Congress, Other

Panel sees ASTEROIDS Act as step in right direction for space property rights

A bill introduced in the House earlier this month that establishes property rights for resources taken from asteroids is not perfect, but a step in the right direction towards a broader resolution of property rights in outer space, a conference panel argued last week.

The American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act of 2014, introduced in the House earlier this month by Reps. Bill Posey (R-FL) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), would establish that resources obtained from asteroids are the property of the company or other entity that extracted them. It would also provide “freedom from harmful interference” for those entities subject to US law engaged in asteroid mining.

“They designed it not to cause too many explosions or conflicts or problems,” said Jim Muncy, a co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation, during a panel session on space property rights at the organization’s NewSpace 2014 conference Friday in San Jose, California. The bill was crafted, he said, to ensure it remained in the jurisdiction of the House Science Committee. He added that the bill’s sponsors also discussed the bill with State Department officials “to find out whether or not it would be a big problem for current US international obligations and policy.” That’s one reason, he said, that the bill only covers asteroids and not the Moon or other solar system bodies.

The idea of establishing property rights for extracted resources is not considered particularly controversial. Panelists noted that samples returned from the Moon by the Apollo missions, and Soviet Luna robotic missions, are considered the property of those nations. “We know that from the precedent of the Moon rocks,” said Berin Szoka, president of think tank TechFreedom, noting that some of those samples have been gifted and then resold. “There are some space lawyers who will quibble and will claim that that doesn’t mean those can actually owned in a way that they can be on Earth, but I don’t think that’s a correct view.”

The legislation isn’t perfect, though. Szoka called the introduced bill “the first draft of what I hope will ultimately get passed.” One flaw: “the one very obvious definition that’s missing is the definition of ‘asteroid.’ And by not defining that, it leaves that ambiguous.”

There’s also the question of what it means to extract resources. Sagi Kfir, corporate counsel for asteroid mining company Deep Space Industries, suggested that it might be possible to claim entire asteroids. “Asteroid are movable; they are not land property,” he said. “Asteroids, in and of themselves, are personal property” in much the same way as resources extracted, or moved, from them.

“I agree that asteroids are movable, and that asteroids are, in that sense, essentially in practice no different from a rock that you might remove from the surface, and we should essentially treat them the same way,” said Szoka.

Another issue is with the non-interference language in the bill: what does it mean to harmfully interfere with another entity’s operations on an asteroid? Kfir notes the bill’s language refers to the “exploration and use” of asteroid resources, which he suggested could allow someone to claim priority to an asteroid by simply observing it with a telescope, thus “exploring” it. “There are some gaping holes to a very thin legislation,” he said. “But it’s critical that’s fleshed out in terms of what’s ‘first in time’ and what’s the zone of this non-interference.”

The near-term prospects of resolving those issues with the bill and advancing it are unclear. Earlier this month, Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), chairman of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee, said his subcommittee was reviewing the bill, but didn’t immediately commit to holding a hearing on or marking up the bill. “We have a limited amount of legislative days this year,” he noted. (Congress goes on recess at the end of this week and does not return until after Labor Day.)

The subcommittee’s ranking member, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), said at the conference she wants hearings about the bill before she would support move forward on the bill. “I’m always opposed to us moving forward on legislation without doing any hearings, any kind of fact-finding,” she said in an interview after her luncheon speech at the conference Saturday. She said she had not heard from NASA or from companies affected by the bill yet. “I just think it’s bad policy to move policy forward when you haven’t done the investigative work that it takes to do that.”

82 comments to Panel sees ASTEROIDS Act as step in right direction for space property rights

  • Jim Nobles

    It’s hard to know what to think about the legislation. It seems premature to me but I guess it doesn’t to some people.

  • Hiram

    “He added that the bill’s sponsors also discussed the bill with State Department officials “to find out whether or not it would be a big problem for current US international obligations and policy.” That’s one reason, he said, that the bill only covers asteroids and not the Moon or other solar system bodies.”

    I may be missing something, but where in State Department policy and the text of international agreements are asteroids distinguished from other solar system bodies?

    But the Apollo argument is an excellent one. We took into our possession 380 kg of lunar regolith that represented scientific value to us. We didn’t get anyones permission to do that nor did we apologize to anyone for having done it.

    A bill like this is laughable in that it presumes that any litigation won’t be international. This is legislation that is simply a waste of time, except in that it proves to the asteroid mining companies whose lobbyists arranged it that Posey and Kilmer are in their pockets.

    It would seem that the obvious way to approach this is to consider undersea mineral rights outside of national boundaries. How is that done?

    • E.P. Grondine

      “A bill like this is laughable in that it presumes that any litigation won’t be international.”

      Yes.

      And anyone can imagine the international reaction that would occur if manned Mars flight would be attempted before the back contamination hurdle is not fully cleared.

    • E.P. Grondine

      HI Hiram –

      “It would seem that the obvious way to approach this is to consider undersea mineral rights outside of national boundaries. How is that done?”

      The same way that the resources of Antarctica, the stocks of migratory fish, fresh water supplies, and global climate are managed, which is to say badly to not at all.

      Normally these matters would fall to the UN, but since any expansion of UN power is anathema to both the US right and the Israeli right, you end up with situations like those occurring in the South China Sea, and closer to home those in the NE US coastal Atlantic and US Arctic.

      • Dick Eagleson

        You also wind up with the situation in which all of the manganese nodules on the floor of the Pacific that were supposed to be the next Comstock Lode back in the 1970′s never got mined at all because the Law of the Sea Treaty says whoever actually pays to get them up would have to share them with everybody on Earth – “common heritage of mankind” I believe is the term of art. The Commies of the world, who were a lot more influential then than they are now, were simply beside themselves over the idea that some American company might profit from resource exploitation without also sprinkling a little of the goodies over, say, Burkina Faso. The Commies are mostly gone now, but “the evil that men do” and all that.

        The common denominator in all of the situations you cite is that they are instances of the “tragedy of the commons.” None of them will be productively resolved until a suitable regime of agreed-upon property rights is in place for each. That includes littoral and pelagic fisheries.

        • E.P. Grondine

          “The common denominator in all of the situations you cite is that they are instances of the “tragedy of the commons.”

          That is it, exactly.

          Now I will explain why I think the property rights should go to the UN.

          “None of them will be productively resolved until a suitable regime of agreed-upon property rights is in place for each. That includes littoral and pelagic fisheries.”

