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Space Policy

And the battle is won!

Well, it is indeed. Perhaps You read my previous entry about the ESMO and problems with obtaining proper funding for our teams in the project. I can happily write that the issue has been solved now with some help of the local media.

The result of this pressure – meeting scheduled with Minister of Science and Higher Education that proven to be worthy. Polish teams have funding guys! :)

Ironically, just few days later the main opposing party declared that they want to focus more money on Polish space effort. Of course I don’t trust them. Not one bit – most of the stuff they say is gibberish at best. But at least now we can press other parties for some declarations.

Looks like one battle is won, but the war over space is still here.

Cheers!

Like losing your children

Yesterday was Valentines Day.  More correctly, Saint Valentines Day, where we celebrate love and affection for those we cherish most.

No mother should have to see her child die, much less her grandchild and be present at the stillbirth of the third generation of her progeny.

Yes, I received the obligatory flowers and candy and while I am surrounded by the love of  my worldly children, but I cannot help but weep for the loss I am feeling for my spiritual children…

I was present at the birth of Apollo, changed his diapers so to speak and watched him grow healthy, strong and mature, only to see him cut down in the prime of his life.

And I cried…

I was there, at least in spirit if not body when Shuttle was born, so
lovely, so capable, so wonderful and so versatile.  And now I sit here, maintaining
a death watch as she draws her last breaths.

And I am crying…

And in the depths of my sadness for our lost children, I see the last of our kind, stillborn.  Constellation, dead without every having had the opportunity of meeting the promise of all who had a part in her creation.

And I have no more tears to shed…

I think of those who so ably served Shuttle, and yes, even the few of
us who are still around who remember Apollo, who worked on them and were
there to hear the thunder of their voices as they rose so majestically
toward the heavens,

Yes, America’s astronauts will still fly to the ISS, albeit paying $51 million for each of six seats aboard a Russian Soyuz.  After that who knows.  The head of Roskosmos has already gone on record giving us fair warning that following the current contract, the price tag will be much, much higher…regarding the current contract for six seats, Roskomos head Anatoly Perminov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying:

“We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for
this. But after that? Excuse me but the prices should be absolutely
different then!”

At the same time, the Russians announced they were going forward with the development of their next generation vehicle, designed to replace their venerable Soyuz.

China and India are knee deep in the development of manned programs, while we cede to them the playing field.

There is an old adage, “Nobody likes a quitter!”

Will American entrepreneurs rise to the occasion and give birth to a whole new generation of spacecraft and launch vehicles?  I really don’t know.  Are their pockets deep enough?  Again, I don’t know.

Perhaps, if the companies heading up the efforts will be privately owned and not subject to stockholders demands for dividends and a return on their investment.  The management of Boeing and Lockheed Martin will most assuredly decline to foot the bill, after all, they like Congress must answer to a constituency.  This leaves it to folks like Bigelow and Musk and Marsden to keep the dream alive.

One thing I do know.  One thing is certain.  I will not live long enough to see American men and women ride aloft in a space bound vehicle that proudly proclaims…

“Made in the USA”

I can’t pretend like this isn’t affecting me

It’s almost 1 am. I have an STS-131 sim tomorrow. I need to get to sleep. But I can’t stop thinking about everything that happened today and the rumors from last week. I don’t post often. I wanted to post last week when the rumors started but I had a bad dream that someone from work saw it and I got in trouble.

No seriously, I didn’t make that up. I really had that dream. We’ll see how it plays out.

I’ve had more than a few people ask me how I feel about everything. I feel awful. Maybe it’s selfish because I’m worried about my job….maybe this is the best thing for human spaceflight and I just don’t know it yet. I acknowledge that may be true. And I’m 100% behind the more people in space, the better. But what will this do for me personally?  I have no idea.

I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Could I get another job? Sure. But I don’t WANT another job. I don’t WANT to move. Since my Dad died in September I need to stay close to my Mom, plus I want to stay at the center of human spaceflight. The only reason I became an engineer was to work at NASA. This has been my passion since I was 7 years old. It’s like a brother or sister to me, as ridiculous as that may sound. My entire life I made decisions based on how they would affect my future with NASA. I did internships. I got certain scholarships. I worked at Space Camp. Whatever I could do….it was all for NASA.  

