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Space Frontier Foundation Policies
Manifesto for the Frontier
A Call for a New American Space Agenda
Testimony Before The House Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee
Washington D.C., March 16, 1995
Rick Tumlinson, President - Space Frontier Foundation
Who We Are
The Space Frontier Foundation is an all volunteer organization of American citizens dedicated to the propositions that:
It is human destiny to open the Space Frontier,
this must be achieved within 50-100 years or humanity may well begin to slide into a new dark age,
America, as a Frontier nation, has a special responsibility and actual need to open this frontier,
the current U.S. space program is not doing so,
it must be replaced with one that will.
We are often considered the most radical of space organizations and have taken strong stands on issues we care about. We are published nationally and often, and our spokespeople appear on radio and TV across the nation.
In 1989 we delivered over 50,000 signatures to President George Bush calling for a return to the Moon. Some of our language was included in his Apollo Anniversary speech.
In 1991 we took on NASA over the space station, which at the time was out of control. We were the only pro-humans-in-space group to do so.
In 1990 we created the term "Cheap Access to Space" and began the fight for radical reductions in launch cost as the key to the frontier.
As part of a promise to the late Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, we are keeping the pivotal book, "The High Frontier" in print.
In 1992 we issued a called for the resignation of a NASA manager who was trying to kill the DC-X project through inappropriate back door politics.
We are largely internet based. Our E-Mail alerts have generated thousands of contacts with legislators in support of CATS and other frontier initiatives. Recently we began the mass E-Mail distribution of our essay series "The Frontier Files."
We Need A New American Dream
The greatest nation that has ever existed is about to face the dawn of a new millennium, and it is nervous. Americans are uncertain of their future. Although we are into our third century as a nation, a constant litany of doubt echoes across the land. American taxpayers want to know where their nation is going now that the Cold War is over. The people want a new vision of tomorrow, a vision which includes them in a real way, a vision toward which they can strive. People seek an understandable vision of what the next millennium will offer their children that is better than today. So far there is no such a vision out there.
In fact, if you ask most people to close their eyes and describe in terms of well known movies what tomorrow will look like, they often describe a world that resembles either the cold gray global cityscapes of the film Blade Runner or the post apocalyptic barrens of Mad Max, or worse...they see nothing.
The screen of their future is blank.
Meanwhile, global leaders speak of a future in which everyone makes due with less in a more strictly regulated world. According to what these doomsayers tell us, our future is to be inevitably characterized by a slowly declining standard of life, and our children's' destiny is to be nothing more than caretakers for an already depleted world. Recently, discussions of the last election centered on Americans' uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring, how they are seeking a new focus, and crying out for leaders to point the way into the future. Desperately, pundits of all stripes have tried to describe this feeling, each observation based on their own biases and agenda, but all agreeing as to its existence.
It is our premise that this uncertainty is because we are nearing the end of a major phase of human existence and our growth as a nation. For the first time in the history of the planet there is nowhere left to go for those who wish to leave the old, or create the new...or, to put it more exactly...there is nowhere left to go which does not harm this planet, or is not the property of someone else.
We are a nation of pioneers with no new frontier. Nor do we have a clear external enemy around which to organize ourselves. It is said history repeats itself. But this is the first time in history these challenges have arisen on a global scale and no one seems to recognize the full implications.
Various leaders have from time to time tried to call for new organizing principles and activities for the nation (usually this occurs near elections). Each attempting to find something to fill that blank image of tomorrow. Most have strongly partisan suggestions, involving moral or social crusades, and they all retread old ground.
No one is offering real new possibilities, but rather is rearranging various parts of our culture and its activities. None of these ideas seem sufficient to fire the imaginations of any large sector of our nation, or exciting enough to inspire our people as a whole in even a general way.
Former President John F. Kennedy came very close to bringing us all together when he pointed our nation at the Moon. During Apollo, many thought that our space program would eventually provide this bold new human future. It has not done so, and it cannot by its very nature.
Why is it that what should have been well on its way to being the central defining activity of this nation, has instead drifted into the category of socially expendable government spending? What happened? If one looks at the simple and obvious realities of its derivation and self defined goals since the "Moon Race," the reasons our space "program" is in its current moribund state become obvious...
