Beyond the Cusp

February 18, 2019

Going Where no Man Has Been Before and NASA

 

Yes, we know that is the introduction to Star Trek, but it also defines what NASA was supposed to accomplish. We also note that it has been almost half a century, since December 7, 1972, that NASA was not even capable of sending a man into space beyond Earth orbit. The Space Shuttle was not space exploration and for almost a decade NASA could not even launch Space Shuttles. For the most part, the United States is reliant upon Russia just in order to place Americans onto the Space Station, the ISS. Further, the Space Station did not turn out to look anything like what was envisioned in movies such as “2001,” (see pictures below). We have come upon an unexpected blessing of a new director for NASA being a man of vision and the drive to accomplish. How, you may ask, did we come upon such a man. Well, it was due to the Congress finding that a man of integrity and one who despite being quite conservative and a Republican was willing to work with anybody with a good idea. He desired to work for the betterment of the people who elected him and the entire nation as well. He thought for himself and had an independent spirit. The Republicans attempted to defeat him in consecutive primary elections but the people knew a man of integrity and kept this marvel. They finally found something he would grab ahold of and they could get him out of the Congress, so Jim Bridenstine became the head of NASA. There were his detractors who claimed he had no backing or experience to hold such a post as he was not a bureaucrat and definitely not a paper shuffler who could produce reams of reports while doing nothing.

 

Actual International Space Station and The Space Station We All Expected

Actual International Space Station
and
The Space Station We All Expected

 

So, let’s see exactly how unqualified is Mr. Bridenstine. He is a graduate of Rice University with majors in Economics, Psychology, and Business, and has an MBA from Cornell University. He is a former executive director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and was a Naval Aviator in both the active duty United States Navy and the United States Naval Reserve where he flew the E-2C Hawkeye aircraft (image below) as part of a carrier air wing. While the E-2C Hawkeye is not exactly a spacecraft or one of the more fancy aircraft, being part of a carrier group and taking-off and landing on an aircraft carrier does require quite a bit of skill even with a prop aircraft. Landing at night, the carrier is no more visible or appear any larger no matter what one is flying towards it to land. Further, he has the degrees which make him exceedingly qualified for any management position. He is already making progress and has shaken things up a bit which sometimes is the fastest means of shaking out the cobwebs and injecting a little excitement. Jim Bridenstine has taken ahold of the directive to return to the Moon and do so while remaining with an outpost firmly and stretched it to also include doing the same on Mars. Where in Congress his clear thinking and independent voice was pretty much quashed in the cacophonic din of egoistic partisan bickering, in NASA it is his voice which will determine their direction and the alacrity with which they accomplish their tasks and it will be his voice alone with no distractions.

 

E-2C Hawkeye

E-2C Hawkeye

 

The White House announced that Bridenstine was President Donald Trump’s preferred pick to head NASA. This choice was quickly criticized by both Republican and Democratic politicians, saying that NASA should be headed by a space professional, not a politician or a Trump ally. The first thing is Jim Bridenstine was not a Trump ally so much as a clear thinking person who was not tied to any rigid political fervency. But as Jim Bridenstine resembled a square peg in a house full of round holes, he was approved if for no other reason than this removed him from Congress. Those who rose against him could not point to any lack in his qualification beyond their distaste for him and that he had never been out in space. Neither had most previous administrators of NASA ever been in space nor finding somebody who would have met that qualification would have limited the field. Having an MBA as well as a bachelors degree in three areas, Economics, Psychology, and Business, would all assist Jim Bridenstine in heading NASA. Knowing economics might assist with cash distribution and minimizing costs; add business to this and these become probabilities which time will be borne out. The final degree in psychology will assist in the most difficult area of management, people skills and knowing how to motivate people to have them reach goals they initially may not have thought possible. Jim Bridenstine is an affable person who has a warmth about him which while assisting him to become a member of Congress, will also assist his efforts to get the most out of the people working in and with NASA. So, the United States may have struck it rich with a man with the credentials who is familiar with flight as a pilot and who works well with others and he is the take-charge kind of person who has great dedication to any task at hand. An aside, before making Aliyah, Jim Bridenstine was our Congressman and had our support in two elections, so we are also a bit partial and believe in the man.

