National Space Society–Pluses and Minuses

Sorry to all who might have noticed for how long it’s been since the last installment. Not really ready to put one out even now, but wanted to be sure you didn’t think I’d stopped, for I have no intention of doing that. I’ve just been very, very busy with book related activities, and getting a genuine publisher is still my top priority. Then, when I started this entry I realized I’d prepared an entry but didn’t send it. So here’s an old entry to keep you entertained and apprised of my ongoing journey.

Therefore this will be dated, as the bit below is something I started back in May. Sorry, but better, I hope, than nothing. The conferences referenced here and their follow-ups, combined with an open house for Congressional candidate Charlie Brown (yes his real name), have devastated my schedule. Should catch up in about another week and a half.


Writing from the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference (May 24-28) in Dallas. I signed up for it because I judged it important from the many references I heard to it at the last year’s Mars Society’s conference. It also jibed well with the Book Expo of America conference in NYC, which I’ve been to before and was sure I wanted to go to now that the book is in print. That one starts on Thursday of next week (i.e. June 1-3) and I can fly to NYC from here to visit with my good friends in NYC

This group is even more pie in the sky than the Mars society. But they probably have better justification for snacking in that airy domain than do the Mars people. Their interests, being less focused on one objective and far more pragmatic in terms of realistic things like making money, are much closer to the hearts of the non-idealistic general public. As a result they garner better support and reap greater dividends from their efforts than the “red planet or bust” guys.

It’s not all that bad, though. Some of these people are clearly thinking very much like I am. And it’s not really surprising that most are so far into their belief in their industry’s future that they can’t comprehend anything different. To illustrate: on at least three different occasions I’ve heard the reaction, “We don’t even need it” to the suggestion that “Public Support is everything.” Twice I made that suggestion myself. But once it was from someone I’d never even talked to. That part was encouraging.

The common calculus is that, at $200,000 a pop (or whatever the number was), space tourism only needs to get 50 patrons per year to be very profitable. At this conference space tourism seems to be the tulip bulb of the season. (Google “tulip, Holland, collapse” if that’s an obscure reference).

Interestingly, one speaker had an entirely different kind of story, one of far more relevance deserving far more emphasis: Now that the International Space Station is nearing completion, it is available for private enterprise to start manufacturing products which are impossible to create on Earth. Mostly things connected with nano-technology for now, because the cost of lifting or returning heavier stuff is still not feasible. But there’s lots of nano-technology to do, and it makes a lot of money. More importantly though, it has potential applications everyone can relate to. Things like medical cures for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s, and M.S.

By contrast, one of the exemplars of the promise of space tourism was a product endorsement (for a fee, presumably) in the form of an astronaut knocking a golf ball into orbit from the ISS (International Space Station) so the manufacturer could advertise the longest drive ever.

The first kind of news is essential, if people are ever going to get an understanding of the potential benefits of developing space. The second is something the space advocacy group should discourage, if not ban outright, for, in the long run, public support is truly necessary. When the public begins to see the effects of global warming they’re not going to tolerate frivolous activities they perceive as contributory to that problem, like the CO2 spewed out by billionaire space tourists. Medical research, or alternative, clean energy supply, or sun-screening platforms (all topics discussed here) might stand a chance. But billionaires golfing in space is just going to make mad people madder.


More later.


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