Then finally one day 6 years ago I got that call and here I am today. I won’t lie to you and say it was all peaches and cream; there were some down times, some stressful times. But right now things are great. I have a great office, I’m in a great training flow, missions are fun, and I wouldn’t trade this in for the world. I am happy going to work everyday. I love my job. How many people can say that?

I have no idea what today’s announcements mean for our future. I’m scared, I’ll say that much. Yeah I’m an engineer but I want to work in the space business. That’s it! It’s my passion, it’s what I do. Without it what am I? It’s something that’s defined me for so long. They called me “Spacegirl” in college because, well, I was obsessed with space. In middle school and high school I did book reports on books about the space program; I really wasn’t interested in much else.

So, here I am, at my dream job. And I love it. And it is as great as I imagined. The problem is it could all go away in 6 months. And that SUCKS. I should be grateful for everything I have been able to experience….and I am, I really am, but it sucks that things are going so well and they may have to end just like that. It’s not fair.  

I don’t know what the answers are, I don’t know where we go from here. I know I have an STS-131 sim tomorrow and I have a big sim on Thursday. I know Sunday morning we launch STS-130 and after that I need to block out any other distractions in my life. It will be hard for sure, but it’s what us steely eyed missile men (and women!) do.

But after that….none of our documented contingency plans work for this situation. Maybe I’ll have a job and maybe I won’t. I just don’t know. It terrifies me to think that I may have to leave this wonderful program that I’ve invested so much time and energy into…it truly is more than just a job. It really could go either way right now…I’m hoping for the best.

Congress and NASA

DISCLAIMER: **Anything I write here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of NASA**


As a civil servant, I work for the President, whether I agree with him or not. Come January, it is quite possible that I could be in the untenable position of having to tell Congress to fund NASA with a budget I am disgusted by.

I hope that everyone will play a part in the political process and work hard to show Congress that they CAN change the fate of human spaceflight even if the President doesn’t step up with the funding needed to continue exploring our solar system.

In the campaign and in the budget proposal of 2010, the President talked about ending the so called “War on Science.” While I don’t believe that war actually existed, I do believe cutting NASA would stifle the economy and eliminate careers and technology we haven’t yet imagined. For my children, I think that is unspeakable!

So to the Space Tweep Society, thank you for your efforts and please watch closely as Congress makes progress through the budget. Write your Member of Congress and meet with the Space Legislative Assistant if you come to Washington, DC.

If you have children, have them write Congress how they want their space program to look! Before I was born, Congress decided I and everyone my age and younger could not see astronauts land on the moon. They canceled capabilities our country is now trying to rebuild. (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4214/ch12-2.html). I hope this Congress does not make that decision for my children too.


DISCLAIMER: **Anything I write here is my personal opinion and does not reflect the official position of NASA**

JPL scientists fight against HSPD-12

I was thinking about starting this as a forum topic but due to the political nature of the subject I decided it would be better to just include a short personal comment as a foreign observer and basically give the information to those who might not know the situation at JPL. I also understand that those at JPL would be walking on thin ice if they were to make use of social medias like here to publicize their fight. It is not the case for me as a journalist! 

Again, I found in the Federation of American Scientists blog more detailed information that I would have found in mainstream medias. The scientists lawsuit has been going on for more than 2 years and has many implications in terms of civil rights, especially related to the employment of scientists as government contractors. The following gives an overview of what has been going on.

I encourage you to have a look. We talk about the morale of NASA and other scientists as necessary to sustain any long term vision. Here I see scientists who have to divert their attention from science to fight against rebadging and two administrations in a row for their basic right to a minimum of privacy.

Has NASA become PASA (Private)…Que PASA?

Lately, it appears that NASA has been promoting many private companies to reach for the stars. NASA has been giving a lot of attention to the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge (NGLCC) as well as the Space Elevator Games…and oh yeah, STS-129 launches in 2 weeks.

I find it to be great that NASA is promoting the privatized space industry, but when its own programs are struggling on the funding that they are getting, shouldn’t they be focusing on their own problems right now? The Augustine Committee, which met over the summer to discuss options of where NASA should go, has clearly stated that on their current budget, they don’t have enough funding for their Ares I and Ares V rockets, the next generation after the shuttle retires in 2010, to get it off the ground until possibly after they de-orbit the ISS.