 

What is wonderful to see is the United States finally returning to the original NASA goals and mission, space rather than low-Earth orbit literally Shuttling supplies and people to the ISS. NASA was to be about the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has plans to reach the moon and this time to build a permanent manned station on the Moon. The plan then is to reach out to Mars which could very easily be launched from the Moon base. This would make reaching orbital position and then launch outward far easier despite the fact that the modules would need to be taken largely from Earth to the Moon. One could hope that a permanent space station, which is in the same orbital position as the Moon being on the opposite side of the Earth orbiting at the same speed and path as the Moon, will come to pass. This could be equipped with a space dock where interplanetary craft, and hopefully interstellar craft could be assembled. Another station within the Asteroid Belt could be a location where spacecraft could be built using the Asteroids for the raw materials necessary. This would relieve the necessity of lifting materials from Earth. Granted, until specialized production facilities for such items as circuit boards, computers, cameras, lenses and other specialty materials and objects, they would remain Earth bound. These are concepts for the future and once there are bases and orbital stations, then commercial enterprise will kick in and accelerate space conquests.

 

We hear so many people claiming, and quite loudly, that NASA is not necessary and space exploration and exploitation should simply be handed over to private enterprise just as the New World was colonized and opened up by private enterprise. The problem with this presumed analogy is that it is quite inaccurate. Initially, the New World was explored by governments which set up colonial bases with ports, repair facilities and where ships could be refitted and stocked for a return trip. The governments had to initially provide the support facilities before private enterprise took the picture the rest of the way. The Spanish and Portuguese had ports of call in the Caribbean and South America while the French and English had ports in North America. These colonialists also built or took over ports in Asia as did the Dutch. These ports were a necessity along with the protection provided by the presence of national forces, militaries in these cases. In space there will be the need for the same things with nowhere near as much military as long as the nations of the world can find some means of cooperation. Were space exploration and exploitation left to private companies and individuals, then there would be a great deal of waste adding billions, if not trillion or more, of dollars as each enterprise would need to construct their own base. Think of air travel. Does each airport serve merely one airline or do multiple airlines use the international airports. If the airports were built by each carrier, there would be tens of airports around each major city and air traffic around cities would become excessively dangerous as circling airports could have the paths intersect making for very dangerous air space in and around cities. Instead, government builds the airports and they serve everyone equally according to the fee they pay. Private airlines build their own terminals onto major airports when they have a large service area there but the central hub and the lands are all governmental. Exploration of space will be no different. We do not need to have multiple Moon Bases with one built and used by SpaceX and Elon Musk, one built and used by Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos, one built and used by Sierra Nevada Corporation and Faith and Eren Ozmen, one built and used by The Spaceship Company run by Burt Rutan and Richard Branson, one built and used by United Launch Alliance and Tory Bruno as well as those by other nations and soon the Moon and its orbital path would get quite crowded. With one per nation which is going into deeper space, the Moon will appear to get smaller and smaller just as the Earth appears to have become with air travel placing the entire planet reachable in under a single day compared to taking months to simply cross the Atlantic Ocean a mere century ago.