The U.S. must recognize the philosophical dissonance between what the nation needs to do in space and what we are actually doing. Then we can begin to change our misdirected space program into a new national space agenda that is ever more inclusive, exciting and profitable to the nation. With this change we who understand the possibility of the space frontier can then give America a new picture of its future. A hopeful future, an exciting future, one that motivates our entire society. A future of endlessly expanding new choices...
Just as Kennedy spoke of when starting Apollo:
"We go to create new choices...new freedoms..."
What did he mean...these are not things which can be discovered by astronauts, robots or even NASA managers. What did he mean? Who did he mean?
We may never know, as he was taken from us while Apollo was still being organized.
We believe he meant all Americans.
We believe that we all have the "right stuff." We believe that given cheap access and encouragement, Americans of all types will forge from the seeming emptiness of space the greatest renaissance humanity has ever experienced.
Apollo and the Fall of America
Here we are more than a quarter century after the first and last moon landings and Americans still can't enter the frontier they paid to have explored. Yet it has been over 25 years since the first two government employees walked on the Moon. A lot should have happened in that time. But it hasn't.
25 years after Lewis & Clark; wagons were rolling west to Oregon, and clipper ships were plying the coasts of California with thousands of new pioneers...25 years after the Wright Brothers; people could buy a commercial ticket and fly in a plane...But 25 years after landing on the Moon we sat around watching old astronauts reminisce on TV about the good old days.
Over and over again we heard that Apollo was the greatest moment in human history...but this is an event which occurred before a significant portion of our population was even born. It appears we have placed our greatness in the past and plan no future wonders. This is one part of how a culture creates a generation "X." In fact one can be sure the fall of Rome was characterized by references to the events and edifices of the past, beginning with the phrase "Remember when..." This way lies the end of American civilization.
It is time to reverse this decay of spirit. Time to turn the depressing and oxymoronic ideology of sustainable development (read "sustainable decline") on its head and create a new era of ever expanding hope and reduced pressures on our mother world. To do so we must put the greatest moments in history back into the future, and we must offer the chance to participate in their realization to as many Americans as we can as soon as we can.
This can only be done through the creation of a free, open and expanding human frontier in space. A frontier built by all types of individuals and groups, working in all types of ways, to do all types of new things there. Powered by the glorious chaos of the democratic free enterprise system, we can break out of humanity's self imposed cage and create a bold future of opportunity.
We Have the Wrong Space Program
So where are we on achieving the goal of an open frontier in space?
We are not even trying. The status quo in our space activities is not working to this end. It cannot work. Why? The reason is simple and very basic:
It is impossible for a government owned and operated program to produce an open frontier in space.
It is not a matter of scale, or of budgets, or even of time, but of fundamental purpose and design; it isn't set up to do that.
Let's face it, our space program is based on a W.W.II German National Socialist model. What we in the Foundation call the Von Braun Paradigm, it is a system of thought and action that seemed appropriate for an important campaign in the Cold War. Its purpose was to help win that war by demonstrating US technological leadership and to act as the peaceful manifestation of our development of an advanced nuclear capability. The centralized, state run project orientation of the space program's founders fit well into our need for a quasi-military, goal oriented effort to beat the Russians and plant the Stars and Stripes at the top of the Lunar hill. It succeeded in this accomplishment, but has failed the ever since.
Since the end of the race to the Moon the NASA has tried to repeat this model, suggesting several variations on the Von Braun plan for a single national owned and operated space station, space fleet and government bases and outposts on the Moon and Mars. Commission after commission was created, diligently tried to steer the agency's course back to these original goals, and then faded away, to be replaced by yet another. Often made up of the same inside players, these groups have always made their suggestions from well within the old paradigm of the state performing for the people. And they have also always failed.
Thus, decades after W.W.II, and years after the Cold War ended, our national space agency is still basing its human operations more on our relationship with Russia than on its relationship with its own people. We must face reality. All of the high sounding speeches by NASA managers, all the pretty pictures and speeches by orbiting astronauts, all of the exciting animation and color pictures, all simply act to disguise a simple fact:
The purpose of the U.S. space program is not and has never been to open space as a frontier for everyone.
The Space Frontier Principles
To date the national space program has often been elitist and exclusive. Rigidly adhered to, it has never included the people for whom it was allegedly created, and ignored at its own peril several essential truths.
