A skewed look at March Storm

Did you know that right now there are dozens of lobbyists “besieging” Capitol Hill seeking money for the Pentagon to buy space weapons? That’s the gist of an article today on Wired News, which somehow manages to conflate the March Storm lobbying effort with a very separate debate on space weaponization.

Where to begin? Let’s try this excerpt:

This week is “March Storm,” when 50 to 75 lobbyists will spend three days speaking with staffers from more than 250 offices on Capitol Hill. Some of the lobbyists represent the aerospace industry, but most have been hired by smaller space startups and entrepreneurs.

The big talking point? How the private sector can help the U.S. military build space-based weapons a lot faster and with a lot less of taxpayers’ money.

The “lobbyists” that participate in March Storm are typically ordinary people—sometimes including officials from some of the “smaller space startups” but also unaffiliated space advocates and students—who not only pay their own way to Washington, but also for the last few years have paid a registration fee to defray the costs of the effort. That’s a far cry from what comes to mind when one hears the word “lobbyist”.

And the bit about “help[ing] the U.S. military build space-based weapons”? The only element of the March Storm agenda that deals with military space is a request for the creation of the AFRL Center for Entrepreneurial Space Access to be a liaison between the entrepreneurial space community and the military on the development of responsive space launch systems, at the princely sum of $5 million in FY07. One might imagine that such systems could, theoretically, be used for future space weapons systems, but that’s certainly not the thrust of the project.

Most of the rest of the article is about a space weaponization debate wholly separate from this week’s March Storm. The author, John Lasker, relies far too heavily on Bruce Gagnon and some of his outlandish, dubious claims without making much of an overt effort to verify them (including a claim that the ACLU “uncovered court documents revealing that NASA and the U.S. Air Force were secretly monitoring” Gagnon, and that “space-based weapons will be deployed near or on the moon” by the US military.) There are some more reasoned, rational quotes from Theresa Hitchens, director of the Center for Defense Information, but no comments from other policy analysts or DoD officials other than a quote from an unnamed US Space Command PAO.

There is indeed an ongoing debate about the potential use of weapons in space, but to link it to March Storm—perhaps as a hook to make the article timely—is clumsy at best and deceitful at worst. (The article’s headline, “Space Hawks Chase Death Rays”, doesn’t help, but headline copy is often the responsibility of an editor, not the article’s author.) Given that Mr. Lasker’s past articles for Wired News have not focused on military space topics, perhaps it’s simply ignorance of the issues.

31 comments to A skewed look at March Storm

  • Secretly deep down, you’re all a bunch of war weenies. Just read the latest regurgitation on Space Review. If you think that it will help you in your space colonization fantasies, most of your would sell out to the Pentagon War Wagon in a second.

    Some of us have higher standards.

    Bush sucks, therefore, you suck.

  • Ah, if only we were all as enlightened as Tom Elifritz…

    I think it’s probably ignorance, Jeff, but that’s no excuse. It’s shoddy reporting (to be kind).

  • Brent

    Tom, you hippie!

    The Pentagon’s done far more for the cause of human freedom than anything you could ever dream of doing! Eh, comrade?

  • Yes War Good! Peace Bad!

    Gulf of Tonkin. Weapons of Mass Desctruction.

    The commies won, Brent. The terrorists appear to be winning. And Osama bin Laden is, of course, dead.

    Yes, I have so much faith in our administrative and military industrial complex abilities to protect our freedoms and colonize space.

  • Chance

    I am inclined towards thinking that the author either willfully misrepresented the facts, or a (very) rough draft got published by mistake. I was originally inclined towards the shoddy reporting opinion, since I don’t subscribe to the vast liberal media conspiracy theory.

    As for the original post, only a Bush supporter could possibly talk like that, in an attempt to discredit the opposition he is supposedly part of. Oldest trick in the book, and the internet only makes it easier.

  • Mike Puckett


    Your pursuasive, well reasoned, respectful, rational, thoughtful and intelligent arguments have finally won me over you big lug!!!! I am now a tie dye wearing hippie who has burned his draft card!

    Now sign me onto to you single stage grain silo to orbit plan and lets leave these looser capitalist pigs in the dust! Oink, Oink!

    Pass that blunt my way man! Don’t Bogart the weed man!

