Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why private industry can do it better, cheaper, etc.

Why is this always a debate? I've answered this 100 times over, but am always asked the same questions in whatever forum I'm in. First, I'll address questions including my answer:

1. Are you saying that private industry will go to space without taxpayer financing? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

2. If so, what's stopping them? ITAR and a host of bull crap regulation created by the government, preventing the sharing and utilization of space technologies for private space based operations. This is currently agreed upon by many, even some in government, and is being rectified, hopefully sooner than later.

3. Or are you saying that private industry would do a better, cheaper job than NASA if the taxpayers give them money? Nope, private industry can do it on their own if the playing field is leveled. NASA's role is NOT what it's doing now. It's spread too thin. The private industry should have taken up LEO operations years ago, including building the rockets.

4. If so, wouldn't there still be some government oversight (to watch out for the taxpayers billions)? Proper government oversight and regulation, yes, like the rules protecting airline passengers, but nothing more drastic than that. Fly at your own risk does have its place in space as it does in driving, aircraft flying, etc.

5. And isn't that like the current system? NASA contracts out almost everything, don't they? NASA Contractors are NOT private industry as far as I'm concerned. They don't create a product that is used by the general marketplace. They create a product specifically for government. They are beholden to government and sell to the government. That is not a private industry, that's a government contractor. I want a ride to space dammit. I'm sick of the government picking people from a select pot. Everyone should be able to go if they want too.

6. Explain this mantra, "...private industry can do it better, cheaper, etc." Here you go...

a. Private space must do it cheaper in order to be financially viable. The government doesn't give a damn about making profit, but are REAL good at over inflating costs due to asinine regulations and rules. Private industry must provide a viable product at a reasonable price for the public to afford it, so with this necessity, they must do it better and cheaper.

b. Private space must do it safely else they are toast, period. One accident and their out of business. Not so good for the bottom line.

c. Part b cannot conflict with part a. It must be reasonable, unlike NASA which makes safety so damn paramount that it takes 5 people to verify the turning of a stupid bolt. There's your cost balloon right there.

7. Economic Incentive?

a. Moon: Research Facility to be rented out to global corporations for special research that just can't be done on Earth (major revenue for that alone). Vacation Resort (modest revenue, maybe breaking even, but vital to getting many people to experience space and bring that memory home to share, which is priceless). Fuel depot with local mining for the fuel depot, but also for other materials to be used In Situ (instrumental for further advancement into space).

b. Asteroids: All about mining here. Not much else I can think of to use an asteroid for other than monitoring, but no profit in monitoring.

c. Mars: Squat. Everything Mars offers is available on Earth. Mars is another resource limited location that's a pain to get too right now with current technology. Yes, good place to move too if all hell breaks loose on Earth, but tourism, mining, etc. is already accounted for with the Moon and asteroids...at least until we develop gravity drives and glide around effortlessly through space. But then, everything changes.

And lastly, a statement I addressed: There is no product on the Moon, Mars nor NEA/NEOs that makes economic sense to bring back to Earth and get a profit.

NONE of this depends on bringing anything back to Earth, except knowledge from research and research experiments themselves. Everything else is to be done in space to be used in space, to get us AWAY from Earth, not to bring it back.

Any more questions?

Monday, October 26, 2009

General Relativity Under Assault!?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20427314.400-rethinking-relativity-is-time-out-of-joint.html

I'm telling you, space is weird and awesome all at the same time! :) Just read this report and go here to read the paper:

http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0909/0909.3853v2.pdf

The more we investigate and really try to nit pick certain scientific "norms", the more I think we'll discover new and interesting things. I especially love gravity research. Come on baby, daddy needs a new gravity drive! :)

HSF Committee Final Report Part 2

WOW, is this a dry read. Want to fall asleep? No need for medication. Just print this, drop the lights as low as possible to read comfortably, and give it 10 minutes. I'm sure you'll be out before then. :)

Of course, this was never written to be an award winning literary work. It boils down to this, and this is my take on the thing...

1. "The Committee concluded that the ultimate goal of human exploration is to chart a path for human expansion into the solar system." Kind of a no-duh statement, but worthy of mentioning and supporting. Hanging out in LEO does NOT further the human influence into space.

2. Yes, NASA needs more money, a LOT more! I'd love 50 billion a year for space considering how much money we blow on floundering other federal programs.

3. Amen, the word commercial was used a LOT in the document. Hand LEO off to Commercial business and have NASA focus beyond. Like I've always said, NASA is Lewis and Clark, NOT the settlers.