          How about the profit from utilizing these resources being used to back a reserve currency. This reserve currency could be issued to countries to rebuild after natural disasters such as earthquake, typhoon, hurricane, etc.

          At least that way the migratory fish stocks will not be fished to extinction.

          • Dick Eagleson

            The U.N. has long since become a forum for self-righteous despots and a place for corrupt officials from poverty-stricken hellholes to come and up their game in developed-nation comfort. Far from entrusting the U.N. with more responsibilities it has long demonstrated it is patently incompetent to handle, the world would be a much better place if the U.N. were stripped of much of its current “responsibilities.”

            I think the WTO would be a much better model for a transnational entity charged with overseeing world fisheries.

  • Citizen13

    First of all, anything that actually manages to make it through the House GOP’s Un-Science Committee is highly suspect.

    Secondly, this is very bad- while companies that put out the resources and risk to get to assets in space deserve to profit from their efforts, they did so on the shoulders of a generation of exploration and research, and billions of taxpayer dollars, which continues as we speak. They wouldn’t what effin’ asteroid to shoot for, if not for taxpayer and non-profit efforts already underway. The Public deserves its cut. Earth needs a money stream to keep doing the research that will allow the next generation of explorers to go out even farther. Commercial enterprises can supply that by paying for the foundation that got them there.

    Thirdly, turning Space into the Wild West, where anybody could destroy whatever they wanted in order to turn a quick profit, is a terrible idea. There must be strict rules limiting what corporations can own, or exploit. Owning an asteroid is idiotic, even if the mineral rights are sold. It is the interests of the explorer and researcher and Common Good that must be protected, NOT the profit margin of corporations. Corporate entities have too much power on earth- they should not be allowed to own solar system objects. Just imagine if they found an alien artifact on an asteroid being mined…..

    • Common Good that must be protected, NOT the profit margin of corporations

      In my mind the two are the same, if you chose to own stock.

      Corporate entities have too much power on earth- they should not be allowed to own solar system objects.

      It seems to me the power of governments on earth is far greater. I’d welcome our new corporate overlords.

      Just imagine if they found an alien artifact on an asteroid being mined…..

      If I were a shareholder of such a company I’d demand they sell it to the highest bidder.

      • Reynard

        “In my mind the two are the same, if you chose to own stock.”

        Seriously, or are you trolling? The vast majority of people on this planet do not have the money to own stock in corporations. For many of them it’s not about choice to own stock in corporations, but about whether or not you are going to eat today.

        Governments, at least in theory (none that I can think of are any good at it in practice, but that’s a separate question) are supposed to act in the interests of their people. Corporations act in the interests of shareholders, and have a dismal record when it comes to externalities. I don’t see why any organisation should be able to “own” an extraplanetary body.

        • Corporations act in the interests of shareholders, and have a dismal record when it comes to externalities.

          Corporations and economic development have led the world out of poverty. Government’s only roll is to establish the rule of law.

          I don’t see why any organisation should be able to “own” an extraplanetary body.

          Why not? The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the same rights as individuals with regard to property, free speech and religious liberty. It seems natural that they can own asteroids.

          • Reynard

            Corporations exist to enrich their shareholders. Everything else has had to be fought for against rich vested interests, including those corporations. These are organisations that continue to externalise costs on the poor, and refuse to pay living wages.

            “The Supreme Court…” The *US* Supreme Court. Those asteroids are not in the US. Therefore US courts have no jurisdiction over them.

        • Vladislaw

          Reynard wrote:

          “The vast majority of people on this planet do not have the money to own stock in corporations.”

          That is a choice. There is investment opportunities for the most marginal incomes. OTC (over the counter) and the Pink Sheets list penny stocks that literally sell for a penny. So buy a can soda or 75 shares of stock.

          Watch the kardashions or other reality crap or do you due diligence and research a stock.

          America is about choice.

          • Reynard

            Penny stocks are penny stocks for a reason: they are functionally worthless, and not likely part of companies involved in space exploration.

            Again, those Asteroids are not in the US, therefore your courts and businesses have no legal jurisdiction.

            Choices are only available to those who can impose their choices.

            Kardashions? Who are they?

            • Andrew Swallow

              The counties of the world has already given asteroid mining rights to the USA.

              If other countries want a cut of the profits they will have to put up a share of the money and man power – anything else is exploitation of the workers. Very naughty.

              • Reynard

                “The counties of the world has already given asteroid mining rights to the USA.”

                When? Where? This sounds like US exceptionalist bovine ordure again: the kind of thing that alienates people who would rather be friends.

              • Dick Eagleson

                Friends don’t noisily proclaim their intention ans asserted rights to steal from other “friends.”

            • Dick Eagleson

              If American courts and businesses have no jurisdiction over asteroids, who do you imagine does? You implicitly support some kind of confiscatory and redistributive regime to dispose of space-based resources. What is that to be, exactly, and where is it to come from? Where will it get the resources it needs to carry out its alleged duties?

              Like most Lefties, you seem to think the Underpants Gnome, or maybe the all-purpose transnational/supranational genie of the left, the U.N., will magically produce winged unicorns for you to ride around on in space as you foil plot after devious plot by the insidious plutocrats to somehow further immiserate the poor. Quit smoking crack and get a damned job.

          • amightywind

            So buy a can soda or 75 shares of stock.

            You surprise me Vladislaw. Good for you. Unless a man is systematically robbed of his property, not uncommon enough in this worldI’ll admit, he can better his situation through savings, investment and the magic compounding.

            Those asteroids are not in the US. Therefore US courts have no jurisdiction over them.

            The rights of corporations have become pretty universal in the world economy. Indeed many multi-national corporations, including the one I work for, are not tethered entirely to any one economy. They will exploit asteroids. Though, like always, national governments will demand their cut.

    • Hiram

      “Just imagine if they found an alien artifact on an asteroid being mined…..”

      Just imagine what the planetary protection people would be thinking if we did. You can mine those rocks up the kazoo, but DO NOT bring any of it back. In fact, I’m a little surprised that the PP people aren’t paying more attention to asteroids. Especially ones with identified volatiles. I think the Space Studies Board told them they didn’t need to. No, nothing is living on those things, but who knows what spores may have settled on them from more vital locales.

      • Hiram: No, nothing is living on those things, but who knows what spores may have settled on them from more vital locales.