 

One might hope that numerous nations could agree to build such stations for their use instead of each having their own platforms. This would actually simplify future space travel making it safer. Should numerous nations agree, or if even the entire planet could reach a standard docking system, then should one craft have complete failures of systems from propulsion to any other problem, with everyone using the same docking systems, any nation with a craft in the proximity could become a rescue craft and assist or take on as passengers the crew of the stricken craft. Were every nation simply continue, as it now appears will be, each designing their own docking systems with no regard to matching other spacecraft, which will make any rescue either impossible or additionally difficult requiring space walks outside the craft, always far more risky than if docking were possible, major problems will ensue. Cooperation and coordination when it comes to space and efforts by man to leave Earth and explore becomes essential and is completely logical as when one is in space they notice there actually are not lines demarking the borders of nations as we see on maps and globes. We are not fools and realize that the odds are greatly against the United States, China, Russia, the European Union and others including private companies are not going to have a very high level of cooperation initially. With time they will all reach the same conclusion, space ventures initially are going to be expensive and without at the least some universal system applications starting with docking systems, the cost in reputation and human lives will force cooperation. It will be similar to the origins of the phrase, “I’ll be home with my bells on,” which originated with early horse and mule drawn freight wagons. The drivers would decorate their harnesses with bells which would warn on passages, especially narrow mountain passages, that there was another wagon in the area and by the loudness, one could tell if they were approaching or moving away. When one got into an emergency or became stuck and required assistance, the custom was to give the other driver some of your bells. Thus, arriving with your bells on meant a trouble free trip and if you had more than your own bells on you were celebrated for your having provided needful assistance. Needless to point out, bells are not going to work as well in space as they do on Earth, something to do with lack of atmosphere and sound waves not working in a near vacuum.

 

But, the good news is NASA is back into the space business and is done with being simply the highest-flying earthbound aircraft, which is all the shuttles actually amounted to, very high-flying gliders. Jim Bridenstine was a good choice for the job of heading up NASA and will pay dividends until some political change ends up removing him from his post which will likely be to the detriment of NASA. It would be really nice if the politicians, as far as NASA is concerned, take up being as nonpartisan as was Jim Bridenstine and like he, simply judge if things are working well and if so, don’t try to fix it. This has been part of the problem with NASA over the years as when the White House changes hands, not even necessarily parties, just a new President, the person heading NASA is all too often used as a political appointment to repay some donor by appointing them or somebody they chose for the President. Whenever a business or operation changes the leadership, there is a disruption which more often than not sets things back six months or more as everyone learns the new rules and expectations coming from the leadership as when the leaders are changed, all too often they reorganize the departments and change many things just for the sake of presumably showing that they are accomplishing things the former leader was not. Unfortunately, just because you are now doing something the former leader was not doing does not necessarily mean that you are actually accomplishing your job, it just means you have altered the focus and did so potentially away from completing the tasks at hand.

 

Jim Bridenstine has talked about working to integrate with other nations on establishing the Moon Base as well as Mars exploration with humans going and returning from the Red Planet. Jim Bridenstine recently was speaking before some NASA employees about the future probably just so it could be posted online, so we thought it might be nice to share with you Jim Bridenstine’s future of NASA. We just hope that his excitement is contagious and that NASA once again will lead the world going forward and farther until we all start to think of the Star Trek lead for the show, “To go where no man has been before.” Of course, that meant no normal man and obviously did not apply to Harcourt Fenton Mudd.

 

 

Needless to add, we are not expecting to find Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Andorians, Horta, Gorn or any of the other many races from Star Trek. As for finding other life, that appears to be inevitable. As for intelligent life, well, let us just say that is highly unlikely until we find some means of efficiently within a reasonable time of traveling the great distances. With any amount of luck, there will be an inventor who will accomplish what Zefram Cochrane did for the Earth by inventing the first warp-drive. Be the means a warp-drive, a hyperspace dimensional driver or any of the other various proposed star-drives which would propel and decelerate man across the galaxy and perhaps some day beyond; for now, we think that the Moon and Mars are great steppingstones to the Asteroid Belt and from there the outer planets and their cornucopia of moons and moonletes then to the Kuiper Belt and the Ort Cloud (assuming it exists as theorized as we have yet to detect it beyond it being the theoretical origin of long-term comets). What is out there beyond the new horizon, a horizon which expands by distance cubed, (distance)3? So, the only advice I would give NASA director Jim Bridenstine would be to the stars and do not let anything hold you back.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

