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48th Yuri Gagarin anniversary
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In this issue, we report on three new campaigns to bring the case for space to political leaders and the public.
As you may know, the Space Renaissance Initiative (SRI) has been running for the past few months. It has the following goals:
(a) To create a world-wide Space Renaissance Forum, during the current year, whose purpose is to state clearly that an alternative to the global recession exists, through the following means:
(b) To join, on the above simple platform, as many pro-space organizations as possible, in order to help the space movement break the media wall of silence and get its message across to the people of this planet.
Twenty-seven organizations have already joined the Space Renaissance Committee, and others are in discussions about joining.
Feng Hsu and Ken Cox have written a paper, entitled "A Unified Space Vision" (USV), that formulates a new paradigm to achieve the goals of industrializing the Earth-Moon region and promoting space exploration beyond that region.
We had a deep discussion on that paper with the authors, and they amended it following our comments, adding a substantial section on space tourism. The paper starts with a radical criticism of NASA's policy over the last 40 years, charging NASA with immaturity and lack of a strategic vision. USV includes the vision of a completely new strategy for the exploration of Mars and its moons, and a proposal for a more commercial agency -- the Department of Space -- directed to promote industrialization in the Earth-Moon system, involving extensive international collaboration.
The discussion of more recent weeks has focused on priorities.
While it is not so difficult to agree on a broad philosophical manifesto stating that our civilization must colonize the Solar System if we want it to survive and keep on progressing, it is not at all easy to accomodate all the various space visions in a brief political statement.
Should governments spend public money only on science and exploration, leaving the development of space industrialization to private investors? We answered: no. In spite of the current global crisis, governments should use public money to support the ignition of a space economy, and the first goal must be to lower the cost to orbit from 20,000 US$/kg to 1,000 US$/kg or less. That is the real problem: if we cannot escape from Earth's gravitational well, the high frontier will remain closed, and all the rest will be impossible.
Dr Lovelock recently stated that our civilization could implode to one billion humans within this century. Of course his thought is pre-Copernican (as unfortunately is the thought of all the opinion makers of our funny planet) and he only thinks within the boundaries of nature on this planet, as if the rest of the cosmos was not a natural environment as well (!). But astro-humanists well know that civilization can keep on developing, surpassing the limits of our mother planet.
After a remarkable quantity of e-mails on our google discussion group, we agreed more or less on the following abstract of a press release to be issued in a week's time:
The proposal is a simple priority-driven agenda that would ignite the Space Economic Revolution: to develop low-cost civilian space transportation, orbital and sub-orbital space tourism, lunar industrialization, and the use of near-Earth asteroids to build space infrastructures. These include research and industrial settlements on the Moon; orbital stations, industrial settlements and hotels; and hubs for space-based solar power. All of these goals can be achieved within the first half of this century.
Before the end of this century, based on the experience gained in the Earth-Moon system, Mars and the martian moons will be settled with the long-term goal of terraforming the red planet.
We will hold a press conference on 31 March, just before the G20 meeting: Press conference 2009 March 31st, at 16:00, British Interplanetary Society, 27/29 South Lambeth Road, London, UK.
See our press release here.
We would appreciate any help and support by UK space friends.
Also, it would be great to have some famous testimonials, in order to better attract journalists.
All astro humanists are invited to sign our call here and here.
The organizations that have joined up so far are:
All the best, and keep on aiming high!
President, Space Renaissance Initiative
Here is my summary after a couple of days reflection.
The Space Renaissance Initiative met at 4 pm at the British Interplanetary Society to launch itself, and hold a press conference. Although no mainstream press arrived, we did confer by Skype with several individuals, and received addresses from two continents! We also learned that in 4 months 1,000 people worldwide had signed the Call for the Space Renaissance Initiative. We all know we are in a fine mess, and people are ripe for the message of hope we offer -- or will be before much longer!
SRI President, Adriano Autino of TDF (Technologies of the Frontier), opened the proceedings by outlining the case for a new initiative to launch human civilisation into space. The present order risks population growth and economic collapse in energy and raw materials if access to space is not assured by much cheaper access to space. He laid out a stepwise logical programme of space tourism progressing out into Earth-lunar space, solar power satellites, lunar bases, industries and settlements, and then on to Mars and the asteroids. A comparatively small investment by the G20 nations could assure us a viable space tourist industry, creating employment, opportunities and cheap access to space -- above all giving our closed civilization a new open door of hope and limitless wealth.