        Good point, and one I’ve made myself. Rocks have been splashed around the Solar System since the beginning of (Sol) time — think Mars rocks in Antarctica and moon rocks in the Arabian desert. There has undoubtedly been a much smaller, but significant, traffic the other way — from Earth to other destinations. (In fact, one key reason to return to Earth’s moon should be to find samples of the earliest terrestrial continents from before the late bombardment when life was first getting its start. Obtain some actual data about the formation of life and terrestrial conditions at the time to supplement our theories and guesses.)

        If life formed in one location, it likely got distributed everywhere. Whether it could survive at the destination is another question.

        If so, we have more and less to worry about. If microbial life in the Solar System has a common ancestor, there’s a greater chance it could effectively attack us, and a better chance of our being able to do something about it.

        We aren’t even close to the strategies and tools that would be required to find out (I’m not going to start that debate again now). But, if the Solar System turns out to be sterile, it’s my opinion that one of our jobs as representatives of terrestrial life is to spread that life far and wide. . . .

        – Donald

        • E.P. Grondine

          Hi DR –

          “If”‘s are not data, and do not count when considering back contamination from Mars.

          It is more to the substance of this hurdle to consider the international public reaction to the Ebola virus…

          In my opinion, we’re going to have to replace those “if”‘s with hard data before manned flight to Mars is going to be possible.

    • Vladislaw

      Citizen13 wrote:

      “The Public deserves its cut.”

      It is a good thing we have that thing called taxes then huh…

      “Owning an asteroid is idiotic,”

      So, owning 100,000 acres of land is fine, but owning a rock that is 6 feet in diameter is idiotic?

    • Fred Willett

      they did so on the shoulders of a generation of exploration and research, and billions of taxpayer dollars,
      We all stand on the shoulders of giants.
      We wouldn’t be where we are today without people like Columbus, Leonardo Da Vinci, Plato. and millions of others.
      Tip your hat to those who’ve goner before and move on.
      The Public deserves its cut.
      They do. It’s called taxation.

    • Dick Eagleson

      Re: Citizen13 at 1:03 pm July 29, 2014

      As I said above, the Commies are mostly gone now, but not, it would seem, entirely.

      Seriously, if companies extracting, purifying or otherwise working valuable substances from asteroids sell the results of their efforts on Earth, it would appear that current terrestrial corporate tax liabilities would apply just as they do to the fruits of purely terrestrial mining pursuits. That strikes me as entirely sufficient exposure to taxation for space-based enterprise. There is no need for any special tax regime or surtax aimed exclusively at extra-terrestrial resource exploitation.

      If the vast majority of such material winds up being sold to other permanent or long-term residents of extra-terrestrial habitation, then whatever governmental or quasi-governmental entities that have grown up in space will, perhaps, be in a position to tax said transactions. It’s hard to see how terrestrial governments should have any part, including financial, in such transactions. No taxation without participation say I.

      In any event, the alleged “debt” owed to researchers and others of previous generations is irrelevant. These people did their work, were compensated for it at the time and are mostly or entirely, in may cases, now dead. Does everyone who ever does anything in space own the current heirs and assigns of Isaac Newton perpetual royalties on the Laws of Motion? Does everyone who does engineering and design also owe them for the Calculus? I’m sure you would be outraged if patent or copyright privileges were extended in perpetuity, especially, I’m assuming, to corporations. Why, then, do you seem to be advocating a permanent tax liability for what amounts to the use of intellectual property developed by people who are, in many cases, centuries dead?

      You are a would-be parasite, sir. And like all Leftists, an arrogant and entitled one.

  • Vladislaw

    Buzz Aldrin just came out against ateroids and back to Mars. I sure would like to see Astronauts come out more forcifully for commercial interests.
    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/blog/buzz-moons-lunar-return/

  • Reynard

    The first thing that occurs to me, as to others, is that the US has no right to apportion anything outside its own borders and territorial waters.

    I think Citizen13 is thinking along constructive lines. The obvious solution to this problem is for international agreement to declare the whole lot the property of humanity (think Antarctica, maybe), and then auction off (or set a fee for, based on the size of the body and its mean distance from Earth, perhaps: there’s a lot of asteroids, so auctions might not be the best way to go) specific rights to individual bodies. The proceeds of such auctions could then be used for the benefit of humanity, starting with those least likely to benefit from any minerals brought to Earth. I’m thinking funding things like the Millennium Development Goals and other causes of benefit to the poorest.

    This would be about specific rights, such as minerals, or the specific right to change a body’s orbit. Alien artifacts, for instance, would remain either the property of the species that built them or, if extinct/unidentifiable, of humanity.

    If we’re going to start exploiting the resources of the rest of the solar system, everyone has to benefit, not just shareholders in already rich corporations. I’m sorry, but this bill as it stands is a nonrunner for me.

    • Vladislaw

      Reynard wrote:

      “everyone has to benefit, not just shareholders”

      You sure make a lot of illogical assumptions.

      Shareholders assume a risk when they purchase shares in a company. When the market crashes and MILLIONS of shareholders lose a ton of money does “everyone” share the risk and pay money to everyone that lost money on stock purchases?

      So in your view the risk takers have to always share on the upside but always stand alone on the downside? Doesn’t sound very equatable.

      • Vladislaw: As a self-investing shareholder in a large number of space-related companies, I agree with you, but only to a point. I do think we shareholders have far too much power in modern corporations, and the constant pressure for instant results is one of the reasons there aren’t more SpaceX’s in the world.

        Any corporation should have at least four stakeholders, all of whom should have a stake in the decisions and power. Those are shareholders, yes, but also employees, customers, and management. We have devalued the last three in favor of the former — with the result being the kind of corporate governance that invents great technologies and then promptly sells them to overseas corporate govenment proxies (e.g., Airbus or Arianespace), which then benefit from the employment and profits created. While our economy has been in measurable decline (hidden by both public and private borrowing), we’ve exported more than half the airline industry, three-quarters of the commercial satellite industry, before SpaceX essentially all of the commercial launch industry, much of the Earth observation industry — to such low-wage countries as Germany, France, and Canada (to whom we’ve just sold our most successful satellite manufacturer). Every one of these industries was created here, and given away in the name of quick shareholder returns and slavish devotion to unproven economic theories. (Unproven because mixed economy countries such as Germany, and now China, often do at least as well economically as those that espouse free market ideology we (mostly pretend) to practice (think SpaceX versus SLS or truckers on socialist highways versus the privately owned freight railroads who pay for their own infrastructure.)

