Los Angeles - Oct 16, 2003
From the general and ongoing discussion concerning NASA and political policy over human space access, it is apparent that there are many things inhibiting the doors of space opening completely or to their widest potential.
After much consideration, however, I find that it is a lack of correct focus and thinking that has prohibited such an expansion; that has inhibited the development of sufficient technology and the appropriate infrastructure necessary for making space a regularly accessible domain to the general population, for research, entertainment, exploration, or any other activity that humans might engage in there.
Rather, there are too many interests trying to be met, with too few people and resources, too little know how, and an insufficient infrastructure. Our space industry and institutions are being stretched thin, biting off more than they can chew, trying to please everyone. And we know that when you try to please everyone, you please no one.
So now, where most of the space industry is and has been focused upon money, generating revenue from space exploitation, producing a product, or producing something in general (scientists producing scientific results, manufacturers producing products to sell, politicians producing good politics (or bad), for national pride, military, education etc. etc. etc.), these are things humans do or aspects of human living that arise after a solid foundation for a human presence has been established.
But in space there is no solid foundation for a human presence, nor is there any real or sufficient focus on establishing such a foundation. Therefore, so long as these afore mentioned areas are the initial and primary focuses of human space involvement, humans or human living will never get to space in mass, or to the extent that we desire. Because the environment capable of sustaining these activities, a foundation for actually getting humans to space and establishing a presence for life to thrive there, human life, is not the focus.
It is quite obvious then, that because of how space is, its very nature will not allow itself to be accessed by the current means or motivations: generating revenue, producing products, entertainment, political clout etc.
Exploring and going to space is not the same as exploring and getting around down here. When we crossed the Atlantic or explored any part of this planet, the new world was ready made to support human life: a breathable and hospitable atmosphere, food bearing plants, protection from the sun, water etc. Life and an environment capable of supporting human activity was already present in almost all areas humans have ventured before getting to space. But such an environment does not exist in space.
At this point, then, the focus for human space involvement should initially, primarily, and simply be on the human person in space, not products, or money, or political clout.
Rather, if people want to go to space, or if we are going to open space up to humanity, then the focus should be simply getting humans, humanity, to and living in space.
After all, we must be able to get there and subsist successfully, create a solid and permanent environment for human life, before human life and living is actually able to do anything there. Once we can get people to and living successfully in space, able to fulfill all the necessities for human life in space: food, water, air, shelter, clothing, community, then we can focus on doing other things, like making products, religion, art, politics, entertainment etc.
The point being, however, that these things only come once a solid and permanent foundation for human livelihood has been established. And space is so harsh it will not allow that order to be compromised, or else people will die or never go there in any real or successful manner. As it stands, however, just establishing a solid and permanent foundation for sustaining life in space, primarily human life, is not the present or primary focus of the space industry and institutions.
The answer, then, to what kid of philosophical foundation is needed in the contemporary era of human space involvement, what kind of vision we need, NASA, the government, space enthusiasts, the whole lot of us involved, what the guiding agenda should be, is to focus simply on establishing a solid foundation for successful living in space, actually providing the infrastructure necessary for supporting and sustaining human life in space, in mass and on a permanent basis. Only when this is achieved, will humans in space and the activities thereof, science, art, philosophy, religion, politics, economics, entertainment, recreation etc. ever become a reality.
What are, then, the practical implications of this, given the current institutional and industry environment? Contrary to many who have slammed and dissented to NASA's and our nation's investment in a major space station project, the International Space Station is actually the best thing we have to actually getting ourselves down the road to learning how to fulfill this need, establishing a permanent presence and environment for life and human life in space.
And though there are many problems with this endeavor, the International Space Station is the only platform we have capable of beginning to explore and establish this foundation, the creation of a permanent environment capable of supporting life and human life in space, what the long term effects of exposure to space are, how to deal with them successfully, or prevent them altogether, and how to successfully produce and support a necessary technological and social infrastructure. But changes in even this project will be needed.
Against the majority of the scientific community's desire or opinions, the ISS should not be used for industry science or producing products to be used and sold for profit on Earth. These are pork barrel activities someone's string pulling has achieved. The buddy system, back scratching, good ol' boy policies of a few people have incorporated these things into and muddied an otherwise good effort.
To the contrary, the sole focus of all research on the International Space Station, and particularly NASA research, should be on how to sustain life and human life, on a permanent basis, in space, space biology and ecology, not on producing products for sale and profit in the economical, terrestrial environment.
If there are products that can benefit us down here, well, the better; but producing such products to enter into the commercial market should not be NASA's focus. That is for the poeple following NASA, utilizing the information and infrastructure they establish, but not for NASA.
And though it is a meager or conservative beginning, the ISS is actually, though perhaps not intentionally, a good one, if it comes to be utilized properly and to its fullest potential. The ISS, if utilized properly, can provide us with a foundational knowledge in the know-how of living permanently in space; from which these other ventures may launch, medicine and power production, mining raw materials, entertainment, or whatever humans decide to do once they are capable of subsisting within that environment.
But we first must be capable. And I think there is at least some portion of the NASA population who knows, sees, and is working towards this goal. But they have us as dissenters, blaming and accusing, not supporting and understanding where it is we really need to go, from seeing where it is that we really are. But where are we, really?
We are barely in space, and so we are still in need of getting there, more permanently, generating the infrastructure and knowledge of how to do this on a larger and more permanent scale. As of now, we are teetering; the shuttle is on the way out, with no replacement. Mir has fallen back to Earth, leaving the ISS as the lone platform for humans in space. I think people believe that somehow, out of thin air, we will whip together a shuttle replacement, and a huge infrastructure to support life in space.
Well such a whipping will only happen to our backsides when we realize that it is going to take us a lot of time and energy to build the technologies and foundations we need, because what we have are only a few fragile assets, which can easily succumb to the huge forces the environment they inhabit can inflict upon them at any time; because we really have a lot farther to go than people are willing to admit and are aware of.
The government doesn't have some mystery space station; they do not have mystery alien technology that will come to save the day. The best things we have are stealth aircraft, the ISS, the shuttle, perhaps a few black book projects for hypersonic flight, and the mass of under-financed, under-supported but willing scientists and workers trying to make the most of what they have and know to date.
It is therefore foreseeable that the next major step beyond the ISS is not going to Mars (this would be leaping into the deep end of the pool before we know how to swim, or before we find or build an appropriate beach to swim from), but in building on what we have, more permanent space stations, or platforms for supporting more life or human settlement in space. Perhaps a constellation(s) of small space stations, modular space cities. A fleet of more reliable, versatile, spacecraft, space gardens, or whatever it takes to supply all the things human life needs: reliable, safe, transportation, food production, shelter, atmospheres, and social communities.
If the technological rave is true, and carbon-nano-tubes are what the scientists say they are, then a space elevator seems to be a quantum leap forward, and several of them at that. But regardless of the specifics, we must keep our eye on the ball: we don't have a permanent or stable foundation capable of supporting humans in space, though we are nickel and dimming our way there.
And it will never happen without our support, and voicing what that support is for, establishing a permanent foundation, the infrastructure and the ability to support it, necessary for permanent, sustainable human presence and development in space, eventually on a large scale, keeping out all the junk, understanding where we are, what we really are capable of doing, and what we need to do to get where we want to go.
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Why We Must SUSTAIN Human Spaceflight
Los Angeles - Oct 13, 2003
Very quietly, a bold new vision for space is taking place within the halls of the Pentagon. And the Branch of the service behind this wonderful new development is none other that the United States Marine Corps. Hoo-RAH!
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