December 20, 2016

A Trump Challenge to Make American Space Self-Sufficient Again

 

One of the challenges facing the Congress before the end of year should be logged is passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with the remainder of the 2017 Federal Budget. One of the items NASA and the rest of the “space is the future” groups, count us a select few from amongst them, is that within the (NDAA) is the finalization for the American purchases of so-called RD-180 rocket engines from Russia. These engines are essential for launch of America’s Atlas V rockets, themselves essential for placing highly expensive and uniquely capable satellites in deeper orbits. While this expenditure is necessary in the immediate future, it is a situation which screams for remedy. It is difficult to believe and should be embarrassing that the United States is dependent upon the Russians for the very rocket engines required to lift United States deeper space elements, including military surveillance orbiters, as well as transporting American astronauts and all supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). How utterly embarrassing this situation is. Whatever happened to the spirit and concept from the Administration of President Ronald Reagan where it was demanded that all military inventory down to the individual components be manufactured in the United States and the Defense Departments not be dependent for anything greater than bananas from outside the United States, well, maybe pineapples too as there is only so much farmland in Hawaii. The space components should be another vital area where the United States need be self-reliant and hopefully incoming President Donald Trump is made aware of this disgrace and is willing to go the extra mile and set this as one of his higher priorities. This should be a priority of at least one of the newer space companies who are invested in producing boosters, especially heavy lift boosters for the first two base stages for lifting payloads into space for building on the Moon, Mars or even simply larger structures as will be required before deep missions into the Solar System, let alone eventual interstellar missions can be even thought about, let alone planned.

 

The world, preferably starting with the United States, need place space based infrastructure higher up in their items of importance as the very basics of platforms, Moon Bases, Asteroid and Comet intercept networks, mining of Asteroids and planetary moons, newer and more advanced space telescopes including extreme-size optical telescopes requiring their components to be constructed in space, Space Wheel and finally a series of space docks designed for the specific varieties of future space vehicles including a series of multi-generation deep interstellar colony ships. These ideas and builds are presumed to be in place in the hopefully not too distant future but also the sooner they are planned for, the sooner they can become a reality. There is no reasonable argument which can be made against world governments, and some nations independently such as the United States, Russia, China and any other nation with the foresight, preparing for the future where mankind extends its curiosity to the stars and beyond as if the human race is to have a future, such exploration and eventual settlement will become a necessity. We hope Israel might either be partnered with a reliable ally or attempt one independently in cooperation of another nation so as to utilize their infrastructure as a between staging area to make such a venture more readily accomplished. We can hear some already arguing that there is already far too much treasure as measure in the billions of dollars wasted on the impossible dreams of a future with mankind in space. Star Trek was a television and then movie fairy-tale with no possibility of ever becoming reality. We covered this argument not long ago in our article titled, “How Bad do Americans Want to be First in Space?”. To cut to the chase, one main point in the article is that the NASA budget has been under one percent of the total budget for most of their existence and never reached as high as two percent even when shooting for the Moon landings, so any cut made to the NASA budget would be negligible and a complete wasted effort and only weaken the United States in the process.

 