        I once heard economics described as the modern religion — where you dream up your theories first then try to “prove” them with “evidence,” instead of the other way around. How true.

        – Donald

        • Vladislaw

          Donald wrote:

          “I agree with you, but only to a point.”

          Maybe I was a bit zealous in my response, my apologies.

          The reason American CEO’s are making such insane amounts of income is because shareholders have lost the ability to control who is on the compensation boards. So they get stacked with CEO’s who give away the store because they will get the payback.

          Another problem is interlocking directorates, again able to work against the shareholder.

          Shareholders tend to have more power in early start ups where there was a lot of stock options given instead of wage compensation.

          A lot of the problems you list are, granted, corporations acting against the parent country, but the polis who doesn’t vote the congressional members out of office that create those loopholes are accountable also.

          • Vladislaw: I pretty much agree. However, CEOs make so much because we Shareholders vote them that much. As a shareholder, I routinely vote against any Corporate Officer’s pay that is more than a factor of ten higher than the average pay for that company. I always lose. CEOs have a lot of pay, but they don’t really have much power, because again they have to beat last quarter’s profits even if it means selling the crown jewels (often paid for by you and I, as when IBM was allowed to sell one of the best PC businesses, and the associated government-developed technology, to China; or Loral’s satellite business to Canada), or stripping R&D below a couple of percent of earnings, as in most of the aerospace industry.

            but the polis who doesn’t vote the congressional members out of office that create those loopholes are accountable also.

            Granted, that’s what I meant about “slavish devotion to unproven economic theories.” My Father used to say of his Father that he would vote for whoever was screwing him the most. It seems a lot of us do that.

            – Donald

      • Reynard

        I’m not talking about investment. I’m talking about people taking resources that don’t belong to anyone.

        By my suggested model, you pay humanity for a licence as part of your investment. It’s not complicated. Asteroids do not belong to the US or to US corporations. The US has no business assigning them to anyone.

        ” When the market crashes and MILLIONS of shareholders lose a ton of money does “everyone” share the risk and pay money to everyone that lost money on stock purchases?”

        Er. Bank bailouts?

        • Jim Nobles

          I’m talking about people taking resources that don’t belong to anyone.

          If they don’t belong to anyone then who is to object? What wrong has occurred?

          I’m guessing your fields of study are not human history or even primate psychology.

          • Reynard

            What I’m getting at, and I’m aware I’m repeating myself, is that the US has no right to legislate beyond its own borders.

            After that, you are talking about openly negotiated (i.e. not like TTIP) international treaty, preferably including phrases like “benefit of humanity”, not a free-for-all involving whoever is rich enough to get involved. Article II of the Outer Space Treaty (to which the US is signatory) states that “outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means”.

            I’m no expert, but it looks to me like your bill is in violation of international treaty: the US does not have the authority to pass such legislation.

            There are good reasons for this: otherwise it just turns into a dangerous free-for-all, which anyone with the first grasp of history understands the consequences of.

            • Andrew Swallow

              The USA does under Article VI of the Outer Space treaty.

              • Reynard

                Again, I’m no expert, but it looks to me as if the US is responsible for ensuring that organisations operating under its jurisdiction in space follow the requirements of the treaty, including article II, which appears to me to mean that organisation (read, in this case, corporation) could not claim an asteroid for itself while operating under the jurisdiction of a national entity (including the US) subject to the treaty.

            • Fred Willett

              What I’m getting at, and I’m aware I’m repeating myself, is that the US has no right to legislate beyond its own borders.
              In fact the Outer Space Treaty requires governments to regulatew the activities of it’s nationals in space.
              It does not allow countries to claim ownership of planets or asteroids, but it does not forbid any specific activities like mining.
              So this proposed act allows ownership of extracted ores by US companies or citizens. It does not allow ownership of asteroids (or planets). It is this consistent with the Outer Space Treaty.

            • Dick Eagleson

              As you have no obvious grasp of either history or economics, I’m afraid your Lefty outrage is rather wasted on we with intelligence quotients superior to those of plant life.

        • Fred Willett

          Under the Outer Space Treaty people can go into space and do stuff. They have to be controlled and regulated by the government that sent them (or allowed them to go).
          The point of the Asteroid Act 2014 is to regulate US companies and individuals engaged in mining in outer space.
          They will not “own” the asteroid. They will own the material they extract from the asteroid.
          That’s it.

          • Hiram

            “They will not “own” the asteroid. They will own the material they extract from the asteroid.
            That’s it.”

            So when they capture a small asteroid for resource development, they can grind it up, take what they want from the rubble, and pitch that remaining pile back into space? Oh, yeah, as long as it is done “peacefully”.

    • amightywind

      The first thing that occurs to me, as to others, is that the US has no right to apportion anything outside its own borders and territorial waters.

      Seems to me that a place where we have planted our flag lies within our borders…such as they are these days.

    • Dick Eagleson

      What is this “humanity” of which you speak and which you contend is the actual owner of everything in space? Without at least a sketch of your Outer Space Authority’s structure, all we have are your tired commie wheezes about the powerless poor and the greedy capitalists. Ho hum. Get real or go away.

  • Hiram

    This is what probably needs to be done.

    http://www.isa.org.jm

    Oh, of the 166 member states of this international organization — the International Seabed Authority, the U.S. is not one of them. Russia and China are, BTW. The U.S has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention and is thus not a member of the ISA, which is formed under the auspices of that agreement. Would be interesting to better understand why it isn’t.

    Now, this organization admits that although lots of people are excited about the potential of natural mineral resources from the deep sea floor, no one has actually made a profit case for it, or is actually doing it. Sound familiar? Now, by the same token, it isn’t really clear that this organization knows what it’s doing, but it’s pretending to know.

    • The U.S has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention and is thus not a member of the ISA

      The Law of the Sea harms American interests. It hasn’t prevented Russia and China’s rogue and specious claims to coastal territory of their neighbors.

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Hiram –

    “(It) Would be interesting to better understand why it isn’t.”

    See my earlier remark on international law and the enforcement of it above.

    The only reason Ron Paul (R, Texas) can speak on “corporatism” is that he avoids that topic at the same time. As it is he scares the powers that be more than enough, and they do what they can to suppress him speaking his mind.

    • Hiram

      “See my earlier remark on international law and the enforcement of it above.”

