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History of The Space Frontier Foundation
The Space Frontier Foundation was created in 1988 by a group of space community leaders who were dedicated to opening the space frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. These individuals had worked for years – some professionally and some as volunteers – in space research, policy and public outreach. From their experiences they had come to realize three truths:

• They knew, from research done since Apollo (primarily by Gerard K. O'Neill's
Space Studies Institute), that it was technically possible to realize their shared vision of large-scale industrialization and settlement of the inner solar system within one or two generations.

• They knew this was not happening (and couldn't happen) under the status-quo centrally planned and exclusive U.S. government space program.

• They knew the responsibility fell to them to replace the existing bureaucratic program with an inclusive, entrepreneurial, frontier-opening enterprise, primarily by working on the outside to promote radical reform of U.S. space policy.

These space activists quickly concluded that no existing organization was appropriate to this task. Most citizen's space groups were trying to promote the current space program; those few entities working seriously to advance the human settlement of space were focused on research (e.g., the Space Studies Institute) or some other non-advocacy function.

And so the Space Frontier Foundation was born. Its vision came directly from the work of Gerard O'Neill and other visionaries such as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Robert A. Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke. Its strategy would be to wage a war of ideas in the popular culture for a new American space agenda, in effect transforming "the public conversation" about space from a government program for the few to an open frontier for everyone.
Robert A. Heinlein
Gerard K. O'Neill
Arthur C. Clarke
Inspiration for the Foundation, from the top: Heinlein, O'Neill, Clarke.
The High Frontier
One of the earliest Foundation projects developed from the activities of the Space Studies Institute. In December of 1989 the Foundation was granted the rights to market The High Frontier, an award-winning book on space industrialization and colonization by Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Princeton and Founder of the Space Studies Institute.

Over the years, this book has given many people the opportunity to view their world from a new perspective and share a powerful dream. These people influenced countless others with the book's ideas and the hopeful future those ideas made possible. The Foundation is now committed to keeping this book in print and available forever.
Going on the Offensive
Why Should We Keep All of Our Eggs in One Basket?
The Foundation ran this full column ad in the April 1992 issue of OMNI. Click for larger version.
Returning to 1989-90, while the Bush Administration may have been receptive to the RTTM petition, the Foundation was less amused with NASA's response: a $400+ billion program to go to Mars. So were most American taxpayers and their representatives in Congress.

As NASA's Space Exploration Initiative began to fizzle out in 1990, the delayed and diminished Space Station Freedom project was left naked to public scrutiny. Over budget and out of excuses, Freedom's supporters attacked private initiatives like the Industrial Space Facility and external tank-based station options as the cost-effective political threats they were to the bureaucratically bloated program.

So the Foundation became the only space organization to take on the manned space station on pro-humans-in-space grounds, namely that it was not opening up space for the American people, and therefore should be replaced with a variety of commercial alternatives that would.

In July of 1990 the Foundation came out swinging, taking on NASA in the New York Times, Aviation Week & Space Technology, and the quickly growing medium of talk radio. When the Vice President ordered a major restructuring, we fought to have an external tank-based station considered as a low-cost alternative. But within a year it became clear that it was impossible to have a real debate about "what was the right station." NASA and some contractors had become so defensive about station problems that anyone not 100% in agreement was the enemy.

After setting up a small office in Houston in 1991, the Foundation produced its first annual conference in March of 1992. The conference was a dramatic success, including the keynote address by then-House Space Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Hall who called for the U.S. to use the Russian Mir station as a precursor to Freedom. It seemed he too wanted timely results.

The Foundation has been just as aggressive in fighting for government projects that help to open the space frontier. In 1990 the Foundation took aim at the most basic - and neglected - step needed to open the space frontier: slashing the high costs of carrying people and cargo into orbit and back. Using the proven tools of language and the media, the Foundation coined a new phrase and began its crusade for "Cheap Access to Space" (CATS).