We would like to take a somewhat different tack in this article rather than repeat the previous article just for the sake of change. We have already more than sufficient repetitions of certain vital and specific agreements, treaties and events as is want to occur when one spends an inordinate amount of writings on similar subjects as the news of warrants. Any reasoned discussion about the necessity for space travel will admit that it is an eventuality which will be required for the continued existence of the human race. Arguments can be made that it will not be urgent for as far as one can reasonably plan, but even this assessment may be in error. The geologic record points to a distressing cycle of major extinction events with them reoccurring approximately every twenty six million years  due to comets or other objects from deep out of the Solar System. With an even higher percentage, actually nearly unanimous, consent of scientists the Earth is well overdue for just such an event. Most cosmologists and astrophysicist also think they know that the event will be caused by a comet. Their debate comes over whether the comet will have originated in the Kuiper Belt or the Oort Cloud. There are a number of means for testing for the origin of comets with one being their orbital plane. If a comet has an orbital plane well outside that of the Solar System then it can be assumed that its origins were from the Oort Cloud. Comets sharing their orbital plane with the Solar System are more of a challenge as they could originate in either source. The greater the variance from the orbital plane of the Solar System the higher the probability of origins in the Oort Cloud while those falling very close to the orbital plane of the Solar System need closer observation. Velocity is another determining factor as those comets originating from the Oort Cloud will likely have a far greater velocity originating two-thousand-times further from the Sun than those from the much closer Kuiper Belt. These comets fit into two main families, the short period or Kuiper Belt comets and the long period comets or Oort Cloud comets. Within the Solar System measurements are often made in standard units known as Astronomical Units (AU) which is the mean distance of Earth from the Sun, or about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). The Kuiper orbits between 30 and 60 A.U. from the Sun while the Oort Cloud orbits from 50,000 to 100,000 A.U. surrounding the Sun. The Kuiper Belt is a toroidal mass of icy bodies ranging from dust sized ice crystals to dwarf planet sizes approximately the size of Pluto with some potentially twice that size. The cross sectional shape would best be described as a flattened oval which would measure thirty Astronomical Units lengthwise with a height of around one to one and a half Astronomical Units. The Oort Cloud is a giant sphere fifty-thousand Astronomical Units from the closest pieces to the furthest reaches. The size and other characteristics of the Oort Cloud are all theoretical as it has not been directly observed and most of what we believe we understand was figured from the mathematical calculations made from long period comets. A better understanding of this strange and mysterious body of objects is just another reason on the list of things to be learned once we make our way out into the cosmos.

 

Mass Extinction Event from Space Overdue

Mass Extinction Event from Space Overdue

 

The best argument for starting to move into space and doing so immediately has to do with these extinction events caused by space rocks, be they meteor or comets. Almost any system devised to deal with these threats would be far more effective being launched from orbit or based on the Moon when mass drivers and lasers are considered. Detection is also more readily established when telescopes are not required to peer through the relatively thick atmosphere of mother Earth. Where having a nice blanket of air surrounding the plant is great for breathing and life in general, it is a detriment to optics which plays havoc both with their ability to even detect objects and then again when determining their absolute trajectories. Both of these pieces of information are vital in determining the threat level if any. The sooner we have the proper array of telescopes gaining good coverage of, at the very least, the tracking ranges for the short period comets and referencing triangulation for accurate mapping of their trajectories, then the sooner we can set about discovering which ones pose the greatest of risks and then can work at mitigating such threats. This will require planning and the building of laser pulse cannons used to obliterate threats which still manage to sneak up on us and long duration firing laser artillery which can be used to nudge objects to new and safer trajectories. The laser pulse canons will likely be solid laser which send a burst of potentially incredible power for as long as the lasing material lasts and once the core element is lased, it requires its replacement between firing. These are the variety of lasers which are capable of near atomizing targets which is perfect for any long period comets determined to be a potential threat as due to their speed we may only get a half dozen shots at it if that. The long period comets will be one off encounters as they are less likely to reach the inner Solar System and when they do they are unlikely to return in anybody’s life span thus we would only have the one-time encounter where it may threaten the Earth. Further, their excessive speed would render trajectory altering options unusable due to lack of time to influence its directions and also limit the options as at such speeds we could never manage to place a gravity tractor near it which would remain in close proximity. A one-off high energy pulse or, if trajectory alteration was an absolute must; an electronic rail-gun would be another potentially useable and proven alternative. Whatever system was utilized, it would be required to be space based or Moon based, definitely not terrene as anything used from Earth would be compromised by our blanket of air.

