It's worth noting that the beginnings of a substantive debate on US space policy is starting to percolate up through to the "mass media" and into official "publications of record."
|Robert Zubrin. Defining the US debate?
Of course, the best debate is presently coming out of Fortune Magazine where Lexington Institute chief operating officer and Lockheed Martin consultant Loren Thompson is trading barbs and insults with Robert Block, the VP of corporate communications for Lockheed Martin competitor SpaceX in articles like the May 31st, 2011 "The Case Against Space-X, Part II" and the follow-on June 3rd, 2011 reply "SpaceX: Loren Thompson’s Deceit."
The passion of the debate in Fortune is very reminiscent (and just as funny) as the passion exhibited by comedians Jane Curtain and Dan Ackroyd when discussing atomic power in this classic Weekend Update segment from Saturday Night Live.
These debates seem to have resulted from confusion at the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as to it's proper role now that the shuttle program is winding down.
But the real policy discussions aren't coming from NASA (which is simply a government agency focused on implementing decisions made by others), the Obama administration, space scientists, the US Congress or even from space focused business experts.
The real debate is coming from a series of space advocacy groups and online space focused news services where people who've already "drank the kool-aid" and "bought the t-shirt" are getting together to complain, disagree, debate, advocate, exchange information and eventually combine the evolving consensus into a useful, well though out series of talking points which is only then picked up by the traditional mass media.
|NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver. Until 1998, she was the Executive Director of the National Space Society, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization specializing in space advocacy.
The best part is that most of these sites are open to the pubic and welcome input. They would include (but are certainly not limited to) the following sites:
- 21st Century Waves - Argues strongly for a "new Apollo style space age in less than five years based on macroeconomic data and global trends." This site provides much of the essential philosophical underpinning for the other sites and their discussions.
- Centauri Dreams - It's publisher is the Tau Zero Foundation, a private nonprofit (501c3) corporation, supported mainly through philanthropic donations to seek out and support astronomy and breakthrough space propulsion technologies. Anyone looking to build the USS Enterprise (the shuttle or the starship), needs to start here for the science (and then check out Atomic Rockets for the engineering).
- The Commercial Space Wiki - This site is published, edited and administered by Ken Davidian, the Director of Research at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation to serve as an “open and public forum” focused on topics of interest to the NASA based ESMD Commercial Development Team, participants at the 2nd Next Generation Exploration Conference, interested university students and those belonging to the various American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) student chapters, participants in the AIAA Commercial Space Group, NASA class alumni and other interested groups. As such, it's a fascinating public window into the perceptions and capabilities of the current aerospace industry.
- Hobby Space News - This aggregation website, edited by Dr. Clark S. Lindsey, focuses on reaching out “to members of the general public who are interested in space but don't actively pursue that interest.” The recent plans for the interplanetary Nautilus-X spaceship as described in the February 14th, 2011 Popular Science magazine article "New NASA Designs for a Reusable Manned Deep-Space Craft, Nautilus-X" essentially originated on this site. So if it's a spaceship or something related to space hardware or activities, then it's likely already been described and assessed here.
|Rob McEwen (the Chairman of US Gold Corporation) with movie director James Cameron, Peter Diamandis (the CEO of the X-Prize Foundation), Elon Musk (the CEO of Space-X) and Jim Gianopulos (the CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment) in October 2010.
- The Mars Society - This is an international space advocacy non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the human exploration and settlement of the planet Mars. It was founded by Robert Zubrin and others in 1998 and has attracted the support of notable science fiction writers and filmmakers, including Kim Stanley Robinson and James Cameron. Recent rumors spread through mainstream news articles like the June 6th, 2011 CNBC Cosmic Log post "Avatar director targets spaceflight" suggest that Cameron could be intending a flyby of the Moon within the next few years.
- The National Space Society (NSS) - Is another international nonprofit 501(c)(3), educational, and scientific organization specializing in space advocacy. The Society publishes Ad Astra Magazine and maintains an active global network of volunteers and local chapters. The society also hosts an annual International Space Development Conference (ISDC) in major cities and venues throughout the US. NSS Executive Directors have included George T. Whitesides (who was chief of staff to NASA administrator Charles Bolden and is now CEO of Virgin Galactic) and current NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver. NSS supporters include astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, John Glenn, Harrison Schmitt, Gerald Carr, William Pogue and Canadian astronaut Kenneth Money, writers C. J. Cherryh and Ben Bova, actors and entertainers Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Lance Bass, Nichelle Nichols and Bruce Boxleitner, scientists Dr. Alan Binder, Dr. K. Eric Drexler, Dr. David Criswell, and even Maria von Braun (the still living widow of rocketry pioneer Wernher von Braun).
- The NewsSpace News - This is the house organ of the Space Frontier Foundation (SFF), yet another 501(c)(3) organization specializing in space advocacy. The SFF also has strong and active Linked-In groups where people exchange ideas and opinions.
- The Secure World Foundation - A private, endowed foundation dedicated to maintaining the "secure and sustainable" use of space. The foundation also acts as funding organization and publisher for a variety of publications and news services including the Space Report, the Space Show with Dr. David Livingston and the Space Security Index.
- The Space Review - Edited by Jeff Foust, a senior analyst for the Futron Corporation, who uses the site to develop research and as an indicator of expertise for his company. The site focuses on in-depth articles, essays, editorials and reviews on a wide range of space related topics. Foust also publishes smaller articles, breaking news and daily content on Spacetoday.net and space focused political stories on the Space Politics blog.
- The Space Show with Dr. David Livingston - An online radio show focused on space commerce, tourism and other related subjects. According to Livingston, as quoted in the March 18th, 2005 Space.com article titled "The Space Show Prepares to Turn Four" the vision of the show is "for space to be like any other place we choose to visit, work in, or call home. It should be just another destination, like Tahiti, Hawaii, or any other location available to us now. When this vision becomes reality, we will be space-faring in our culture."
|Gulliver discovers Laputa (J.J. Grandville).
And if you'd like to do that, it might be best to take a look at the list of upcoming space focused conferences, events and activities that are helpful in connecting the individuals and communities discussed in this article.
It will certainly be interesting to see the consensus these online publications, associations and individuals build over the next few years and how they continue to influence NASA and international space policy.
From: Bruce Cordell (21st Century Waves).
Thanks for mentioning 21stCenturyWaves.com in your post.
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