  • Mike Puckett

    “As for the original post, only a Bush supporter could possibly talk like that, in an attempt to discredit the opposition he is supposedly part of. Oldest trick in the book, and the internet only makes it easier.

    Sorry Chance, TLE is really what he seems. He has a history beyond this board. He as earned his batwings many times over.

  • Actually, neither war nor the peace movement have done much to encourage peace. Throughout history, trade has been most effective at that. This is only one of the reasons ITAR is such a mistake.

    As for Wired News, I haven’t read them for years, but I was surprised by this. For the record, Wired News and Wired Magazine (a journal I love) are no longer related, and the sins of the former should not be used to tar the latter.

    — Donald

  • It’s not capitalism that will colonize space, it’s physics, Mike. If you’ve, NASA, the DOD or private industry has got something smaller than a grain silo that doesn’t burn liquid oxygen and hydrogen, that will colonize space, we’d all love to see it Mike. I have yet to see you post a single link to a single design since you have been posting your neo-libertarian neo-conservative nonsense on the internet, years of it now. Put up, or just keep posting nonsense. Space review articles about horsey’s on the moon will not colonize space. NASA and the DOD have already amply demonstrate that they have no intention of developing launchers capable of colonizing space, and private industry has been throwing pipsqueaks at the problem. The problem is pure physics and pure engineering and pure financing, and NASA and the DOD have been doing nothing but spending trillions on pathetic and deadly adventures in folly, at an incalculable cost in lives and the environment.

  • Thomas, it is commerce _and_ physics, plus humanity’s natural curiosity, that will colonize space. Physics and technology are useless without motivation, and trade provides the motivation and thence the money.

    It is an unfortunate truth that military endeavors have helped open many a frontier. The rockets that supply the comsat industry started out as military technology. I think it likely that the immediate future in rocketry will revolve around the EELVs. That said, breakthrough rockets are far more likely to come from DARPA and the commerce- and ideologically-motivated alt.space crowd than anyone at an operational agency, military or NASA.

    — Donald

  • Mike Puckett

    “Put up, or just keep posting nonsense.”

    If you had the slightest sense or irony, you would be struck by the latent hypocracy in that statement. Your tone deafness is your achillies heel.


    It is cooperation and organization that will colonize space. We have more than enough workable designs already without me coming up with a flying dog kennel SSTO design to placate your demands.

    You may have the best design in history but if you antagonize and belittle everyone else that slightly deviates from your dogma (this is called fanaticism BTW) to score some cheap points to stoke your sense of moral superority, your plans will remain nothing more than bird cage liner. You make Zurbin look like the Dali Lama in comparison.

    The pieces we need to colonize space largely exist, it is the ability to glue people and resources together with a workable plan that is lacking.

    While I may lack a design, I also lack your supreme arrogance. Frankly, I prefer my arrangement to yours.

    I suggest you read Dale Carnages book on how to win friends and influence people if you ever expect anyone to take you seriously.

  • So your motto is ‘we can colonize space without a clue’. Ok, thanks for sharing.

    It’s true that the moon landings occured because of the cold war, the shuttle was build because we landed on the moon, the EELVs were built by the Air Force because the shuttle failed to deliver as promised, but still, here we are, space is still not colonized, and TRILLIONs of dollars have been wasted because we didn’t have enough foresight to put hardened doors and cockpit locks on our airlines. I admit you must have a stunning lack of comprehension if you cannot appreciate what private industry could do with a TRILLION dollars, in space. But no, America chooses to be represented and protected by incompetant boobs and a psychotic president and vice president. I will be a sheer pleasure to stand by and watch India, China, Japan, Russia and Indonesia blow America out of the water, in space.

    America simply does not have the ‘right stuff’. It is a complete and utter failure of the American way of life. It’s Vietnam all over again, this time, without the space race. There is no way we can win, we may as well just surrender right now, and go down and apply for a job at the Mao-Mart internment camps.

    By the way, anyone notice that we exceeded the national debt ceiling a few month’s ago? America is broke, and broken, the environment is broke, and broken, and the world is broke, and broken, and global space colonization is the only way out now. I for one, and not going to sit around on my ass at not comment about it, in the only truly free venue left in the world, the internet. If the American fascist have their way, that soon will also be gone.