 

Another reason for making the jump into space would be for making the Earth safer from its inhabitants, named humankind. Our wars have been getting more frequent, more violent and escalating where another World War is not out of the question. We know the next World War, be it whatever number from three to twelve you wish to give it (some claim that a war between the Western World and the Islamic nations coming together forming a Caliphate for the sake of Grand Jihad and the final realization of Allah’s promise of world conquest would simply be World War I claiming it started in the Seventh Century, and they have a point), that war may very well be the final war where human beings were at the top of the food chain. It was Einstein who answered the question of what the weapons of World War III would look like saying, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” The validity of Einstein’s answer could be debated from this day forward to doomsday or until World War IV as until then we know not what will remain available, but his inference is sobering enough to anybody who believes that their lives in this world are important, not necessarily more important than the world to come, but at least of a measurable value in living and not simply a means to die well assuring your place in the world to come. What are frightening are those groups who insist that they are the sole possessors of absolute truth and that all others must be bent to their will and accept all that they believe as to believe any other way is such an abomination that those holding different beliefs must be destroyed utterly and completely down to the last man, woman and child. Those who stand that theirs must be the sole dominant, if not only, views permitted and that their leadership must be obeyed by every last soul in existence, space offers a respite to these kinds of threats and might make those holding these thoughts to realize they can no longer strike everyone and make all come to their system and surrender to their superiority. Space is the ultimate high ground which Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Niccolò Machiavelli, Thucydides, Abraham, King David, Joshua ben Nun, Napoleon Bonaparte, General George S. Patton, General William Tecumseh Sherman, General Robert E. Lee, and virtually every other military mind throughout history believed was vital to victory. Space grants the holder complete control over the terrain as all terrain is readily reachable by them while they remain virtually invulnerable. The best example one can give is that the time a projectile aimed with accuracy at an Earth-bound target from the Moon is measured in hours, while the time for any projectile launched from Earth at that target on the Moon is measured in days. One projectile is almost guaranteed not to be intercepted while the other is woefully vulnerable to interception. That is the advantage of owning space and the Moon and stations in orbit.

 

The reasons for taking the time, efforts, investments and material to establish an initial permanent presence in space with a workable area designed for the practical exploitation of space for most of the energy requirements and raw materials are legendary and lengthy. Humans have stridden for a presence in space since the idea for the Tower of Babel. Time has not weakened that urge for most of us; unfortunately there are those who would rather buy votes than actually serve their constituents through actually accomplishing something beyond self-served greed. Instead of making that third million through all the illegal for everyone else but not for thee insider-trading that takes place by Congress-critters why not actually think about the future of the nation, the people, the entirety of humanity, oh, wait, I asked Congress-critters to think, my bad, sorry. Perhaps someone new to their staff might think, yes, that might be possible, and then slip papers to them to sign explaining it will get them thousands of votes. Get a number of junior staffers to do the same across the House of Representatives and then the Senate and who knows, the media might make fun of the idea and that way President Trump will most definitely sign such legislation with little regard for the content, after all, if the media hates it then it must be good for the United States. Perhaps make a big White House East Garden in the Spring with manicured garden in full bloom (because the plants were planted in full bloom mere hours before and then the gardeners sat nervously watching in case a single pedal fell to the ground) with rocket scientists in the required white lab coats and slide-rulers in hand and notepad in the ready and President Trump with Vice President Pence and the head of NASA all smiling as the challenge is put forth (without warning anybody because Melania Trump had just told him about it a few hours earlier) to place an operating and self-sufficient Mars Base by 2035 sending it off as the next great step following the footsteps of that great experiment which President John F. Kennedy had set as the challenge of that time, this is the challenge for our time. By the time all the screaming and impeachment for signs of insanity has failed, who knows, we might be half way to that base on Mars. The first thing we have to test is whether Martian soil, dust, dirt, whatever covers a fair part of the planet and is blown around like a Saharan dust storm, is capable of supporting Earth plant life with watering and if not exactly what else is necessary. This should have been part of the plan since day one. We have tested for if life had existed and by doing so we should also have tested for amount of compatibility with Earthen soils and what is missing for making it great for growing foodstuffs such as wheat, vegetables, possibly even fruit bearing trees in time. Mars turned green with greenhouses. Perhaps the scientists and agronomists from the United States could work with Israelis and between them develop special hybrids which could survive on Mars with minimal shielding from radiation, smaller amounts of water as the Israelis have developed for the Negev, capable of thriving on recycled wastewater which is another area of Israeli expertise, and possibly survive and thrive in lower temperatures by hybridizing the plants with winter wheats and lettuce which already are capable of colder temperatures. Once they have grains then all that is required is water, yeast and hops and large tanks to make beer and the heat generated, it will necessitate very active yeast, can warm the plants. Once there is Martian brewed beer there will be people ready to go to Mars just to try the beer, well, maybe not tens of thousands, but hundreds will do for a start. One more set of items is that it has been figured that if the right asteroids are selected the people mining it could make millions of Euros, Dollars, Shekels and the variety of precious materials from iron-nickel asteroids to some which hold gemstones, rare earth materials, silicon, germanium, crystals and things we have yet to discover. There are also many very anticipated and desired items which can only be manufactured in space and other things which would be of far higher quality with almost no defects such as crystals and computer storage disks. Space is a frontier with opportunities but we need to go there first and set up the bases for operations.