Now, I am not saying at all that I don’t believe space travel shouldn’t be privatized so citizens can go into space. In fact, along with spaceflight participant Richard Garriott, who I had the pleasure to talk with on this subject, I agree compeltely that the future should belong to privatized space travel, so that ordinary people can get their chance to feel what it’s like to go into space.

What I am trying to say, though, is that NASA should start focusing on its own issues, between one of its Mars rovers, Spirit, being stuck on the red planet and suffering from occasional spurts of “amnesia”, and the fact that 2010 is the last time the Space Shuttle is supposed to fly, and that we will only have Russia to rely on after that for human spaceflight. Plus, the budget that they are working off of won’t be able to extend the shuttle until 2011 or even continue to get us to the moon by 2020!

So, as great and amazing as these competitions for private space travel are, and as much as I personally support what they’re doing, I think that NASA should stick to their own space program, and leave the private space travel to those who have the budget and the time to devote to it.

Bake Sale for NASA

This song was very much inspired by Space Tweeps and reading NASA’s website while watching the Augustine hearings.  I’m currently making plans to record it as quickly as possible, but at @flyingjenny’s request, I will fill in the gap by posting the lyrics (they were originally posted today at my own blog).

Bake Sale for NASA

We sent men to the moon because of some lines

In a speech that inspires to this day

We learn more about Earth from orbit

Than we can in any other way

Yet we spend and we spend and we spend and we spend

On corporate welfare that will never end

Programs that waste more than they create

Yet we’re happy to let NASA deflate

Chorus:

So let’s hold a bake sale for NASA

Show our love for a program that actually works

The cookies are sure to be out of this world

We could even have astros as clerks

Give folks a chance to learn first-hand

Why we need these adventures in space

How it affects them directly at home

And elevates the whole human race

A very large chunk of what sets us apart

Is our driving need to explore

Humans are best when we’re trying to test

Our limits and find we have more

The more that we learn the less that we know

So further on still we must go

To answer the questions that in the past

We didn’t even know to ask

Chorus:

So let’s hold a bake sale for NASA

Show our love for a program that actually works

The cookies are sure to be out of this world

We could even have astros as clerks

Give folks a chance to learn first-hand

Why we need these adventures in space

How it affects them directly at home

And elevates the whole human race


Bridge:

To turn this whole endeavor over

To private investors and other lands

Would be giving up the greatest power

We have in our nation’s hands

Some skeptics say we should keep funds at bay

Until we have fed everyone

But we produce more food than ever before

Because of what NASA has done

Nearly every invention created for space

On Earth has found a useful place

Saving some lives and improving many more

Like we’ve never seen before

Chorus:

So let’s hold a bake sale for NASA

Show our love for a program that actually works

The cookies are sure to be out of this world

We could even have astros as clerks

Give folks a chance to learn first-hand

Why we need these adventures in space

How it affects them directly at home

And elevates the whole human race

Bridge:

In these days where folks are always trying

To take real science out of schools

We need to step up our efforts

Or become a nation of fools

I could go on for days extolling the ways

Investment in NASA makes sense

But I have only this song to convince those who are wrong

And think it’s a wasteful expense

I will dare to say it’s our greatest success

Less than 1% is hardly excess

In a budget that keeps us all in debt

At least here we can see what we get

Chorus:

So let’s hold a bake sale for NASA

Show our love for a program that actually works

The cookies are sure to be out of this world

We could even have astros as clerks

Give folks a chance to learn first-hand

Why we need these adventures in space

How it affects them directly at home

And elevates the whole human race

Human race

Humans in space!!

A National Space Tweetup

The tweetup concept and philosophy is one of the most promising methods for getting us in touch with those who are making space exploration history and also with those who are planning its future.  That future, by the way, is THE future not just for this nation but globally. When we talk about space exploration, we must think about it in the context of we-citizens-of-planet-Earth.

So what about this National Space Tweetup?  Simple, we initiate through NASA and the White House a tweetup at NASA HQ with Administrator Bolden and President Obama. What?  Yes, Bolden needs to know the kind of support he really has from the public, and President Obama needs to know how important our space plans are for the future of the entire world.  Letters and phone calls help, but a tweetup lays it on the line.  Eye to eye, heart to heart, both leaders get to know where we stand.