In a multi-year effort, Foundationers spotlighted the new Delta Clipper-Experimental (DC-X) program in the Defense Department to expose the folly of one-use expendable rockets based on 1950’s technology and a nationalized space fleet based on 1970’s technology. The critical fight was to dominate the discussion of space transportation policy in the trade and general media, and a few Foundation volunteers painstakingly built up trusted relationships with key broadcast and print reporters. At the same time, volunteers worked behind the scenes in Washington, DC, to educate key decision makers, and through the new media of the Internet to create a knowledgeable and active public constituency that would fight for its right to pioneer and live on the space frontier.

Working with a coalition of other pro-space groups and individual experts, the Foundation succeeded not only in stopping NASA's pre-1994 plans to maintain its monopoly on human space flight well into the 21st century, but in defining "Cheap Access to Space" as the primary goal for federal investments in space transportation technology. Several times, the Foundation saved funding for the DC-X project, publicly taking on its bureaucratic adversaries.

Later, but still before the Clinton Administration moved reusable rocket research to NASA, the Foundation was involved in acquiring NASA Administrator Dan Goldin's financial support for the DC-X, which would lead to the DC-XA and the creation of NASA's follow-on project, the X-33.
Space Front
In 1993 the Foundation started publishing a quarterly journal. Space Front has grown in both circulation and sophistication. A cadre of dedicated volunteers has allowed us to continually improve Space Front's content, look and feel. This publication was designed to inform the Foundation's network of friends and serious professional activists of the most current issues related to the opening of space frontier.
The Frontier Files
In 1995 the Foundation began distributing a series of short thought-provoking essays, collectively entitled The Frontier Files, through the internet to generate excitement about the incredible possibilities awaiting us in space. This new technology has allowed the Foundation to deliver its undiluted message to thousands of people across the world.
Taking the Fight to the Nation's Capital
By 1994 the Foundation's work on Cheap Access to Space and related issues had won strong support from the more visionary space policymakers in Washington, DC From the top floor of NASA Headquarters to the leading advocates of space commercialization on Capitol Hill to the community of think tanks and journalists they swim in, more and more leaders began to echo the Foundation's themes: "open the frontier...cheap access...privatize space operations...build ‘X-vehicles’...use the space station to spur economic development..." and even "space tourism."

Just as the fall of the Berlin Wall presaged the end of the Soviet Empire, the increasingly numerous and rapidly widening fiscal and political cracks in the old space program seemed to indicate an opportunity for the Foundation to "come down from the hills and invade the capital." And so they did.

At the start of 1995 the Foundation's founding Chairman joined the staff of the leading Congressional DC-X advocate, while its then-Vice President joined the staff of an important Senate space committee. While these changes could have created devastating gaps in any other all-volunteer organization, the Foundation had grown substantially due to its successful CATS advocacy and conferences, due to the popularity of Space Front and The Frontier Files, and due to the effectiveness of its flexible project-based structure. A growing synergy of the Foundation's external advocacy and the professional efforts of these "outsiders on the inside" became strongly evident.

For example, in March of 1995 the Foundation's President (Tumlinson) was invited to testify on NASA restructuring before the House Science Committee. Later that month, the Foundation helped organize the first-ever public seminar in Congress on "A 21st Century Space Policy from the People." This seminar had Members of Congress from both parties asking to speak - further validating the Foundation's frontier orientation. The new Speaker of the House spoke directly to several Foundation themes, including space tourism, large scale space settlements and commercialization, and publicly introduced the idea of privatizing the Space Shuttle.

In conjunction with the seminar, the Foundation invited citizens to come to Washington, DC to personally brief Members of Congress on a "citizen's space policy." Empowering individual Americans to share their personal visions of our future in space was a complete break with the conventional wisdom of the space community, but consistent with the Foundation's goal of opening the frontier to everyone. Nine citizens briefed 52 congressional offices on Cheap Access to Space, the X-33 RLV program, and space commercialization. Two results of this 1995 "March Storm" were: full initial funding for the X-33 program in a year when Congress rejected most NASA "new starts," and a new appropriation "in law" for RLV research and development in the US Air Force.