 

Examples from Space Manufacture for Making Crystals And the Effects of Different Flames Earth Gravity vs Microgravity

Examples from Space Manufacture for Making Crystals
And the Effects of Different Flames Earth Gravity vs Microgravity

 

Finally, there are those who claim that we should simply allow private individual, small groups and corporations go and build everything necessary to carry out all these great new ventures in space. They point to the Mayflower as a prime example of the new world being developed by private interests. That is not the entire truth, and these people know this. Governments set up the structures required to operate in the new world. The initial discoveries were all financed by the crowns of the nations who came starting with heavy investments by Spain, then France, Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands and more. The governments built the docks such that everybody had access, equal access. The government built the roads in time but yes, the paths were worn by colonial people getting from A to B but eventually A to B was paved by government. Space is the same. The initial space docks will be placed next to a large spinning double or triple wheel with room for additional wheels which can be added by private ventures and the central hub will also be expandable and all of this adds more for people and corporations to invest. The roadways to the Asteroid Belt will be strewn with largest asteroids used as ports where the government makes certain assurances such as it does not get destroyed by that other large rock over there and making the place relatively safe even from people mixing not so amorously with other people. Claims on asteroids and property will need to be regulated and licensed with enforcement. Property rights are one of the most basic necessities to allow for wealth production. The “shipping lanes” will need to be protected such that it will require armed government vessels and strict guidelines on actions and their relative permissibility. Much of this will be done as a work in progress but the world has experience in such ventures and hopefully can avoid shooting one nation at another. Think of the alternative that people suggest. What would be the opportunity for say Westinghouse or Sony or other companies if the main space station and its docks were the General Electric Space Station and docking facility. How would things work for all involved or wishing to be if the Moon base was Citibank Moon Base? If companies were to own the main facilities and infrastructure then they would control who got to go where and very soon there would be a horrific situation where it would simply become untenable. At that point government would need to step into the breach and then when places were either forced to be accommodating or were replaced by government there would be lost money by the original investor who would be claiming they were only trying to make good on the largest investment the corporation had ever ventured upon. Their argument would be they would be financially destroyed if they did not eventually turn a profit. Such acrimony and the potential to lose everything if you did not toe the government line would make every other company shy from space. Without the central structure being initially government and for everybody’s use there would be little if any progress. Put in a dock and some infrastructure and then have bids on space in the space station, sell apartments, a hotel, everything any decent small town on the Interstate provides and that would be the private partnership with government and then you have respected property rights and universal access and from there a whole bunch of happy campers. That is the other reason government must take the initial steps and then if they build it the rest will come.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

April 21, 2012

Will You Visit the NASA Gravesite?

