Miscellaneous space policy commentary

While everyone awaits the next development with Sean O’Keefe and the NASA Administrator’s position, here are a few assorted policy essays from this week’s issue of The Space Review to tide you over:

  • Donald Barker argues that the Vision for Space Exploration should be focused on Mars, not the Moon, for several reasons.
  • Taylor Dinerman wonders if Sen. Daniel Inouye, who will be the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee next year, will follow in the footsteps of a late colleague also from Hawaii.
  • Sam Dinkin celebrates the passage of HR 5382.
  • Dwayne Day reexamines some of the myths associated with the Vision for Space Exploration (like the trillion-dollar price tag) and finds that some are more persistent than others.

10 comments to Miscellaneous space policy commentary

  • Bill White

    Reading Dwayne Day’s suggestion that “going to Mars” is one of the myths not actually found in the VSE, together with reading Donald Barker’s arguments that Mars “should be” the objective of the US space program, I am reminded that America has yet to agree on “WHY” we even have a human space program in the first place.

    “Great nations do great things” doesn’t seem to be inspiring very many people.

    Tumlinson’s comment that “Moon-Mars should be one word, not two” and building from an O’Neillian foundation reflect my personal opinion on how and why we should enter space yet to my knowledge neither Congress nor the American people have had this discussion in any depth.

  • Arthur Smith

    Naturally, having been on the board of directors of the Moon Society for a couple of years, etc., I disagree with Donald Barker. He repeatedly asserts things on the order of “Mars is the only extraterrestrial destination and choice available when all aspects, benefits, means, and results are considered” but supports them with only weak arguments.

    Lunar advocates generally have no problem with Mars. Mars is one (or 3, including its moons) of hundreds of thousands of useful destinations for humans in the solar system, and it’s hard to understand why Mars advocates are so bent on asserting that it should be the “one and only”.

    If “inspiration of future generations” is your highest goal, wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper and more effective to fund a few Hollywood movies? I’m sorry, that one just doesn’t wash any more.

    People who downplay the importance of the Moon strike me as being blinded by its obviousness. It’s there in the sky most nights, easy to spot – so obviously close – a country we can see, so why aren’t we there? Barker asks “why is there no focus”, but in fact there is a focus to the new exploration vision, along with all the specific propulsion and vehicle work, one which was stated explicitly by Bush from the start: using the resources of space, first on the Moon. That’s what we absolutely need to learn how to do, and the Moon has plenty of physical material resources to get us started.

  • Bill White

    “Moon-Mars” should be one word, not two. ;-)

    Dwayne Day’s points include the observation that the VSE is really only about the Moon and therefore media reports about Mars missions are another example of myth. Continuing ambiguity about the goals of the VSE is one of the continuing problems with the VSE.

    By the way, Robert Zubrin is now a vocal proponent of using lunar oxygen to fuel direct return flights to Earth. Land a large vessel with a methane fuel supply but no LOX. This allows a much larger lunar payload and presence and will test equipment that can be used for Mars.

  • I also am opposed to a Mars-first strategy. It is too big a step. We need to learn from the lessons of the X-prize and do things one small step at a time, starting with the easiest.

    BTW, I am now the American correspondent for a new British publication called International Space Review. In it, I discuss what I view as the “lessons learned” in the X-prize’s success. (It also contains a rather anti-American editorial that I do not particularly subscribe to.) If anyone is interested in a European prospective on space policy, send me an E-mail, and I’ll return a free sample issue as an Acrobat file.

    — Donald

  • Dogsbd

    >>> send me an E-mail, and I’ll return a free sample issue as an Acrobat file.

    My email to you bounced back, but I’d like to read that editorial.

  • Neil Halelamien

    I’d also like to read it. Could you send it to neuronexmachina@gmail.com please?

  • John Malkin

    How is this for a vision the Vision for Interplanetary and Interstellar Colonization?

    Goal 1: Private & public movement of people and cargo within a planetary system.
    Goal 2: Private & public movement of people and cargo between planetary systems.
    Goal 3: Private & public movement of people and cargo between stellar systems.

    I would guess 50 years to have affordable private access to the moon. 75 to 100 years to have affordable private access to another planet. 200 to 500 years to have private access to another star system. Affordable meaning a middle class American could travel for the price of a cruise.

    I doubt Congress or any President would ever use the ‘C’ word. I believe expansion of the human race off our planet will help in solving many of the problems on Earth. That isn’t a call for a list of people that should be sent off-world.

  • I think Mars is a fine first destination if someone will fund it. On $50B a year for everything, I think the Moon is the only place we can afford to colonize permanently with near-term tech and politics. A visit to Mars will be inspiring for as long as people are fooled that it is economical to colonize given our existing political will. We can do better than another one-night stand.

  • Toro

    We can’t even get humans to and from the Canary Islands (LEO) of outer space. For Columbus the trip to the Canary Islands was the easy part, although he had to wait a month to repair a ship once before departing the Canaries to “explore”. Then the storms grow. But the storm now is simply getting to and from LEO, before the “exploration”. This is the modern ethics dilemma – we need to “explore” how to get humans to and from LEO. Once that is accomplished, beyond LEO will simply fall in place. It can be argued from a sanctity of life approach that LEO being routine now and not “brave exploration” is an ethics boundary condition. In other words, what are we doing, even considering putting folks back into the jalopy? For what purpose? Utilitarianism? So everyone is happy?

  • Al Thompson

    Donald Robertson,

    I would be interested in reading the article you mentioned in your previous post, however the email keeps bouncing back to me. Could you please email me a copy of the article? Thanks.