Monday, June 13, 2011

A "Gulliver's Travel's" Overview of Current US Space Policy Advocates

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?
Recent examples include the Wall Street Journal (where Mars Society advocate and author Robert Zubrin wrote the May 14th, 2011 editorial "How We Can Fly to Mars in This Decade—And on the Cheap") and the Washington Times (where Zubrin followed up with the May 24th, 2011 editorial "Zubrin: Treating Space Like the American West").

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 process is perilously close to peer review and the end result has been far sturdier than anything any government agency, endowed university or private sector think-tank operating in a traditional manner has been able to generate.

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).
    Ken Davidian.
    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.
    George Whitesides.

    • 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.
    Jeff Foust.
    • 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 and space focused political stories on the Space Politics blog.
      Gulliver discovers Laputa (J.J. Grandville).
    • 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 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."
      All in all, it's a listing of people, organizations and websites worthy of Jonathon Swift and Gulliver's Travels, especially once you get to know them.

      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).

      Hi Chuck,

      Thanks for mentioning in your post.

      Editors Note: I'm still having trouble posting comments but if there is something you'd like to comment on, I'm posting comments manually so don't be shy. Send your questions, queries, concerns and comments to

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