NASA transferred on Thursday space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Discovery logged more time and miles in space than any other craft capable of attaining orbit and returning its occupants to Earth in the course of its 39 missions and more than 365 days in space. Director of the museum John Dailey stated, “Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America’s shuttle fleet. In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come. The museum is committed to teaching and inspiring youngsters, so that they will climb the ladder of academic success and choose professions that will help America be competitive and successful in the world of tomorrow.” One has to wonder which would be a greater inspiration, Discovery sitting behind velvet ropes strung between brass stands or thundering off the launch pad carrying the next generation of astronauts to the International Space Station and possibly to take part in building the dreams beyond. Perhaps had we continued our manned space program we would build the first all American Space Double Wheel Station just like those made famous in so many futuristic films or taking the materials to an American Space Dock where future space going vessels are being built. For the foreseeable future, if one wishes to see the American space program they will need to go to the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in Washington DC and forget about the trip to Florida.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden also commented stating, “Today, while we look back at Discovery’s amazing legacy, I also want to look forward to what she and the shuttle fleet helped to make possible. As NASA transfers the shuttle orbiters to museums across the country, we are embarked on an exciting new space exploration journey.” His comments do beg a rather important and equally embarrassing question; exactly what exciting new space exploration journey is he referring to? A journey usually implies that the trip will include people and in 2010 President Obama quietly and with absolutely no fanfare cancelled the Constellation rocket and capsule program to take humans back into orbit and from there to the Moon. Since the last space shuttle mission and until somebody in the government gains a smidgen of foresight, the United States will be paying the now doubled price to Russia for our astronauts to hitch a ride to the International Space Station.

President Obama also cancelled the planned return trips to the Moon along with all plans to build a Moon Base claiming that we can leave such matters for private enterprise to address. How sorry will we be when we will need to pay the Russians to give us a ride to visit the Chinese Moon base which they are still intent on building, most likely with the money we pay them on our debt. President Obama also made reference to our landing on an asteroid sometime in the mid-2020s; of course it would need to wait for Obama to be long gone from office. We can also pretty much forget that idea of landing an American astronaut on Mars and even a distant plan to build a base on Mars as both of these missions relied on building the spacecraft and launching them from a Moon base. The reason President Obama gave for these decisions was that there was a far greater need to keep the funds here on Earth to help people rather than waste the funding on some distant dream. I had always thought dreaming of doing the impossible and then committing to doing it was an all-American trait.

But, is this excuse of saving all that funding to use here on Earth even close to the reality? Granted, when you think about billions of dollars, yes, with a ‘B’, it seems like a whole lot of money to most of us. I know I could live a very long time on just one billion dollars and NASA gets between three and five billion dollars a year. Wow, that should really pay for a lot of people here on Earth, right? Well, not so much. Despite the sound of the NASA budget, it makes up almost a whole one per cent of the budget. It actually averaged over the life of the entire space program approximately 0.75% of the budget. That means that for every $100.00 spent by the Federal Government, NASA actually gets a whole 75 cents, seventy-five whole pennies, until they do away with pennies, but that is for another day’s editorial. So, we now have set aside and saved $7,500.00 for every $1,000,000.00 spent. In real terms the NASA budget is a negligible portion of the Federal budget and could be increased 6.5 times over and would barely reach 5%, which is a small investment for both fulfilling the dreams of a nation and an avenue for research and development that likely will never be done at all until we come to our senses. If the Smithsonian Institute really wants to inspire children to become rocket scientists and the United States and her people also believe that would be a worthwhile investment, as I recall President Obama is very pro-investments by government, perhaps they might whisper into some of the power people who might have sufficient influence and suggest that an actual rocket launch and a real space program would be far more inspiring and effective for inspiring children to become rocket scientists. Anyways, where do these people think these inspired children will be employed once they become honest-to-goodness rocket scientists?

Beyond the Cusp

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