4. In looking at goals vs. destinations, an idea I like, when you start listing the goals of what we need to learn and do in order to perfect our ability to expand into space, I personally cannot fathom why we'd not use the Moon, build a base there for a whole host of reasons and profit motives, and also play around asteroids. Everything we learn there will apply to eventual Mars habitation and settlement but at a much lower risk and cost. You use the Moon for the purpose of going to Mars, not just to stop at the Moon.

5. I really think the "Flexible path" will be Moon dominated, darn near to being a Moon first path.

6. I still don't like Ares. That's not going to change. The shuttle is going out the door. We're probably going to rely on the Russians for a taxi service, and I would not be surprised if they raise the cost per astronaut after the shuttle is definitely gone.

7. Expanding into space requires nations, not a nation. Yes, I'm a RAH RAH Red White and Blue American for certain, but I'm also realistic about the challenge of the task. If you are not racing to beat someone to a target (US vs. USSR), then you are working with others to get to the target and spread the load. At some point national pride must be balanced by reality. Should the USA lead the way? Hell yes. We're still the strongest global space nation, but international partners are imperative, and when I say partners, I mean true partners in every sense of the word, including financial investment.

I guess in a nutshell, I want my Millennium Falcon, and I want it 10 minutes ago. I will do whatever I have to in order to realize the dream of affording every single person who wants to go to space to have that option. Nothing will be better for humanity than having person after person see this glorious planet from afar. Only then will we truly respect our place in the universe.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Human Space Flight "Augustine Comission" Final Report

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/396093main_HSF_Cmte_FinalReport.pdf

Here it is. If you care about the future of not just space, but our nation, this matters! I will read it and give my thoughts later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Space Infrastructure: A Comparative Analysis

By now I hope it's obvious that I'm a huge commercial space advocate. I'm all about the economic impact of space exploration and development and how we can turn America into a space faring nation with space as a significant economic foundation.

The problem is no one has ever invested into the commercial space infrastructure. Honestly, that's the only thing I want the government to do, just like they did in 1862 with the Pacific Railway Act, where they loaned private business the funds necessary to build the transcontinental railroad. The businesses built the infrastructure, they paid the govt. back, and the govt. got free use of the system while the private industry made a boat load of cash using it commercially. Space is no different, but we treat it as if it is.

Here's a comparison: The average subsidy per mile of track laid by the Union and Central Pacific companies was $32,000 a mile. I'm taking a gross average here, because the breakdown was $16,000 per mile for easy grade, $32,000 for high plains and $48,000 in the mountains. The Union Pacific laid 1,087 miles of track and the Central Pacific laid 690 miles of track. That's 1,777 miles of track at roughly $32,000 a mile. That gives a total of $56,864,000 in 1864 dollars. What cost $56,864,000 in 1864 would cost $774,289,258 in 2008 as adjusted for inflation. $774 million.

Now look at land. Land has pristine value, and even more so after the railroads were complete. Entire modern day cities like Denver would not exist were it not for the railroad. From 1850-1871, the railroads received more than 175 million acres of public land - an area more than one tenth of the whole United States and larger than Texas. What do you think the cost per acre was back then...the value? In some parts of the country you could find land at $10 an acre, like rural Colorado, but in other parts it would be more expensive.

So let's say $100 per acre as an average considering the immediate jump in value the railway would give the land. It's not that much of a jump in logic. Even if the land started at $10 an acre, the fact that the Intercontinental Railroad now existed on that land would instantly increase its value significantly. So that's $17.5 billion in 1864 land value. Adjusted into 2008 dollars we're sitting at roughly $238,288,935,357 in 2008.

So what do we have? $774 million in loans and $238 billion in land. The land value dwarfs the loan value, but to be precise, we're sitting at $239,063,224,615 in total cost to set up the railway infrastructure. $239 billion!!!

$239 billion in loans to space based companies would build fuel depots, better launch systems, better spacecraft, destinations like orbiting hotels, a new space station, a Moon Base, etc. If we were capable of doing this back then, why the hell aren't we capable of doing the same thing now for the establishment of the space infrastructure?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Public Advertising for Space Tourism - A Question Posed to Me

A follower of this blog (Norman Copeland) posted a good question to me in the "Buzz Aldrin & the Space Renaissance Initiative" article, and for the first time in a while I've had the time to really hash out a good rant on this. Yes, I touched on this in my "The Image of Space" article, but this rant is more raw and in your face. :) So, here's the question...