      But you gotta wonder why the U.S. feels the same way about the UN Law of the Sea Convention as does Eritrea, Israel, Peru, Syria, Turkey, and Venezuela, who, unlike all the other U.N. members, don’t want to join.

      Yuk, yuk. See this entry about the UNCLOS in Wikipedia — “Some American commentators, including former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, have warned that ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty might lead to its taxing authority being extended to cover the resources of outer space.”

      Wikipedia also has a nice summary of the U.S. pros and cons to being a signatory on the UNCLOS — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_non-ratification_of_the_UNCLOS.

      The point here is that the legal framework, and arguments therein, for resource ownership outside of national boundaries is VERY well covered in UNCLOS. Asteroid prospectors and lobbyists, take note.

      • E.P. Grondine

        Hi Hiram –

        Since there are major resources closer than space which lay without ownership, this issue of how to establish property rights has far more immediate consequences. For example, very few people know that war over the resources of Antarctica nearly erupted in the 1950′s.

        (You mention Eritrea. There was an interesting case where the former Soviet Union ended up backing both the government and rebels. It kind of reminds me of the US in the “Middle East” today.)

        As to US objections to the Law of the Sea Treaty, I do not know about them. Generally, the US opposes any move to lessen its control over the global economy established by the agreements made after World War II. I do not know much about that agreement, and thanks for the link, but however it was written, it is defective, as we end up with situations like that in the South China Sea, where China has been very rude to its neighbors.

        We have a growing global population finally running into resource limitations, and despite what some space enthusiasts believe, not everyone could be sent to Mars.
        This discussion of asteroid mining rights thus is a diversion from discussion of real problems right here and right now.

        • E.P. Grondine: This discussion of asteroid mining rights thus is a diversion from discussion of real problems right here and right now.

          Not at all. Maybe we won’t send everyone to Mars, but we might well use resources in the Solar System to relieve shortages down here. Likewise, moving industrial processes off planet could address some of our problems. The Earth is not a closed system if you have affordable access to the resources of the Solar System.

          Long term, yes, and it won’t bail us out of all our immediate problems, but asteroid mining is definitely relevant to discussion of our “real problems right here and now.” If nothing else, a truly closed system is impossible, and if we’re going to feed the 11+ billion people who will be here soon whether we like it or not, we’d better make it as unclosed as possible as quickly as possible.

          – Donald

          – Donald

          • E.P. Grondine

            Hi Donald –

            “The Earth is not a closed system”

            Yes. We’re tied to a star, our Sun, and our planet’s weather is affected by our orbit around it and by variations in its nuclear reaction. The planet we live on is sometimes bathed by radiation escaping from that nuclear reaction.

            Also,our planet and the others around our star formed out of matter ejected when that reaction first started. That matter accreted to form the bodies of the solar system we live in, and that accretion process is still going on.

            In the immediate future, there are major resources far closer than the asteroids that are not being used.
            We my expect people to fight for control of those resources unless laws regarding their use are established.

            All of us, including legislators, have a limited amount of time. Asteroid property rights could be decided on after those more immediate issues are dealt with.

      • Hiram, unfortunately, I was around when we failed to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty. The reason was simple: certain people (I believe it was in the Reagan Administration) felt that it had too much power to take away ownership rights of mineral nodules that at the time were thought to be a great business opportunity for some relatively distant future. Sound familiar?

        – Donald

        • Hiram

          “Sound familiar?”

          Yep. My point is that there is a very real and active high level discourse about mineral rights in non-territorial (terrestrial) areas that probably has hugely more relevance to real mining efforts than pie-in-the-sky mining concepts on asteroids or one-off congressional bills. If we can’t come to some international consensus on the former, it’s silly to think we will be able to do so on the latter. Which is why this legislation is pretty meaningless.

          Putting the Outer Space Treaty (which was developed primarily to ensure peaceful approaches to outer space) under the microscope to try to glean wisdom about mining in non-territorial areas is just nuts. While the U.S. signed that treaty, the fact that they wouldn’t participate in NCLOS pretty much tells you what you need to know about how the U.S. perceives space mineral rights, no matter what the Outer Space Treaty might lead you to believe.

          Interestingly (and this is very recent), U.S. military commanders recommend ratification of the Law of the Sea treaty in the interest of national security. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is on record believing that ratification is in the interest of the U.S. economy.

  • E.P. Grondine

    And the bottom line, when you cut through all the “stuff”:

    “Limited control over funding: The U.S. would have no direct control over how the money is used.”

    So limit the funds use to disaster relief, like for example say to help Japan deal with the results of the tsunami? Or other nations facing similar catastrophes?

    Remember, there but for G*D go us, and someday Yosemite will blow, if California is not hit by a major earthquake before then, or we get hit by a Tunguska class impactor.

    No, its too easy, and the opponents are not being honest about the true reasons for their objections.

    • E.P. Grondine: someday Yosemite will blow

      I think you mean Yellowstone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera). Yosemite is not in an overtly volcanic province.

      – Donald

      • Well, no and yes. Yosemite is a deep glacial valley. But the glaciers incised Mesozoic intrusive granite formations which technically are volcanic. The nearest active volcanism is ~100km away in Owen’s Valley.

        • Technically, but only technically, I agree. I also stand by my statement!

          • E.P. Grondine

            You are correct, Donald. Yellowstone is what I intended to mention.

            I’ve had a stroke, and I know I can not report anymore, due to errors like that one. At least it is not as difficult as it was to type, and I no longer bite my tongue at every meal.

            • I’m very sorry to hear that. I didn’t know. Please be aware that I only provided the correction, and in no way said anything that was meant as a criticism of you. I haven’t had a stroke and, as anyone reading my posts should be aware, I frequently make similar errors. I wish you all the best in regaining capacity.

              P.S. I have a friend who has had a stroke and he does square dancing. I’m don’t know what your capacity is, but he finds the requirements to translate verbal instructions into understanding and physical action is helping him to recover some those skills.

              – Donald

  • vulture4

    The rule of “finders keepers” Mr. Posey supports was applied for many years to the world’s stocks of fish, and resulted in many species being decimated. It was applied to the great whales, and they were driven to the brink of extinction. It is still applied to the atmosphere, and CO2 is rising out of control. It’s time for the nations of the world to learn to act like adults, not children fighting over marbles.

    • Vulture4: I consider myself an environmentalist, but I have to point out that asteroids are not fish stocks, nor even whales. Unless they hit us, they will have nothing to do with the free CO2 content of Earth’s atmosphere.