The United States is a confederation of free peoples bound together by the belief that the people have primacy over the state, and that individuals should have the power to create new wealth unimpeded by that state. The settlement of our own western frontier was a result of the application (often by default) of these core concepts. Extended and applied to space, they add up to what Foundationers call the Space Frontier Principles.
The members of the Foundation believe that unless these ideas underlie our future space plans they are doomed to failure.
Space is a Place, not a Program
In free enterprise democracies opportunities are exploited by individuals or groups in the form of companies and private institutions.
Frontiers are not opened by governments for the people but by the people supported by their government.
Without extremely low cost, reliable and regular access to space there can be no frontier.
The Frontier Enabling Test
For Foundationers, space is the next great human frontier. A frontier such as the so called "New Worlds" of the Americas represented for the last 500 hundred years. A frontier we have to take from no one. A frontier to which we can bring the gift of life. A frontier for all humanity. A frontier we do not believe is being opened.
If we are truly committed to change we need a criteria by which to judge what we will and will not do to effectively advance our cause. Thus, the Foundation has created a relatively simple litmus test for projects and/or initiatives on which we may choose to take a position. We call this "The Frontier Enabling Test," and it can be applied to both government and commercial systems, technologies or policies:
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?
This vision of an open frontier in space and this radically different role for the national government in space add up to what we in the Space Frontier Foundation call the New American Space Agenda.
The New American Space Agenda
Under the New American Space Agenda the national goal will be the creation of diverse in-space infrastructure & capability. The government's role changes dramatically, from performer to enabler.
NASA will become a long lead research partner, a maintainer of law and safety, a promoter of vision, an international arbiter and sometime even a partner in ventures deemed as good investments by the taxpayers.
This new cultural model for humans in space is not the Cold War, or Von Braun paradigms, but the entrepreneurial and spiritual energy of the American Frontier, as symbolized by the opening of North America and the old west by our pioneering ancestors.
The nation will begin the active and energetic exploration and study of the solar system because it is humanity's extended home, precisely why President Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis & Clark across the continent, because he assumed it would all eventually be called "home."
Humanity will engage in the full use of in-space resources, energy and the space environment itself, to create new goods and services for use in space and for export to Earth.
The space frontier will be filled with the broadest possible range of beneficial ventures and activities, including industry, commerce, science, culture and tourism.
The stated national goal will be that this is to lead to settlements, not just more missions, bases or simple outposts.
The New American Space Agenda will lead to a frontier which is growing exponentially and endlessly...
The Role of Government on the Frontier
What will the governments' role be in this New American Space Agenda? First of all what it won't do is operate a monolithic, project based, national space program:
Instead, the government will create framework for the safe expansion of civilization into space.
Therefore the governments' approach will be to enable others to do things in space rather than "do"ing space for them.
The White House must use the power of the bully pulpit to declare not another destination, but that space is now a frontier of opportunity for people & enterprises. This position cannot simply be left to mere words. It is a position which must be reflected by all of its employees and spokespeople in both words and deeds.
The government will use its massive purchasing power to create and catalyze viable markets.
The government will fund multiple parallel technology development and demonstration programs in cooperation with private sector.
The government will act as regulator by creating a positive and consistent business environment.
The US. government will work in the international arena as it does in other areas of world trade to assure free and fair markets, and level playing fields for innovative American companies but not protection for failing ones.
The government will use innovative support mechanisms such as prizes to leverage and encourage innovations and breakthroughs in our opening of space.
Finally, the government will fund scientists to buy science and data, rather than taking them along as passengers on what are really engineering projects in need of rationales.
Example I : Cheap Access to Space
The primary goal for the nation in this decade must be achieving cheap access to space. Because if you can't get there regularly and cheaply to develop, test and manufacture your product you can't make a profit. If there is no profit, there will be no frontier.
How do we do reduce costs on Earth? The key is free and competitive markets. The national government should turn its demand for services now provided in-house into a first level market for space transportation companies. Although not enough to support the type of large scale transportation infrastructure we need for the frontier, the government is our first identifiable large scale user.
NASA should announce the shuttle will be phased out as soon as new commercial fleets are ready to bid for payloads. The schedule for this hand off should be moved up in time to encourage the type of low cost innovation exemplified by the successful DC-X program, rather than the project accretion that seems to be the norm with NASA.