"What sort of public advertising does he (Douglas) think will be central for the interest of space tourism [NSA?], I guess there is a lot of business development opportunities for large companies, but, a unit quota for this era could potentially tell the stories of how much money really is available sitting around the place..."

My answer...

To be honest, Abercrombie physiques, tits and ass. Space needs to be sexy. It needs to be sexed up. The only image of real space people have is geeks in lab coats and suits in Mission Control. It's time to make the Moon seem like Jamaica, a sporting event, a wild time, etc.

Look, we all know beer doesn't really equal hot chicks with you in a hot tub, but that's exactly the image they sell, so why the hell doesn't the space movement adopt the same vision?! Purists suck, because all they will say is that you're demeaning the scientific and engineering integrity of space by "selling out" to main stream advertising techniques, but those same dumb asses are the ones wondering why space isn't more popular and how they can make it an economically strong, viable commercial industry.

You can't have it both ways. To the average person, the one you're SELLING space too, space is not on the front of their mind because it's not as appealing to them. For them, space is either sci-fi, only for the scientists and engineers, or a combo of both. Time to wake up and start selling space the way we sell everything else, by appealing to the human nature side of adventure, excitement, sexuality and fun. Period.

NASA Administrator Bolden Appeals to Investors

http://spacefellowship.com/2009/10/20/remarks-by-nasa-administrator-charles-bolden/

WOW! Read this and tell me it doesn't sound wicked familiar. In fact, you can go back just a few articles on here and almost hear the same thing. I've been saying this for almost a year on this blog, and even longer among friends in random conversations.

Okay, so I don't have the forum, pull nor the gravitas that Administrator Bolden has, but at least the word is getting out there. My most favorite line is this...

"What if you were a seventh grader and you knew that if you buckled down, and studied hard at math and science, that you could go to space? Not because you would be the one of the very few who might become a NASA astronaut, as I was so privileged, but because you saw hundreds of people of all nations traveling into space each and every year, and knew in your bones that you could soon be one of them?"

Damn! I've said almost the exact same thing...almost verbatim...as my main argument for why America needs to become a space faring nation. A REAL one, not some flag dropping, short term visiting bunch of no-stayers. If we build a space infrastructure, and use it for economic growth, kids WILL become interested because they CAN get there. They know it can happen. THAT matters!

Now, to only get this kind of information to the general public. Hmmm, oh yeah, that's my job. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Buzz Aldrin & the Space Renaissance Initiative

http://www.spacerenaissance.org/papers/SRI_endorsement_to_LIDC_2.pdf

The above link will take you to the official response by the Space Renaissance Initiative regarding a special request issued by former astronaut and Moon walker Buzz Aldrin. The response letter includes the details. This is a good step for SRI in the right direction of joining forces with other space advocacy organizations in the development of space for humanity. Thanks Buzz and way to go SRI!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Amazing Space Exploration Picture

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2009-10/ever-wonder-what-every-space-mission-last-50-years-looks-one-map

This is just plain awesome. I have now made this picture my desktop image at home. :)

Manufactured Black Holes for Energy?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17980-first-black-hole-for-light-created-on-earth.html

I LOVE SCIENCE! When is the last time I said that? Just then? Good, because I want to make it perfectly clear that science and technology are amazing and we are discovering things that are astounding every day! :)

So what am I raving on about this time? Electromagnetic black holes being created that trap light! Now there may be an option to use this technology to trap visible light from the sun and create the most amazing solar power collector EVER!

From the article: Such a device could be used to harvest solar energy in places where the light is too diffuse for mirrors to concentrate it onto a solar cell. An optical black hole would suck it all in and direct it at a solar cell sitting at the core. "If that works, you will no longer require these huge parabolic mirrors to collect light," says Narimanov.

I LOVE SCIENCE!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Virgin Galactic Does Business Diversification

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17963-virgin-galactic-adds-satellite-launches-to-space-tourism.html

The best way to ensure the success of your business is not to put all your eggs in one basket. I'm pretty certain Richard Branson knows that, and now Virgin Galactic has announced that they will be getting into the satellite launching business. Great!

There are are too many people who think that New Space is just about tourism. Not even close. New Space is about applying every business application we do here on Earth, and just change the venue to space. It's that simple. Yes, space tourism is part of the equation, but so is space industrialization, mining, research, transportation, etc.