      Asteroids are heavily modified debris left over from the formation of the Solar System. They have value because of their pre-historical geological information about the formation of the Solar System, but otherwise are mostly a hazard. If we are going to mine anywhere — and if we are going to live in an industrial civilization, as I and most of us to one degree or another want to, we have to mine somewhere — these are the places. Far better than anywhere on Earth, no?

      For environmentalism to work, there has to be some triage. As they say about military information, if you try to protect everything you will end up protecting nothing. If nothing else, environmentalists have finite resources and political capital, and thus must pick their battles carefully. Maybe I’m biassed toward terrestrial biology, but I think fish stocks, great whales, and the CO2 ratio of Earth’s atmosphere all are far, far higher priorities than protecting airless, almost certainly lifeless regolith on small bodies whose continued existance is hazardous to our health — and that of fish and whales and the biosphere writ large. . . .

      – Donald

      • Hiram

        “we have to mine somewhere – these are the places”

        … and the flaming distortion from the asteroid resources community is that asteroids are the only place we can mine them. Sure, for many exotic metals, terrestrial mining may not be cheap, but the cost will be vastly lower than mining them at asteroids. Yes, there are people that claim otherwise, but the business case has never been well made. Comparing antimony mining on an asteroid to antimony mining restricted to China is leading industry blindfolded.

        Whatever you want to get from asteroids, there is VASTLY more of it on the Earth. Let’s be clear, asteroids are debris from the early solar system. Their composition is not hugely different than the composition of the Earth, though separation may have put certain elements in somewhat inconvenient places.

        I have no problem with “finders keepers”, but when that finding and keeping is hugely and unnecessarily expensive, I get a little antsy.

        • Hiram: there is VASTLY more of it on the Earth

          Only technically true. Many terrestrial sources of heavy metals are in fact obtained from asteroid impact sites.

          Yes, it’s cheaper now to get almost everything on Earth if you are using it on Earth. SpaceX, et al, are trying to fix that. Using things in space is a different matter. E.g., back when we were still planning a lunar base — and lunar water would be generated anyway for use on the moon and transportation would be going back-and-forth to the moon anyway — you might have been able to carry small amounts in spare nooks and crannie. You would aerobrake it back to LEO for use on the ISS or other LEO infrastructure at realatively low marginal cost (since the transportation would be going most of the delta-V anyway). Something similar might be possible if you started with a PhD base. Thus, you could start the very beginnings of trade in a useful commodity at low marginal cost.

          Unfortunately, the problem is obvious: at least in the early years, most returning traffic would be going directly to Earth’s surface, and there’s unlikely to be a whole lot on Earth’s moon that would be valuable here. Nonetheless, I’d like to see people thinking along the lines of not just exploration and colonization, but trade, because that’s what has really driven expansion on Earth — some of it with quite tiny volumes, e.g., cinnamon.

          On the other hand, if one or more of the Google X-Prize contestants succeed, and proceed to returning scientific samples for sale (as some of them have proposed), there is no reason that scientifically valuable samples couldn’t be a quite valuable commodity. Again, once a trade is established, other items could begin to come along for the ride.

          – Donald

  • Hiram

    Slightly off topic, but noteworthy. At the NASA Small Bodies Assessment Group (SBAG) meeting today senior asteroid planetologist Rick Binzel from MIT delivered a devastating talk about ARM. Very briefly, his message to the assembled scientists was “Just say no.” He considers ARM merely a stunt, with little or no science value. In fact, it has little value even in a Mars-forward context, planetary protection context, or a resource development context. Binzel has no problem with sending humans to asteroids in their native orbits (in order to increase the duration capability of human spaceflight), or validating large SEPs by hauling freight into cis-lunar orbit (in order to develop large freight moving tools for lots of stuff), and even sending astronauts to meet that freight. Those are credible alternative missions. But plucking a random, non-threatening rock and hauling it back to lunar orbit for humans to meet up with is simply a stunt, he says. Pretending it has value is a farce. Endorsement of it by the planetary astronomy community would squander any sense of community credibility. If an astronaut died on that mission, that community doesn’t need to be hauled before Congress to provide justification.

    An audience member congratulated him at the end, and said that he had never heard so many strawmen get murdered at one time. One of these days, his excellent slides at least will get posted on the SBAG website, but the audio itself was mesmerizing. Hopefully, someone will put it on YouTube.

    Yeah, ARM and the human spaceflight component of it (ARCM) isn’t science. But it really isn’t anything else either. Big thumbs down for ARM.

    • Hiram: Big thumbs down for ARM

      Okay, then what would propose in its place that would provide the same economic and political apparent benefits: a) cost about the same or less; b) use the SLS and Orion; c) provide a destination where astronauts can go and (appear to) do something useful. Let’s see a solution and not just a cretique.

      – Donald

      • Hiram

        “Let’s see a solution and not just a cretique.”

        Rick referred to solutions. First of all, you could, as I said he said, send humans to visit an asteroid in a native orbit, as the asteroid initiative was going to be before ARM came along. Yes, Orion won’t support such a mission after all, so it would need some added hab/cargo capability. That way, one could really test out logistics for doing work substantially outside cislunar space.

        Secondly, one could use a large SEP to transport cargo efficiently. Hey, one could send the Orion to meet up with it, before visiting the asteroid.

        These are not easy things to do, but they are VASTLY easier than Mars, and unlike ARM, as the NRC Human Spaceflight Committee points out, are largely not dead-end technological thrusts in a Mars-forward picture.

        Of course, if you wanted something easier, just skip the rock. Send humans out into cis-lunar space, perhaps to a hab at a Lagrange point, and send your SEP thataway. Ooh, but you need a rock to be a true “destination”. How quaint.

        “Provide the same economic and political apparent benefits”?? Are you kidding? ARM and it’s associated asteroid fondling brings economic and political benefits? Who knew?

        Let’s see some common sense and not just doing something dumb because you couldn’t think of anything smart. That is, unfortunately, largely what ARM is.

        • Jim Van Zandt

          “send humans to visit an asteroid in a native orbit” Except that mission takes years, and we don’t know how to protect astronauts from cosmic rays for that long a mission. There’s no way to abort the mission if there’s a mechanical failure or medical emergency. You could only visit an asteroid once. It will be really hard to refine your tools. And you really don’t know what to expect.