Space policy makers should end any talk about a single new national vehicle. The U.S. government must never again own and operate a national fleet of vehicles for civilian purposes.
Instead, the government will build with industry X vehicles like SSTO X-33.
Congress should insist on and fund a fly off of prototypes. Since amortizing development is one of the major driving factors in launch costs, this would lead to several completed prototypes at a minimal cost to potential users.
We must create a streamlined and non adversarial launch regulation, licensing and insurance regimen modeled on the way we deal with aircraft or high risk sports.
(For example, responding to a paralyzing glut of ski related lawsuits, the state of Colorado implemented a new liability law which protects ski slope operators and equipment owners from law suits. This single action saved skiing in Colorado and resulted in the growth of one of the world's premiere winter sports industries.)
We must pass legislation in support of or even offer cash prizes for RLV's to leverage innovation.
Example II - The State Department's Space Station
Clearly in the Foundation we're not fans of NASA space station Alpha as currently conceived. It simply does not pass the enabling test. We believe it would have been much better to simply buy elements of Mir on a commercial basis. Several years ago we called for this idea in the LA Times (August, 1992) .
We also hold the belief that any government space station bureaucracy operating under the current paradigm simply would not allow the existence of any private space facility which might threaten by example its rather generous budget.
We accept the station as a political reality. Thus, given the possibility it might someday be built, our goal as an organization has become transforming Alpha from a bureaucratic grain of sand into a frontier enabling pearl.
The key issue then becomes: Can we make Alpha enabling in terms of opening the space frontier?
The answer is yes we can. By making it the heart of a new industrial park and the seed of a new town in space. The states' role than becomes much like the role played by the government in the old west...buying goods and services.
At the end of Phase One we must require that all cargo and crew transfers to and from the US elements of the station be commercially bid by American private vendors.
The potential size of the launch services market to and from the space station complex for its first few years will not be enough to support a serious transportation industry. However, it can act as a driver for NASA supported R&D projects aimed at dramatic cost reductions such as the X-33 RLV effort. Also, in its position at the heart of the first community in space it can be the official "peg" in space to which the LEO transportation lifeline can be attached.
At the end of Phase One we must require that all physical expansion of U.S. elements of the station be commercially bid by American private vendors (and preferably operate detached from the main station.)
There are at least three credible ideas for expansion of U.S. capabilities that are frontier enabling all by themselves. When combined with the station's onboard capabilities and its existence as the core of our space outpost we can begin leveraging our habitable volume and begin the development of our town.
NASA's function on Station Alpha would be to support these activities and others we cannot yet foresee, thus private initiatives would move from being a threat to funding to become the justification for the station's existence. From projects like former astronaut Joe Allen's now dead Industrial Space Facility, to those firms wishing to create huge shirtsleeve volumes using recycled Space Shuttle external tanks, to proposals by the tried and true Space Hab organization to create space for science and research, a new impetus would be given. All would act as support for the others, for example, their joined needs would expand the transportation market, creating a virtual transport nexus, and drive down costs for all.
At the end of Phase One we must require that all expansion of power on the station will be commercially bid by American private vendors. Preferably provided by an off site source.
One of the most exciting possible benefits to Earth that we find in space is clean energy in the form of sunlight. In fact the space station will draw its power from sunlight converted by solar cells into electricity. There have been dozens of conferences, papers and studies on the idea of capturing that "space power" and sending it to the Earth's surface where it could eventually feed much the world's electrical needs. The possible industry this would create would be enormous, and would compete with much more polluting forms of energy such as nuclear fusion. The last serious studies of this idea were made over 20 years ago and shot down the concept based on the extremely high launch costs at the time they were made. As we begin to achieve cheap access to space would it not be wise to begin encouraging the development of this potential source of endless energy?
At a minimum, a solar electrical plant in the Earth's neighborhood could become our first orbital utility. Providing beamed power to all sorts of facilities and operations. This would mean that project builders would not have to build in expensive onboard main power systems and simply buy their energy from the new space grid.
Finally, there are many serious proposals for the development of low cost exploration probes which can be made much smaller by eliminating heavy on board power supplies and replacing them with power beamed from a fixed central location in the form of microwaves and lasers.
