It's not glamorous or noble, but there it is. Find a way to make space profitable, and we'll go tomorrow (or at least start).

I hope they do, too. I'd like to go.

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Post December 27, 2007, 03:47:50 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

This is a technicality, I realize. "Big Business" and Mom & Pops are worlds apart.


On the other hand, "Mom and Pop's Space Travel, LLC" is an interesting story-kernel.
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Post December 27, 2007, 04:03:33 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

On the other hand, "Mom and Pop's Space Travel, LLC" is an interesting story-kernel.

Too true. Maybe that can be February's challenge...

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Post January 03, 2008, 04:21:18 PM

Re: Space Policy in the 21st Century

Lest we forget, private enterprise is working on space flight capability independent of NASA, ESA, the military, and other government agencies. Scaled Composites / Virgin Galactic is the best known case (although their proposed service just barely qualifies as suborbital flight); this story is about a more ambitious project (although how they'd get the resulting vehicle TO the moon is another question):

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology ... ander.html

For an interesting fictional take on a private-enterprise conquest of the inner solar system, viz. Michael Flynn's quadrilogy(?) (Firestar, Rogue Star, Lodestar, Falling Stars)... or Ben Bova's various interconnected books (mostly named after planets, e.g., Mars, Venus, Jupiter, ... also Powersat and The Rock Rats.
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