          I want to learn about asteroids. I agree that bagging one may not be a practical defense against a collision. But to design that defense, it’s really important to know how strong it is. I expect one to be more like a snowdrift or a loose pile of gravel than a boulder. I want men to experiment over a long period of time.

          With ARM, astronauts will be able to visit an asteroid on missions lasting weeks rather than years. They will be able to abort missions if there are problems. They can build infrastructure on one mission and use it on subsequent missions. They can plan a mission using things they learned on another mission a month earlier.

          If there’s platinum in an asteriod, is it spread evenly throughout, or is it concentrated? If you centrifuge material from an asteroid, do the valuable parts separate out? Astronauts can try things that it will be hard to design robots to do.

          After we have studied a few asteroids close at hand, we will be in a much better position to plan a mission to visit an asteroid in its native orbit.

      • Steam Chaser

        “a) cost about the same or less; b) use the SLS and Orion; c) provide a destination where astronauts can go and (appear to) do something useful.”

        OSIRIS-Rex is a New Frontiers NASA Planetary Science mission, so it’s about $1B plus launch. It’s supposed to return a tiny but scientifically useful asteroid sample to Earth, and also do a survey of the asteroid (itself maybe a Discovery-class science mission). Do another with a different target asteroid, but while it’s doing whatever it’s doing in its early missions, have Orion retrieve the sample instead of returning the sample directly to Earth. In other words replace the OSIRIS-Rex return capsule with Orion.

        The recent Planetary Science Decadal Survey recommended 2 sample return missions among the next 5 New Frontiers competitors: Comet Surface Sample Return and Lunar South Pole-Aitken Sample Return. Modify either (or both) of these so Orion retrieves the sample instead of returning it to Earth.

        You might also have Orion deploy a solar wind sample collector similar to the Genesis mission collector (which was somewhat compromised during reentry), and retrieve it on a later mission.

        From Jeff’s twitter account today:

        Muirhead: still have goal on cost of less than $1.25B for ARM (excluding launch, operations, and crewed mission). #sbag11

        Conventional wisdom and the KISS study had the robotic part of the mission as being well over $2B. NASA was saying $1B, but now it’s $1.25B plus launch plus operations. It’s starting to add up. The New Frontiers mission line is $1B plus launch, so any of the New Frontiers missions I mentioned should be significantly cheaper than the (possibly optimistic) robotic mission budget estimate NASA is considering. However, the New Frontiers mission line already has a budget, so no budget miracle is needed … just fund New Frontiers.

        Even if you count the $1B plus launch cost against the New Frontiers class mission, you’re still ahead $250M plus operations compared to the mission NASA is considering. Use that $250M plus change to improve asteroid searches for science, planetary defense, and HSF purposes (to native NEO orbit, not ARM). Maybe fund the $50M instrument NASA was considering hitching on a comsat, maybe improve ground-based searches. Send a few Planetary Resources and/or Deep Space Industries robotic precursor scout missions to some NEOs. Fund the modernized version of the Genesis collector to give Orion some more make work. Boost funding for an advanced SEP technology demonstration mission (there should already be a wedge for that) without the burden of linking it to the operational asteroid retrieval mission. $250M+ could go a long way towards advancing the ARM mission goals (planetary science, giving Orion something to do, planetary defense, advancing HSF, technology demonstration, commercial space).

        • Steam Chaser: Interesting analysis, and I’d probably go for a lot of it if that was what’s on the table (it’s not), but I think you’re missing out one expensive element. If you launch and fly two-plus Orions to retrieve your two-plus New Frontiers mission samples, even taking the absurdly low figure of $500 million per Orion flight, you’ve added $1 billion to your mission estimates — maybe not so much cheaper than ARM.

          – Donald

          • Steam Chaser

            I expect an SLS/Orion mission to cost far more than $500M. It’s not worth it, but I’m assuming that Congress is going to force the occasional SLS/Orion mission regardless of whether they have anything to do. We could compare ARM to Orion assisting with 1 small New Frontiers style asteroid, comet, or lunar sample return, though. In both cases, there’s an SLS/Orion flight with some kind of EVA or retrieval capability that otherwise would probably amount to gazing out the window. However, the ARM robotic side appears to be more expensive than 1 New Frontiers mission per Jeff’s tweet. Also New Frontiers is already a funded line in the Planetary Science budget, and 2 of the 5 missions recommended for competition by the Decadal Survey are sample return missions.

            It’s also possible that the orbital mechanics could be worked out to allow Orion to retrieve 2 samples in 1 mission (e.g.: a lunar sample and a comet sample).

    • Oh, and d) be beyond LEO, and e) push development of useful technologies like high-powered SEP?

    • Also again: I’ve learned to take what “Senior scientists” like “senior asteroid planetologist Rick Binzel from MIT” say with a great deal of salt. “Senior scientists” still argue with all seriousness that Apollo was scientifically useless even though their own dating ediface for the entire Solar System is almost entirely built upon Apollo data, and is so to this date. An unfortunate number of “Senior scientists” have proven themselves perfectly capable of being just as loudly wrong as the rest of us.

      ARM, et al, may indeed be scientifically useless, but I am not prepared to make up my mind based solely on what “Senior scientists” think.

      – Donald

      • Hiram

        No one is asking you to make up your mind based on what “Senior scientists” think. I’m just telling you what one thinks. Take it or leave it. Are you prepared to make up your mind based on what a Senior Senator thinks? Or maybe a Senior engineer? Or maybe a Senior space nerd? How are you making up your mind, anyway?

        So, in your mind, being a Senior scientist makes ones ideas about non-science space policy untrustworthy? That’s an amusing thought. We shouldn’t take suggestions about good movies from Rick Binzel either, since he isn’t a Senior movie reviewer.

        You should listen to Binzel’s talk. He started out pointing out that Apollo was scientifically magnificent for lunar science. But if you want to put dumb words in the mouths of Senior scientists, no one has to listen. NO ONE in the planetary science community calls Apollo scientifically useless. You’re just making that up out of whole cloth. You’re flat out wrong. Apollo was fabulously expensive, and the wonderful science it did might have been done somewhat more cheaply, if the decision had been made to spend that money to do science. Some would argue that it should have been spent that way. But it probably would not have been.

        Senior scientists have been proven to be loudly wrong? Gosh, is that DCSCA hiding in there? Hide your elbow pads, everyone! I sense desperation. ARM needs that desperation. For every Senior scientist that has been proven to be loudly wrong, I’ll offer you a Senior Senator, or Senior engineer, or Senior space nerd.