    Who needs friends, when we have a world full of enemies of our own creation. We could be sending them food and blankets and shoes, but no, we send them guns and bombs.

  • Mike Puckett

    “So your motto is ‘we can colonize space without a clue’. Ok, thanks for sharing.

    Actually, my motto is ‘we can’t colonize space with strawman arguments’ and you are welcome. Please take it to heart.

  • You Neocons are really into the ‘knee jerk’ ‘strawman’ thing, aren’t you. That’s all I ever hear from you guys when confronted by the ugly truths of the complete mess of America you have created.

  • Luke

    (just being smart) but when did hippies stop smoking so much? The withdrawls make you very cranky and angry with life.

    Past space efforts have cost “trillions” of dollars because the physics! I think it was Galileo who noticed that big structures required disproportionate dimentions to smaller structures to be as strong and suit the same purpose. (the bones of a giant twice normal size would have to be 4x as thick etc.)

    So structures that are going to sustain 4-9x the normal force of gravity were going to be very beefy, or made of exotic materials both very costly. If you take time to research early space programs you’ll find there were many unknowns that the military and NASA had to deal when designing a mission. Now that many of them have been hashed out, others may reap the benifits.

    Would the private sector do a better job of space? I’d say it depends. Some would do what they know works (safer) and we’d be no closer to the “future” and others would come up with great ideas that change everything.
    I think if you went back in time and were to give those same companies the trillions of dollars DoD and NASA would have gotten they would laugh at you then invest it into something more realistic and less risky.

    As for military application in space… frankly, the military doesn’t go where there isn’t a mission. Since there are no space-farmers on the moon to protect there is no mission. Orbital platforms for information and weapons are/would be more Quasi-space since they are terrestrial in focus and not all that interested in space.

    If you are eager to put farms on Mars, tell your congressmen and start saving up for your space-tourism sub-orbital flight so those companies will profit and push the envelope, or you can smoke more and dream about the significance of Dog and God

  • Jeff Foust

    Gentelmen: Please constrain your comments to be as relevant as possible to the original post. Your cooperation is appreciated.

  • I didn’t say past space efforts cost trillions of dollars, anyone with any brains can see that, what has cost the US ‘trillions’ of dollars is interest on an astronomical national debt, run up by rampant militarism, and incompetence in government. Space by comparison, is a minor expenditure. It would take less than 20 billion to develop a ‘corn silo’ space colonization capable SSTO and/or RLV. By comparison, war is costing us roughly 10 billion per month, and interest on the national debt (the US is now operating in technical default) averages 30 billion per month. Compare that to real Apollo dollars, or real NASA dollars, or real DOD dollars, and imaginary IRAQ dollars.

    Space is cheap. What we have is an administration representing a populace too cheap and too dumb to invest in what is needed : credible launch vehicles.

  • Mike Puckett

    “You Neocons are really into the ‘knee jerk’ ‘strawman’ thing, aren’t you. That’s all I ever hear from you guys when confronted by the ugly truths of the complete mess of America you have created.”

    And you moonbats are into this bullshit and make stuff up thing when you find yourself edging too far from your psycosis and too close to reality.

    Thomas, all your posts are nothing more than hyperbole laced with strawman fallacies.

    No one takes any of your ideas seriously because of that. Untill you grow up and start talking to others on an adult level, you will be rightly viewed as nothing more than a bufoon and a court jester.

  • Mike Puckett

    “What we have is an administration representing a populace too cheap and too dumb to invest in what is needed : credible launch vehicles.”

    Oh! boo hoo hoo!!!! Chimpy McHitler won’t build my corn silo launch vehicle with public money!! He is mean to me and must be evil!!! Boo hoo hoo!

    If your corn silo launcher is so damn good, why don’t you come up with a business plan and attract investors and build it yourself.

    Please come back when you have a credible business plan and investors lined up and tell us how you pursuaded them to rally around the cause with your award winning powers of pursuasion!

  • Yes I know, like Goddard. von Braun didn’t get any respect until he started lobbing 2000 pound bombs into downtown London. That’s what get’s the NEOcon respect, terror and death. That’s why you are so obsessed about some guy living in a cave in Afghanistan, so keen and spreading American torture and terror worldwide, and ignore the people who sacrifice their credibility for space colonization.

