Sunday, January 22, 2017

If Justin Trudeau Wants " Moon Shots," He Should Look to the Moon!

          By Chuck Black

As outlined in both Federal government literature and in a recent editorial in the Toronto Star, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking for "Moon Shots."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is supposedly pursuing every available option to build actual policies around the concept of "Canada's innovation agenda." As the Friendly Giant once used to say, perhaps the PM should, "Look up - Way up!"  Photo's c/o Singularity Hub & Hollywood Life.

The Federal government's website on "Canada's Innovation Agenda, Innovation for a Better Canada, What you Told Us," provides some context for the type of "Moon Shots," the Canadian PM is interested in. 

As outlined on the website:
In a previous generation, the United States was inspired to put a man on the moon. 
That mission launched breakthroughs and inventions that went well beyond the space program and fueled decades of innovation driven by science and technology. 
Canadians yearn for a similar kind of vision and leadership. Many called for government to take a proactive role in sponsoring "moon shots" that would keep Canada at the forefront of science and technology.
"Moon shots" were also the topic of the January 13th, 2017 Toronto Star post, " Should Ottawa be aiming for a 'moonshot?'" which was written by author Paul Wells and focused on a report compiled for the Trudeau government by east coast based market research company Corporate Research Associates (CRA).

CRA was commissioned to run focus groups and collect data for Canada's Innovation Agenda, the long promised, but so far mostly aspirational, Trudeau government policy platform being developed to "make Canada more innovative." 

Three types of "Moon shots" not covered by Federal government sub-contractors organizing focus groups on "Moon shots" include the mixed drink, the photograph and Moon Express CEO Robert Richards with the rover his company expects to use to land on the Moon. As outlined in the January 17th, 2017 Orlando Business Journal post, "Moon Express Secures $20M for Lunar Mission," the Canadian born Richards, who moved to the US  six years ago in order to fund his dream, is currently the CEO of the first private company to have gained permission from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to land on the Moon. Now that's a "Moon shot." Graphics c/o Complete Cocktails, Astrophotography Tonight & The Orlando Business Journal.

However, when it came to defining a "Moon shot," or putting the concept into terms the average focus group could understand, the pollsters at the CRA, seem to have drawn a blank. 

As outlined in the article:
... it's hard to believe the pollster came up with the examples that were focus grouped (and considered as "Moonshot's"). 
Internet balloons, self-driving cars and drone delivery... they're all projects being developed by X, the long-term research branch of Google. 
Perhaps in the next round of testing the feds should define a moonshot, as 'something Google wants.'
The article also stated that, "Stephen Harper spent $705 million on three Radarsat satellites that aren’t even scheduled to launch before 2018. Trudeau wanted to be different. He seems to be getting shaky advice on what “different” would look like."

Interesting January 2017 tweets from Toronto Star author Paul Wells and MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) public affairs director Leslie Swartman (later re-tweeted by CSA Director General for Space Exploration Gilles Leclerc) on past Canadian accomplishments which might reasonably qualify as "Moon shots" and could certainly be discussed in focus groups. Screenshot c/o Twitter.

Another problem with the current concepts surrounding the idea of "Moon shots" is simply that large governments are no longer perceived as being the go-to organizations for fundraising and fulfillment on "Moon Shot" style projects.

Graphic c/o
And why should they be?

Private sector corporations such as SpaceX, Moon Express, Planetary Resources, Deep Space Industries and others are currently the ones planning trips to the Moon and Mars and developing the technologies needed to exploit those voyages.

Government organizations such as NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have programs which have slowly become far more expensive and far less inspirational, with longer time-frames, and with a great deal of "tentativeness," "hyperbole" and cost overruns attached to their ultimate goals.

The future of "Space shots," at least from the current public's perspective, may essentially rest with the private sector.

The concept of the Trudeau government seriously contemplating the idea of "Moon shots" without even once referencing the reality of our current capabilities (where small, privately held start-ups like Moon Express can consider actual trips to the Moon), is an obvious error.

Maybe the next time the Trudeau government funds a survey of potential "Moon shots," they could include a couple of options related to the Moon, or rockets, or rocket science or even something simply related to "space," like the Canadarm or the various RADARSATs.

They could then more effectively determine if the true role of the Trudeau government, at least in this case, is to "lead, follow or get out of the way."
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog.

1 comment:

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