    • E.P. Grondine

      The responses to ARM always serve as as Rorsarch tests clearly showing different space enthusiasts desires.

      “Any defensible calculation of tangible, quantifiable benefits – spinoff technologies,attraction of talent to scientific careers, scientific knowledge, and so on – is unlikely to ever demonstrate a positive return on the massive investments required by human spaceflight.”

      This does not hold true for planetary defense from asteroid and comet impact.

      ARM is the first effort to tie manned spaceflight to planetary defense. After the $8 billion taken from the NASA budget for the Ares 1, it is a recovery attempt.

      ARM revives Goldin’s DPT architecture. ARM gives you systems for deep space travel.

      The key here is that ARM finances the NEO search, because every time money has been spent on search the realization has increased that the impact hazard is far greater than previously estimated.

      Now your best impactor detection system is CAPS, which uses active detectors based on the Moon. CAPS gives you sustainable manned systems.

      My guess is that China will try for manned Moon landing in 2020-2025, with a base (CAPS) to follow 2025-2030. While they still have to make any of those decisions, given the budget for their architecture and national desires, my guess is it will be a go.

      ARM is probably the best way to keep the tech base in place while recovering from the Ares 1 fiasco.

      What is amazing to me is that none of you have thought about using SpaceX tech to match a Chinese manned Moon effort 2020-2025.

      As there is a back-contamination problem for manned Mars flight which needs to be cleared, 2035 looks likely as the earliest possible window.

      • Hiram

        “ARM is the first effort to tie manned spaceflight to planetary defense.”

        No it doesn’t. We’ve been through this. Even NASA doesn’t say this any more.

    • Andrew Swallow

      f) Permit testing of rendezvous and docking with a Near Earth Object (NEO)
      g) Diversion of said object away from the Earth
      h) There by providing a planetary defence proof-of-concept and technology demonstrator at TRL 6. (Real ones will be bigger.)

      • Hiram

        “f) g) h)”

        Dumber and dumber. We’re not rendezvous and docking, we’re bagging. So we’re going to “bag” an Earth-threatening asteroid? No way, Jose.

        Diversion of said object away from Earth? Um, no, we’re actually bringing it into cis-lunar space.

        “(Real ones will be bigger)”

        Ooh, as in, totally different technologies will be required to actually do what is really needed? You got that.

        So why don’t we rendevous and dock to a BIG asteroid, and push it onto a different orbit. That would actually prove what needs to be proved. ARM doesn’t do that. Not by a long shot.

        • Andrew Swallow

          “Dumber and dumber.” – Yes you are.

          Learning how to change the course and aim a large payload a small step to the left or a medium step to the left is similar.

          An Earth-threatening asteroid will get a bigger bag and SEP. A scaling problem. letter missions will probably use bigger equipment.

          ARM is a learning exercise. Remember the ancient rule – First do no harm.

  • Hiram: Yes, Orion won’t support such a mission after all, so it would need some added hab/cargo capability. That way, one could really test out logistics for doing work substantially outside cislunar space

    Actually, I agree with you that this is preferable to the asteroid retrieval. It is also a lot more expensive. Where is the money going to come from?

    but they are VASTLY easier than Mars

    Again, I agree. Mars cannot, and probably should not, be our next step at this point. At our technological level, it is a step too far and doomed to failure, both technically and politically.

    Send humans out into cis-lunar space, perhaps to a hab at a Lagrange point, and send your SEP thataway

    If you include the habitat, probably costs about the same as ARM / ACRM, and you don’t get to “fondle” the asteroid. How boreing, especially on the off chance that you and “senior scientists” are wrong about what might be accomplished.

    (BTW, “Senior scientists” have been arguing as long as Hubble has been in orbit that ground-based telescopes will “soon” perform better any day now. Except for a few very specific types of observation, they have yet to be correct. There is a senseless bias against human-related science in the scientific community — and I am certain that it is playing a role here. If they are correct this time, they’ve cried “wolf” too many times for me to take them seriously now.)

    Go ahead, pick a different project. Someone like you will immediately be tearing it apart. That, in a nutshell, is a significant part of the reason we’re accomplishing nothing in human spaceflight, and not likely to except through seemingly tangental projects like COTS.

    It’s interesting how much we can agree on, and still come to different conclusions, but I guess that’s the human condition.

    – Donald

  • E.P. Grondine

    Hi Don –

    “Go ahead, pick a different project. Someone like you will immediately be tearing it apart.”

    Those “someone”‘s are usually manned Mars or manned Moon enthusiasts. They consistently can not see what is learned by ISS.

    “That, in a nutshell, is a significant part of the reason we’re accomplishing nothing in human spaceflight, and not likely to except through seemingly tangental projects like COTS.”

    In my view, we had a problem with launch costs. The reason they came about was ATK’s lobbying effort back in 1970, and continuing since then.

    I believe that the lack of development of liquid engines can be laid at their doorstep, but proving it definitively will require access to records not currently available.

    This situation in engine development led to an opening for both Musk and Bezos, which both of them took.

    The technological edge now is flyback. Musk has taken his approach, I think Bezos should sell his engine work, or partner with someone now.

  • Crash Davis

    “Go ahead, pick a different project. Someone like you will immediately be tearing it apart. That, in a nutshell, is a significant part of the reason we’re accomplishing nothing in human spaceflight”

    Pot calling kettle…. “For the record, these guys are all major league detractors of NASA and SLS, as am I. We are also major fans of SpaceX.”

  • Crash Davis: Pot calling kettle

    Fair enough, although that wasn’t a quote from me. Nonetheless, I do think it is a little different. As transportation, SLS or Falcon should not be considered goals themselves, but means to a goal. I was referring to the end goal, i.e., asteroid or lunar surface. (For the record, I am fine with either, and would prefer the latter if we could afford it.) However, you are correct, I believe the COTS model is the best means to attain almost any goal, and the SLS project the worst. Both these opinions are based partially on my archaeological view of what has worked best in achieving similar goals in human history and demonstrated performance in the past few years. (SLS type development hasn’t worked to achieve a goal since 1969 in spite of no end of trying, while SpaceX is achieving their near-term goals with far less money.) As such, I would like to see SLS cancelled and the money applied to CCtCap, projects like NASA’s newly announced attempt to commercialize comsats at Mars, and applying a COTS-like model to deep space propulsion stages, and eventually human deep space spacecraft.

    – Donald

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