RE: "NASA and the Future of Space Exploration--was NASA Ends Project Intended to Replace Shuttle"

From: John Marlow (
Date: Sat Mar 03 2001 - 22:20:59 MST

Interesting, but I gotta say, manned exploration is the ticket. When
people ask me why, I say: If you gotta ask why, there's really no
explaining it to you.


Robotic stuff is great, but limited and far less likely to draw
widespread support. As I posted a few days back, NASA is going to
"defer" new tech development indefinitely owing to budget cuts.

Private industry must see concrete profitable motivations for this
stuff. NASA never needed that, and shouldn't--though they're now
forming some very interesting partnerships and spreading their
activities over many more states (this latter presumably for greater
political support). NASA says every $1 into the program generates
$14, however.

As to industry developing an independent space infrastructure--the
cost is staggering. The United States ill afford to duplicate the
NASA infrastructure today.

There is a wildcard I don't believe you've considered: James Cameron.
He's moving forward on several space projects which are bound to have
an impact on public perceptions. I actually spoke with him briefly on
this, and plan to publish his comments. He wants us on Mars. I
believe it possible his projects could reinvigorate the manned space
program. A long shot? Perhaps. But I'm rooting for him.

Never underestimate the power of the media.


On 3 Mar 2001, at 15:22, wrote:

> I read the news of the Bush budget axe falling so heavily on NASA with a
> feeling of sadness, but also of resignation. The simple fact is that the
> national space programs of the Cold War period simply can't persist in the
> contemporary world, and that broad social support for "pure" space science
> isn't strong enough to sustain a large space exploration effort. Even the
> emotional support for the sheer adventure of manned space activities has
> largely evaporated outside of the "space enthusiast" community. As Michael
> Butler pointed out, attempts to make a go of access to space outside of the
> traditional national space programs that seemed to have so much promise just
> a few years ago have all proved quixotic in the extreme.
> I've come to the conclusion that the sooner the different elements of the
> space exploration and development community come to the realization that the
> "old game" is over, the better. A LOT of energy has been wasted on trying to
> salvage elements of the Cold War space programs and develop incremental
> evolutionary pathways that build on what is left of them. In this regard, I
> feel that ideas like Robert Zubrin's are exactly the wrong kind of program to
> be proposing at this time. Trying to hitch one's wagon to the current
> machinery of space access and infrastructure -- such as it is -- is a
> prescription for wasted time, effort and money, because any such plans will
> inevitably be built on the requirement of continuing political support for
> NASA. NASA's mandate is, in my opinion, irretrievably confused by the
> political process, having been since the end of the Cold War a hodge-podge
> rationalization based on whatever opportunity of the moment its
> administrators can conjure out of the political swamp in Washington.
> Rather than wasting energy by trying to revive the now decaying remains of
> the original national space programs, I feel a much more fruitful approach
> would be to begin work on designing and planning for a program of space
> exploration and development premised on technologies we ought to have
> available for that enterprise within the next ten years. There are certainly
> seeds of such an approach scattered throughout the space science and
> technology communities. People working on micro-sats and fleet architectures
> for them are definitely on the right track. The approach being taken for
> their solar sail platform by the Planetary Society is also very promising.
> What's missing is a unifying vision for creating a space infrastructure that
> isn't so completely dependent on NASA and doesn't require the unreliable
> support of a political world that has no appreciation for the enterprise of
> moving beyond this one planet. In this regard, designing and building some
> basic building blocks for creating space infrastructure out of very small and
> light elements should be a high priority, as well as developing reliable and
> robust self-assembling systems.
> Greg Burch <>----<>
> Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide
> -or-
> ICQ # 61112550
> "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
> enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
> question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
> -- Desmond Morris

John Marlow

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:39 MDT