If the President can go public and attend many town hall meeting about health care reform, he should be open to attending one, major town hall (tweetup) about humankind’s’ future.  He does not even have to travel far to attend, just down the street from the White House. He could even walk it he wanted to.  Most importantly, we could have the greatest health care system in the world, but if we drop the ball on our space future, good health is not going make much difference.  Fear tactics used here?  No, just firm reality tactics!

I cannot believe any of us would want to not try for this considering the tremendous risks, sacrifices, and contributions that have been made by so many over the long, long years of our efforts to reach out into space.  Hold it, I hear cheers from Galileo, Goddard, Hubble, and every astronaut who has laid it on the line for us and space exploration. Lets not ignore those cries of encouragement.  Lets get together now, and tweet up a plan and make the contacts.  Most importantly lets get it done before Congress processes the future of space exploration.

If you are a believer, if you look up and are uplifted in spirit and hope then come on lets get this tweetup going. 

International cooperation, or national isolation?

If we want to get out there, as the human race we naturally want to explore. But should each nation be going it alone? The ISS has been so successful due to the huge cooperation from everyone, would we have had those wonderful moments aboard the ISS where every person on board was from a different country. I think international working together will be the only way forward in space travel successfulness and progress.

The USA is having trouble getting the funds together to actually get back to the moon any time soon. If other leading countries, e.g. France, UK, Canada, Japan etc, would cooperate, then each nation would jointly fund the moon missions as well as the ISS. The total money one country needs to pay is decided by that countries wealth, so therefore, America would pay most, as they have more money to give than UK, France, etc. 

It upsets me about this talk of, ‘who will get back to the moon first, USA, Russia, China, etc etc’ as I just feel that we should be working and helping each other to, not only better a nation’s strength and pride, but to better the whole world! Why not have an International Moon Base (IMB) where any nation that is part of the project can send their people, have all participating nations’ flags erected around the front of it, in a UN HQ style? Think how much space exploration would be boosted if we had not only the US flag on the moon, but the Union Jack, the French flag, etc. It would make those countries want to do more to help. All they would have to do is give money and funding, or design/build something; as soon as they do this they would get their flag on the moon, and an agreement that eventually an astronaut from that country would land on the moon. Now if that wouldn’t boost the space industry, I don’t know what would!

Working together we can accomplish so much more, so why does it have to stop with moon exploration, why can’t we put our differences aside and explore the solar system? Why can’t they set up an International Space Agency that countries sign up to if they want to? I am sure most nations would be able to see the benefits of these.  

I could write for days on this topic, but I would not want to bore you. 

If you take the time to read this, then thanks. I would also like to hear your views on this. 

Thanks. 

Can We Use “The Gap” to Reprioritize?

Ok, so I’m taking my turn and reading the Augustine Commission’s Summary
Report on HSF plans. I got through the first page and was already thinking to
myself, “I have words to say.” So… Maybe this gap might not be such the bad thing
that it’s being made out to be. Perhaps it would be a good time to regroup, and
get the world together in support of our lofty ambitions for the space program.
It’s unanimous among all space enthusiasts that the goal is to push the
envelope beyond LEO, return to the Moon, then tackle Mars. But, when I discuss
these completely achievable plans with others I get doubtful stares—“Mars?” I
wonder about the proportion of people that have no clue that there are people
conducting science in space this very
moment. It is disturbing that shuttle launches, at the very least, are not even
adequately covered! So I think of how realistic it would be to expect the
support of the federal government, the representative of the people of the
country, and the world, and their needs and desires (in theory anyways). Maybe
this is too much of a top-down approach.
    I wish I had some specific suggestions, at the moment, as to where to begin, but I’m just thinking that we should start over at the bottom. We know what we want, but maybe the general public needs to see
some real practicality in space program ambitions, with the state of the
world’s economy as it is. Without this, the plans will never fly. 
    Jumping around a little, science education needs a serious overhaul.
Let’s conquer the world’s problems through promoting science, and thus the space
program. Since there isn’t enough to blast off to Mars right now, let’s dump
lots of money into teaching. While continuing space activity as much as
possible, maybe through unmanned exploration, how can we integrate the public
more in the meantime? No progression can ever be achieved if we don’t continue to explore and
discover the uncharted. I don’t think people consider this regularly. The
world is changing so fast and this is necessary! Children are not being taught
to inquire, create, and to dream big. Before my writing starts to get really fluffy, I’m going to get back to
reading the Augustine report. Be back in a minute…  
    As far as keeping the space program alive, let’s use the commercial
avenue to get people pumped on space. Is that not what drives this country?
Government grants, to promote development of new technology and advances, have
worked before and it can work again! And for the record, I think the ISS should be
kept alive and well for as long as possible. It would be a great tourist stop
if we could work with other countries to get more people into space. To me, it
seems like international partnerships are the way to keep the program going. Japan is on the scene now and I’m sure they won’t be the last ones. I vote them in. China is getting the Amazon I hear, and so they also
want the moon, for fuel. Let’s see what they find, or better yet, let’s work with them.
Ready… Go!
    Oh… what is my point? Ah, long, rambling story short: Mars isn’t going anywhere any
time soon. Let’s take this time and turn it into something good. Let’s grow
lots of great scientists and engineers, and work on a real, robust plan. First
order of business: get some tangible problems for the general public to fester
on, to which space is the only logical solution! Technologically, we may have
the means, but what exactly is the end? I’m ready for comments or
suggestions.