Virgin Galactic is making a strong and bold move here, giving their business the diversity necessary to survive...especially if their cost is adequately low and crushes the competition...and I think they will.

The New Space Revolution is coming and the engines are fired up. Jump on now, because when this Starship launches, there's no turning back.

Friday, October 9, 2009

LCROSS and its "Impact"

Alright, I would say "after the dust settled", but it looks like there wasn't much dust up to begin with. That's fine. According to the press conference afterwords, they still got good data from the other spectra they were analyzing in besides just visible.

Now here's the fun part, people expect answers right away! Attention general media and the mass populace: Science does not provide instant gratification. Sheesh! I don't expect any hard results for at least a month or two. There is a lot of data to collect and sift through. However, I am anxious to know what was found, but no more anxious than the scientists working on the project itself. Significant water on the Moon is a real game changer.

Now, for all you idiots who thought the Moon was going to be blown up, here's the timeline of thought I'm seeing from the past few days and then today...

"OH MY GOD, you're going to kill the Moon!!!!"

"What, that was it? You guys suck."

Some people are never pleased.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Finding and Dealing With Life Not of This Earth

So a debate ensued about Europa, the water there, what if life does exist in that water, and how we should proceed if there is life there. Someone posted this comment:

"If life is to be found anywhere, in our system or beyond, we would probably kill it 1st in the name of science, then well just because....whatever reason. Until we humans get beyond our own need for violence here on mother earth, we should leave alone."

This got me thinking about how ridiculous that sounded, and sadly there were other posts that reflected this Star Trekian notion of the "Prime Directive", where we should not interact with any life we do find. How then, are we supposed to learn about it? We're not to the point technologically where we can "scan the planet" and know everything we need to know. Maybe one day, but not now. For now, we are very much at a hands on, get down there and grab it level. So, this is what I wrote back to him...

You're talking about changing human nature, and the act of survival at its most primal level involves violence. Kill or be killed. Humans are still animals. We may be the most advanced animals with the ability to reason and apply logic to multiple ends, but the core of our being is still primal. Regardless of our egos and hubris, we are nothing more than advanced animals.

This is why we fight for mates, fight for possessions and fight to exist. Yes, there are those who fight to be bastards, but do you think we can breed any of this out of us? I think not, and I wouldn't want too. The ability to defend oneself from a potential foe is paramount to maintaining our existence. There will come a time when we will find other cultures in space that will most likely be hostile, and heaven forbid we pussify ourselves to the point that they just dominate us without an ounce of resistance on our part.

Our goal is not to kill the life we seek, but to learn about it and from it. Will we and the other life have coexisting issues, and possibly cause harm to each other unintentionally? I bet so. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean we have to remain in our cradle, afraid to crawl into the cosmos.

Congratulations Masten Space Systems

http://thelaunchpad.xprize.org/2009/10/masten-qualifies-for-150000-level-1.html

Alright! One more official player in the game. I consider official to be anyone who passes the Level 1 part of the Northrup Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge. So right now we have Masten and Armadillo. Additionally there are more teams set to give this a shot, Team BonNovA on Oct. 26-27 and Team Unreasonable Rocket on Oct. 30-31.

One more step closer the the Moon for us all! Woohoo! :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

U.S. Paranoia Almost Derailed Huge Lunar Water Discovery

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8281480.stm

This article explains it all. It's very simple, the United States needs to relax its paranoid mentality over space based partnerships, or else this nation is NEVER going to become a true space faring nation.

ITAR is ridiculously overbearing as it stands right now and needs to be severely modified. I talk about this in greater detail in my book, but the point is that you cannot expect the space market to expand, which can be an extremely lucrative market globally, if you choke it to death under old school paranoid cold war B.S.!!! Knock it off! Not every nation is planning to use space as a war zone, especially if nations are working together to accomplish whatever space based task their involved with.

Look, I sure as hell don't want to give Iran or Afghanistan serious spaced based technologies, but when the paranoia prevents legitimate companies from doing business in the space market, we have a problem. As the article itself states, "They seem to be happy that co-operation takes place in not-for-profit science related projects, but profit-making commercial ventures in the lucrative space market are still a no-no."

Stupid U.S. government...WAKE UP! Space, specifically commercial space, is the answer to the future prosperity of this nation if you just let it happen! Fix this ITAR mess and you'll see U.S. companies working with trustworthy and solid global partners on amazing and important space based endeavors...and the U.S. GDP will be the better for it.