The "outsiders on the inside" strategy has continued to pay major dividends in recent years. The Foundation began 1996 with a huge success - the rapid expansion of its citizen-based lobbying effort. Forty citizens briefed 203 congressional offices on a "citizens space policy," while a seminar was held in the House of Representatives and a breakfast in the US Senate. One hundred forty congressional offices asked for a copy of the Foundation's "Cheap Access to Space" video, and 33 offices asked for detailed technical briefings on the X-33 RLV program. Finally, this effort lead directly to a one-hour radio show (Science Friday on National Public Radio) where two Foundation leaders talked directly to a national audience about our future in space.

One result of this success was that Foundation Director of Development (and March Storm creator) Charles Miller announced that he, along with several Foundation-supporting political experts were creating a new frontier-aligned citizens’ lobbying group, ProSpace, to manage future legislative campaigns. This allowed the Foundation to invest more resources in educational activities, such as conferences, which resulted in the July 1997 "Cheap Access to Space" Symposium sponsored by NASA and co-sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Phillips Lab. The August 4, 1997 edition of Military Space, an industry journal of Pasha Publications, reported in story a entitled "Sometimes The Little Guys Do Have the Most Juice":

"Turns out the Space Frontier Foundation...put on a surprising show July 21-22 in Washington. The group, paid $100,000 by NASA to hold a public forum about space transportation issues, brought together nearly everybody in the RLV world, from Lockheed Martin to Kistler Aerospace and from NASA's Gary Payton to the Air Force's Col. Jess Sponable and Col. Pete Worden...Kudos to the (Foundation) for doing what others have just talked about."
Alpha Town
In 1994 and 1995, the Foundation devised a new strategy for bringing NASA's International Space Station in line with the space frontier agenda. Instead of trying to change the station program head-on, the new approach is to create a powerful future vision for the station that will help guide its future development. Specifically, the station would be given a much stronger strategic purpose: in the context of settling the space frontier, the station would serve as the "seed" of the first human town in space...AlphaTown. Operationally, AlphaTown requires a significant break with traditional space policy to maximize the amount of economic activity in and around the station.

With the publication of an op-ed in Space News in late 1995 and the testimony of Advisory Board Chairman Tom Rogers to the House Science Committee in early 1996, the Foundation began to articulate this new vision, with surprisingly positive responses from NASA and the aerospace industry, as well as predictable enthusiasm from the entrepreneurial sector. Starting in the Spring 1997, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, made the concepts of AlphaTown a central theme in several major speeches when he declared that NASA would privatize the station after construction was complete.
Taking the Fight to the Media Capital
In March of 1994, the Foundation held its third annual conference in Houston. In addition to the "Vision to Reality" award, which was given to the DC-X team, a new award for "Best Presentation of the Vision" was created and given to J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5 (the popular science fiction television program situated at an O'Neill-style space colony). This mixing of real-life space pioneers (such as DC-X ‘pilot’ Pete Conrad) with artistic visionaries began the Foundation's long-planned campaign to use Hollywood and popular culture to help promote the frontier message.

Thanks to recruiting several top leaders in the space community in California, in 1995 the Foundation took the next step by moving the annual conference to Los Angeles, the media capital of the world. The awards ceremony again brought together the serious, frontier-enabling technology of the Clementine lunar probe team with the lighter, frontier-inspiring creations of the producers of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (for their episode on solar sails.) This fourth conference also initiated another tradition of the television culture: an experts-plus-audience talk show called "Star Council" sponsored by the Sci/Fi Channel's Inside Space program.
The Challenge of Success
In recent years, the Foundation's success at spreading its message has opened up many new opportunities for the Foundation. By advocating new-style programs and policies, the Foundation has helped many agents of change within the space program, in turn winning their support for the Foundation's ideas and initiatives.

This and other "inside the beltway" successes, the growth of the annual conference, the expansion of our network of serious professional activists, and the huge potential of new projects like AlphaTown suggest it is time for the Foundation to move beyond its initial, all-volunteer structure and create a resource base sufficient to the opportunities at hand.

The Foundation has started its move from being a guerrilla band to a professional fighting force for opening the space frontier to all humanity. The Foundation invites you to help write the rest of history...the History of the Space Frontier Foundation.
The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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The High Frontier is Gerard K. O'Neill's masterpiece. This new 3rd Edition Includes an introduction by Freeman Dyson.
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The Frontier Enabling Test
Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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