The “Good, Bad, and Ugly” of Option 5B of the Augustine Committee Report

In an effort to draft a petition from Space Tweeps to the
Senate Sub-Committee on Science and Space, I came up with Option 5B as the one
that holds the greatest immediate promise for a continuation of America’s human
exploration of space.

Despite that decision, there are parts of that option that
are not so good and some parts seem to ignore to some degree the important
scientific and historic contributions made by NASA.  So here is my personal analysis.  I hope you read it and then make your own
decision and express that decision directly to the sub-committee.  Don’t worry I will tell you how later on.

The Good:

It keeps NASA and
America on track with a definite focus on space exploration
, albeit
gradually. This is the strongest good feature in this option.  It also extends the shuttle until 2011 and it
extends the ISS until 2020. Vitality of research and innovation are sustained.

The positive
inclusion of the private sector
in the broad space exploration goals of
this nation is a definite positive both for greater access to innovation, and
the fact that the private sector picks up a share of the overall costs. This is
also one whopping stimulus for high-tech and support-related space industry
employment opportunities.  Space industry
also becomes a full reality not just a media buzz word.

Cooperative,
international, joint ventures
are the only realistic answer, and Option
5B gets this ball rolling. As the committee notes there is insufficient funds
to cover any aspect of our current goals. Most importantly, this realization
actually becomes a corollary in that the more we extend ourselves into outer
space the more it will cost. This means that no single entity (agency,
corporation or nation) is going to be able to foot the entire bill. We must
collaborate!

The Bad:

The committee states in this option that
NASA will structurally change.
 
The impression that is left is that NASA will be essentially
disassembled into a basically research and administration agency. If this
should happen, as I interpret it, we would lose an important and incredible
resource of experience, research and motivation that are all absolute
essentials in our future space exploration efforts. In saying this, I admit
that my recommendation for NASA to be elevated to a cabinet position (see my
blog here: The Department of Space Science and Exploration) in the
administration would do some disassembly, but not in a wholesale fashion.

 

To offset the bad, NASA should remain the focal point of all space exploration
efforts as a research and exploration coordination agency and as a key player
in international joint ventures.  NASA
should also establish and monitor all national space science goals regardless
of whether they are undertaken by public or private entities.  This focus is critical to make sure that
space exploration becomes and is sustained as an endeavor by the citizens of
planet Earth, not by any single or many nations or corporations. To accomplish
this, NASA, as I have already advocated, must become a cabinet level
organization in order to successfully fulfill all its obligations and to
effectively promote and support international joint ventures.

 

In summary, NASA should change under
Option 5B
, but for the better and with much expanded responsibility for
the successful integration of both national and international space exploration
goals. In this respect it essentially exceeds, possibly even replaces the muted
UN involvement.

 

The Ugly:

We are going to be adding a lot of cooks
in the space science kitchen.
 
This is generally good and has the potential for incredible innovation
and advancement.  There will be vigorous
competition, which again is good, but can introduce a potential and deadly
flaw: safety.