Example III Near Earth Space
The area we call Near Earth is comprised of the Earth, Moon, nearby asteroids and comet resources. This area is unique in all the Solar System, since the costs of accessing it are far lower than other areas, and much time has been spent exploring its potential. We believe that NASA's Lewis and Clark's have done their job here in the neighborhood of Earth. Now it is time for the rest of the nation to take over. Near Earth should be handed over to universities and private firms to explore and develop for human use.
To encourage this, our government should end its practice of undertaking its own missions in this area and help bootstrap low cost commercial and academic research by offering to buy its data from low cost providers.
NASA science managers should be freed to purchase or support university based explorations with limited or single objectives as independent projects. In other words, a scientist needing a specific new data set on the geology of a certain area of the Moon should not have to wait for a multi-capable mission to be formed over the course of a decade or so, but should be able to put out a request for data and buy it by the unit from any available U.S. source. There are several possible near Earth missions in need of relatively small amounts of money in exchange for a vast scientific return that are commercially viable yet are currently excluded from receiving government funds, due to the agency's need to be in charge at all times.
The government should fund observatories and scientific research stations through universities and scientific institutions, with requirements that all infrastructure and support be bid for by U.S. firms.
There are still many large scale science projects which demand a strong and ongoing infrastructure. One exciting idea is the construction of a new Lunar farside observatory, made up of dozens of small telescopes that scientists say could combine their power to see objects as small as continents, on planets circling other suns. In this case the NASA might well help form a team of co-operating universities and observatories. This team could then contract out the construction and operation of this project to companies which would specialize in economic Lunar surface operations.
No more government employees should be sent to the Moon for artificial reasons of prestige or loosely disguised science. Instead, we must let the market decide when the time is right for humans again. (Keeping in mind that human habitation is our eventual goal.) Interestingly, robots will almost always be our first explorers when the bottom line is at stake, even when the desired final result is settlement. At last we can finally end the arcane and outdated robots vs. humans debate.
We must never again allow the mistakes of Apollo to be repeated. No more one shot Missions to the Moon, Mars or anywhere else, no more dead ends. No more flags and footprints.
Next time we stay and we make it pay.
The Question of Mars
As currently envisioned by NASA, we do not see human Mars missions as frontier enabling. In fact, they fall under the category of stunt. However, the new approach to opening the Martian frontier being put forward by Foundation Advisor Robert Zubrin, under the title of "Mars Direct," might meet our criteria if and when the nation were willing to create a trust fund or other method of funding to pay for a multi-billion dollar "Mars Prize."
The concept is based on creating an Earth Mars transportation infrastructure and the maintainance of a permanent colony on the planet's surface which utilizes a significant amount of in-situ resources. As Mars holds such mystique for humans and is the most Earth like of all the planets, this might well someday become a viable idea.
It must be understood that this proposal does require a substantial national investment and may well have to wait for the national debt problem to be addressed, but the Foundation believes in democracy, and if the taxpayers can be persuaded and the goal remains the first permanent human settlements on the Red Planet, we support the concept.
Conclusion A New American Frontier
If the nation chooses to adopt this New American Space Agenda we can transform America and the world's economic, social and spiritual future.
Space firms new and old will have more work than they can possibly imagine now. As access increases demand will increase. The Catch 22 of space commercialization will be broken. Through the development of cheap access to space, firms can finally test, develop and produce new products in space economically. As more is produced in space costs will drop. As costs drop more profits will be made, as more profits are made more activities will occur and we will be off into a new future.
The nation will redefine itself as it becomes focused on the new frontier. America will have a new national context that is powerful and endless. Imagine how we will see ourselves in 50 years if we really throw open doors to this enormous new frontier.
We will be able to reverse the trend of humanity essentially attacking the living biosphere of Earth as its means of survival. We will be able to begin lowering the pressure on our precious mother world. Instead, and for the first time ever in our history, we shall take life to places where no life has existed before.
There will be no question of where we as humans are going...our place in the big picture, or what we must do next. We will only have to look up at a thousand new stars scattered across the night sky to find the answer.
And the world will follow.
Because we are a nation of pioneers,
It is our frontier, and we all have the right stuff.
It is high time we the people got a shot at proving it.
|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.
|The High Frontier is Gerard K. O'Neill's masterpiece. This new 3rd Edition Includes an introduction by Freeman Dyson.
Click above to order The High Frontier from Amazon.com.