    Like space colonization advocates have any respect in the first place. Yes, cryogenic engines and reusable launch vehicles are just too darn expensive, we’ve got to have guns and bombs and stuff, and we need to be in debt up to our eyeballs, that’s far more important than our children’s future.

  • Mike Puckett


    If you ride that strawman any harder, you are gonna get brokeback with it! Please get back on you meds. The moon is for colonization, not being barked at.

  • No Mike, SPACE is for colonization. The moon, mars, the moons of mars, and the asteroids and comets are all in space. Space is not for exploration. Space is nothing. One doesn’t explore nothing. Colonization is creating something out of nothing. What we have to work with are the Earth, the shuttle, the ISS and some ELVs. These assets are far more credible than the ESAS, the CEV and the HLV, because they exist, and are ready to be thrown at the space colonization problem right now. What this imcompetent administration has effectively done is taken their eyes, and everyone elses eyes, off the ball. They do this with everything they touch. If we are going to throw billions of dollars more at the space colonization problem, then that money has to be spent on existing infrastructure, and any new infrastructure has to be credible space colonization assets.

    VSE is not even about space colonization, and ESAS isn’t even remotely credible. George W. Bush and his cronies has destroyed any possibility of any near term space colonization effort just like they have destroyed and ruined every other thing they have touched in the last six years. This administration is shit, and thus by simple logical deduction, the people they represent are shit. America is shit, get it? I’d like to change that.

  • Mike Puckett

    “This administration is shit, and thus by simple logical deduction, the people they represent are shit. America is shit, get it? I’d like to change that.

    Because it is so much easier to get people convinced to build your corn silo to the stars SSTO with public treasure if you call them shit than it is to actually compile a business plan and do it yourself.

    Check, got it! That makes perfect sense!

  • Thomas, I share your apparent view that we should use current assets (e.g., the EELVs), rather than developing new ones, though it is sometimes hard to tell through your anger what you are actually saying. I also share your poor opinion of this disastrous Administration. However, with respect, telling people they are shit is not a good way to get them to share your opinion.

    Please, let’s try to keep this civil.

    — Donald

  • Folks, please don’t feed the troll. There’s a reason that he’s in so many killfiles on Usenet.

  • I’m not calling anyone one person shit, I’m spreading it around, because we are ALL responsible for the failure. I don’t see how any one person could be offended by anything anyone says. They’re words, and if they are offended, then that’s great, I am so happy to offend them with mere words, and not bullets and bombs, words that in another language might be translated as ‘^$#&^$@$!.

    What really makes me angry, is that very few Americans are unwilling to stand up and say, look we’ve made some huge mistakes, we are failures.

    I presonally am a failure, because I didn’t do more to prevent this American tragedy, besides vote. But I’m not going to fail myself again by not raising my voice.

    I could care less if people agree with me or not, or like my space colonization design or not. But I’ve got a design, and I’ve published it. Take it or leave it. Knowing America as I do, I’m confident that they’ll forget all about it by Monday.

    I’m not singling anyone out, I’m not singling any religion out, I’m not even singling AMERICA out, The HUMAN RACE is an embarrassment.

    There is no advanced civilization on this planet.

  • MrEarl

    Hey Tom:
    You’re at a level 9 right now but we realy need you at about a 3.
    I’ve heard of drunk dialing before but this is the first time I’ve seen durnk bloging.

    (Sorry Jim, couldn’t help myself.)

  • this is the first time I’ve seen durnk bloging.

    I rest my case.

    (Sorry Jim, couldn’t help myself.)

    Of course you can’t, you’re a dumb fuck American.

  • Mike Puckett

    “Of course you can’t, you’re a dumb fuck American.”

    Are these cheap insults part of the “higher standards” you mention subscribing to in your first post in this thread?

  • Lazarus Long

    > The HUMAN RACE is an embarrassment.

    “In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the Naturist reveals his hatred for his own race—i.e., his own self-hatred.

    “In the case of ‘Naturists’ such self-hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate.”

  • Jeff Foust

    Well, since it appears the conversation has run its course, I have closed comments on this post. I apologize to anyone who didn’t have an opportunity to commend on this post’s subject before the discussion spiraled out of control.