 

Safety in
this respect covers not only the lives of our national and international
spacefarers (astronauts and space tourists); it must be expanded to cover
safety in the orbital zones that surround this planet. This must include both a
system to police and dispose of space junk, and a positive and active Near
Earth Object (NEO) detection and dispersal (move or destroy) system. We must
detect and interdict those NEOs that are a definite hazard to this planet, and
we must also protect our space faring investments.

 

Until we have a well established and
fully industrialized and scientific civilization on another planetary body, we
have only Earth as our key resource to support our explorations.
 Our NEO detection and interdiction programs
right now are at best haphazard because of funding issues and a variable level
of attention.  We cannot afford to lose
our very wherewithal to move forward; therefore this safety issue must be given
the highest priority.  We are not going
to colonize any planet in the immediate future, but an NEO can mess up our
lives and future- tomorrow.  Right now there is not much we could do about
it without further endangering all of us.

 

My Ad-lib: Well, I hope I have stimulated an interest,
even if from disagreement. Please take some time and read, again the Summary of
the Augustine Report. If Option 5B is not your choice, then come up with some
solid reasons for the option you have chosen and do one of the following: (a)
Prepare your argument and submit it by fax to the Senate Sub-Committee on
Science and Space or (b) Call the sub-committee and leave a short message
(include your full name and state) stating which option you would like to see
supported by Congress and the White House.

 

Well, why the sub-committee and not the
White House?  On September 16, 2009 the sub-committee will begin to analyze the
Augustine Report recommendations.  They,
in turn, will advise President Obama on what they believe is the best of the
recommended options in the report.  In effect they are setting the future of
our nation’s space history!

Now, the Chairman of this sub-committee is Senator Bill Nelson, of
Florida who is a strong supporter of NASA and space exploration.  He is the MAN right now and we must reach out
to him and his sub-committee with our comments on the Augustine Committee
recommendations.

 

Go here to get all the contact information on the sub-committee:  http://bit.ly/lrwJr   Additionally this is their fax-number: 202-228-2339. Their Executive Assistant gave it to me
yesterday.  Please note she urged us to
call back and check to see if the fax was received as sometimes they get misdirected.  The link above has all the telephone numbers
you need.  Please take some action:  We, all humankind, must now start to “go
where no human has every gone before”. It is our evolutionary mission.  Let’s do it!

 

The Department of Space Sciences and Exploration

It is time for the NASA we know and love to change.  Part of that change would be the
incorporation of NASA’s key leadership functions into a newly created cabinet
of the Executive Branch of the United States of America.  That means if it occurs as expeditiously as
it should, this new organization would have General Charles Bolden, NASA’s
current Administrator, as the first Secretary of the Department of Space
Sciences and Exploration.

Why is this
necessary and why does it make sense? 
The United
States has progressed to the point in the space sciences and their application
where they must expand their design, development and project operations into a
joint effort between public and private interests.

  • This expansion must
    also include formalized international agreements that put in place a cooperative,
    worldwide effort in the exploration of all aspects of our intergalactic
    environment: the Universe. 
  • These changes/expansions
    demand a policymaking role for the space sciences and their respective
    exploratory efforts that encompass a national responsibility.
  • Policymaking also
    mandates a participatory one with the Office of the President and the
    Department of State in related international negotiations for joint space
    research and ventures.
  • This joining of resources
    is necessary to insure the full utilization of available financial,
    intellectual, and engineering prowess is brought to bear for the
    successful exploration of space. In other words, space exploration becomes
    a global commitment from all humankind.
  • Finally, the results of
    our current research and explorations make it clear that there are space
    related threats from Near Earth Objects (asteroids and comets) that need a
    fully coordinated and functional detection and deterrence effort.  This is best mandated and controlled by
    a science-based policymaking entity. 
    Here again, international affiliations are vital to the
    effectiveness of this effort.

This all makes sense, because our solar system and everything
beyond in this Universe are the domains of all humankind, not that of any one
nation or group of Earth’s nations. We must start now with that premise and
build our entire space science and exploratory efforts within that framework.

Finally, the new SSE department has a much more interactive
relation with both the White House and the Congress. With respect to the
Congress, SSE becomes more of an expert advisor and partner than as a
supplicant.  Although the Office of the
President is the final policymaking entity, the collaboration between the
President and the SSE department would represent, in the majority of cases, a
joint policymaking effort on all space related matters.