Jerry Stone FRAS, of Space.co.uk, a professional lecturer and space educator, amply backed up this presentation by giving a presentation by Dr Patrick Collins, President of SpaceFuture and Professor at Azabu University, Japan. He is perhaps the leading authority on the economics and methodology of space tourism and, supplemented by Jerry's excellent outline of the vision of Professor Gerard O'Neill of a civilisation in space, showed how the advent of space tourism, 50 years late, finally offers us the route to achieving a space renaissance.
Dr Feng Shu, Director of Risk Management at NASA, offered a compelling case for space to take a larger inspirational and economically stimulating role in society at large. The time is right, he declared, for much more relevant and ambitious activities in Space.
A discussion followed which centered on the problem of making space less esoteric and more comprehensible to the public.
I (Michael Martin-Smith) pointed out that with all the talk of the expense of space development, there is a widely unrecognised cost in NOT going into space, and that no-one would actually benefit from any money "saved" by cutting space development. The winding-down of Apollo cost the USA two million high tech jobs.
The 20th century's closed world ideologies have failed, and a renaissance in space activity and in the human world view is needed if we are to escape stagnation, decay and the eventual extinction of civilisation, even, perhaps, of the species.
Time is limited: if a start is not made within 10 years or so, the mounting problems here on Earth will effectively shut the door in our faces -- we will be overwhelmed by the here and now and unable to look at possible futures at all!
On 30 March 2009 -- only a day before the Space Renaissance Initiative press conference -- The Space Review published a proposal by John J. Leonard, CEO of Internet TV producer XAVIERAX, entitled: "Establishing a global space lobbying organization: Yuri's Foundation".
Leonard starts from a point put forward by Frank Stratford in an earlier Space Review essay, that the global particle physics community achieved unity of purpose and were thus able to raise billions to get the Large Hadron Collider built. But the space community lacks this focus.
Yuri's Foundation is envisaged as a high-profile lobbying group which will achieve a similar level of support for space.
Its members will be all the people who have so far flown into orbit, and their successors, up to but not beyond the 1000th person, plus a number of non-astronauts invited to join them. The process is formalised in a system of awarding medals and prizes, which Leonard describes, resulting in "a solid group of members who are completely dedicated to the expansion of humanity into space".
Once established, Yuri's Foundation can then act as a lobby group, "perfectly situated to lobby the governments of the world". The author adds: "Through its highly motivated members and their collective intellect Yuri's Foundation will be able to access the corridors of power the world over."
Curiously, Leonard does not mention that a similar organisation already exists: the Association of Space Explorers, founded in the 1980s by astronaut Russell Schweickart. It is not clear what, if any, reaction to his idea he has received from ASE, or from any individual space fliers.
Is this an idealistic dream destined to be quickly forgotten? Or does Leonard have solid support from the real astronauts and cosmonauts he must have discussed his idea with?
On 25 March the BIS held a symposium to see what space could do to help save planet Earth from the ever-increasing impact of human civilisation.
I have sent a full report on the day to Spaceflight magazine.
One outcome of the meeting was general agreement that there needs to be dialogue between the space and environmental movements -- supporters of space need to "get out more".
The dialogue seems to be hampered by a view shared by many environmentalists that capitalism and technology are the core of the problem, and that a solution can only be found by renouncing them and returning to more modest levels of consumption and capabilities. Yet it was also pointed out that environmentalism is very diverse, with many moderates in the movement now coming to accept that GM crops and nuclear power have to form part of a sustainable future.
So there is a real debate going on, and space advocates should be contributing more actively to it. One suggestion made was that we should reconsider the tradition of political pamphlets. A nicely produced pamphlet might be an effective way of getting our points across, since nowadays everything is done by e-mail and everyone is swamped by so many e-mails they don't have time to read them (Astronautical Evolution excepted, obviously).
As my own contribution to this dialogue, I have written the text of a 4000-word pamphlet stating what I see as the case for space, working title: "Space: key to the future?". I think it needs a small group of collaborators to finalise the details of a series of brief pamphlets, starting with this one, and manage their promotion and distribution -- a Space Publishing Outreach Committee, if you will.
If anyone's interested, please get in touch!
Astronautical Evolution is an e-mail forum devoted to debate and comment from an astronautical evolutionist perspective. To subscribe / unsubscribe / contribute / comment, please e-mail Stephen Ashworth, sa--at--astronist.demon.co.uk.
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