Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Reality and the 100 Year Starship Symposium

Campaigning liberal leader Dalton McGuinty.
It's fascinating to compare the reality of the Canadian space systems industry with the Star Trek "fantasy" driving most space focused media coverage.

The reality is best typified by the September 29th, 2011 Brampton Guardian article "Tax credit linked to jobs" and the follow-on article "Leaders hit Brampton, Again. Both articles focus on the upcoming Ontario provincial election (scheduled for October 6th) and several recent election stops made by incumbent Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to the MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) Brampton facility.

Neither article acknowledged the important role MDA plays within the Canadian space systems industry. Nor was there any mention of some of the contracts that MDA has undertaken for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), its ambitious plans for a private on-orbit satellite servicing program in partnership with satellite services provider Intelsat (as outlined in my April 3rd, 2011 post "A Backgrounder for On-Orbit Satellite Servicing") or even of the jobs that these contracts create.

Instead, the focus of both articles was on provincial liberal party proposals related to generic undefined jobs, generic job creation and the appropriate tax credits needed to ensure that more and more undefined and generic jobs continue to be created.

This is the reality of the Canadian space systems industry. It's job creation (sometimes assisted by public money) just so long as no one mentions the specific type of job being created.

Of course, the fantasy of our space future is always far more fun to contemplate and certainly the best example of that has been the recently concluded "100 Year Starship Study Public Symposium," which just finished up two days of public presentations at the Hilton Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

According to science fiction author David Brin, the focus of the symposium is to identify bottlenecks in future technologies which need to be addressed before interstellar travel can be seriously contemplated.

Brin also suggests that private funding, supplied by a "new aristocracy" of billionaires such as Elon Musk (who is currently CEO/ CTO of Space Exploration Technologies), Jeff Bezos (who founded the human spaceflight startup company Blue Origin) and others will facilitate the vision outlined by the symposium.

Which seems fair enough. Government money is drying up and some of "new aristocracy" are funding game changing new space activities now.

But the media sees things differently. According to the NY1.com website article "100 Year Starship Symposium Considers Mankind's Next Step" it's simply a question of "whether humans will be traveling to the stars or even living on them in 100 years" which, of course, sounds far more fanciful.

Living on the stars? That's even better than dancing with them!

The article, in typical mass media fashion, then goes on to state that "Some may question why it’s worth spending money exploring space at a time when so many are out of work..."

The answer to that question is obvious.

As described in my July 25th, 2011 post " Metrics on The Canadian Commercial Space Sector Part 2: The "Three Kings" of Canadian Space Activities," the 140 companies and organizations listed in the Canadian Space Directory as being part of the Canadian commercial space sector are consistently growing faster than the economy as a whole and this growth is also reflected in the higher than average growth of the international space sector.

Space activities create jobs and someone should mention this over and over again to our mass media representatives and our elected politicians until they get the point or are replaced by those who do.

Then and only then, will we be in a position to really grow our Canadian space systems industry and it's international equivalents.

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