What
happens to the old NASA?
There are four mission directorates within the current
NASA organization. The new cabinet would include the functions of the four
directorates, but their respective organizational structures will change.  Most of their sub-directorate functions would
become contracted with both the private sector and the research centers of
educational institutions.

  • It is anticipated that
    the majority of design, development, production and deployment (launch)
    functions will be through both contracts and affiliations between the
    department and the private sector. 
  • Current NASA maintained
    facilities for assembly, launch and recovery of space vehicles will be, as
    it is now, a joint responsibility of the department, other agencies and
    private contractors.
  • Other NASA facilities
    associated with other research or testing programs will reflect changes
    due to contracts with the private sector and educational institutions.
    Some facilities, however, are expected to remain within the department
    structure.

Preliminary
Impact Analysis.
The level of contracted efforts by the private sector
will grow somewhat, but it is expected that, going forward, the joint venture
concept will grow more rapidly. On the national level, joint ventures between
the department and the private sector would anticipate a mutual financial and
intellectual commitment by both the department and the private sector member or
members. The joint venture concept is important for the following reasons:

  • By being a joint
    venture between SSE and a private corporation or partnership there is both
    a sharing of resources as well as a sharing of costs. This is important in
    these early stages of space exploration.
  •  Profitability from direct exploration is
    at least questionable and realistically impossible. This is because in its
    earliest stages exploration offers information but no viable source of
    profitability
  •  Without an ROI of some degree,
    organizations with the required intellectual and investment potential
    would be usually disinterested in starting their own full-scale space exploration
    projects. 
  • These “gifted”
    entities, however, could become interested in a joint venture where high,
    positive and public visibility is a benefit. This could also include an
    increase in their ability for future, follow-on space operations that hold
    profit potential.
  • Processes, procedures,
    and equipment developed in a joint venture are usually jointly owned
    depending on contractual agreements.  
    SSE could easily “sweeten” the venture by assigning full rights to
    some or all of the development products or processes. The general
    objectives being to undertake a successful exploration and also share in
    the investment by the private sector in future space operations.

Joint venture opportunities on an international level are
already happening, and it is expected that these will increase and expand under
the DSSE concept.  In this regard,
competition between space faring nations has been a healthy boost for moving
space technology forward, but now we must share our goals, and our financial
and intellectual resources. We must establish this in order to successfully
explore our solar system and beyond. 
Certainly, the International Space Station is a clear example of an
early success in international joint ventures. 
We must now expand and intensify that historic beginning.

Some joint
venture projects

  • An expanded, joint
    program to detect and deter Near Earth Objects that pose an imminent
    threat to Earth and its inhabitants. 
    This effort is partially in place, and needs the stimulus of a more
    active and internationally supported (funding and staffing) operation.  The design, development and
    implementation of a deterrence system must be a specific goal of this
    joint activity.
  • An ongoing and expanded
    cooperative, international effort to address the “real” scientific issues
    associated with global warming and associated climate change. An impaired
    or endangered planet Earth will retard, perhaps even prevent, our successful
    and ongoing ventures into space.
  • The human exploration
    of our solar system including placing humans on the planet Mars as well as
    possibly one or more large asteroids or planetary moons.
  • The extended
    exploration of our galaxy, the Milky Way, first robotically, but in years
    ahead by human exploratory missions.

All of the above reorganizations, joint ventures and
international cooperation will dramatically boost the economies of all
participating nations and will steadily raise the standards of living across
the globe.  This is not just a casual
spin-off it is part of the evolutionary progress humankind must make.  Space exploration is the necessary stimulus
to bring this about and scientifically and historically a mandated evolutionary
move by humankind.  If we fail, we as
humans do not simply lose, we defeat the entire and glorious process of life
that inhabits the entire universe.

Let us
begin today for the benefit of humankind and all life beyond.

 


[1]
This author acknowledges that he is not a current member of NASA or any of its
contractors and is aware that some may wonder about his boldness in this
recommendation. He does, however, have over 18 years direct experience in the
aerospace industry in both financial and engineering management.  He apologizes if he has offended anyone, but his
intent is to create an idea stimulus that produces support for something like
the Department of Space Sciences and Exploration. He believes we must make this
change, but defers to the real experts to make it a reality.