Saturday, August 06, 2005

The PASA List: The Top Ten Things We Are Doing Wrong in Promoting the Space Frontier

Commentary by Mitchell Gordon, VP, PASA (Phila. Area Space Alliance) 10. Stop concentrating on trying to celebrate Space Day or Space Week in July (the month of the Apollo 11 mission). The college kids are not around and their parents are on vacation. Better to concentrate your efforts on World Space Week, coordinated by the United Nations, and held each year from October 4 -10, an ideal time for public relations activity. 9. Stop always asking those who can least afford it (the kids) to enroll in space camp. Establish a Space Lottery Fund to award kids with camp scholarships. The fund could also be used to fund citizen trips to space. 8. End the regional bias that has tipped space development too far in favor of the southern and western portions of the United States. Such bias promotes greater citizen apathy in the central and northeast regions of the country when it comes to space ventures, as shown by the lack of space studies curriculums in major college centers like Philadelphia. More national meetings of space engineers and related scientists need to be held in places other than Florida, Texas, and California. 7. Modern art wings of major art museums have virtually ignored fifty years of drama in the space frontier. Never has so great an undertaking by humankind been so ignored by the artist community. Between the artists and the space activists, somebody is doing something wrong somewhere. At this rate the 2007 golden anniversary year of space exploration will be all but ignored in the art community, save for the science museums. Space art may be predominantly illustration rather than fine art, but this does not justify the absence of work depicting space undertakings by the artist community. Art is an important public relations tool, and some space activists may have to become artists to fill the void. Thank God for artist Robert McCall. 6. If NASA was an entrepreneur, diamonds would be relegated to museums and university geology labs. Get this straight: Space rock is the spice of the 21st century. Shaped, polished, certified and sold, these meteorites, moon and Mars stones, and asteroidal gems can bring in billions of dollars in sales and taxes over the years. I can think of no one--male or female--who would not want a space stone as part of their jewelry collection. Such rings, pendants, pins and cufflinks from new jewelry-tech industries will help sell the quest for space. 5. Imagine if the only way to fly was to go to Florida (if you live east of the Mississippi) or California (if you live west of the Mississippi). At the minimum, we will need seven regional space bases in the country from the following regions: Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast (Kennedy Space Center), South Central, Central, Southwest, and Northwest. Designating such bases now in the regions mentioned will set the bureaucratic process in motion so that when the technology becomes acceptable and available, a U.S. Space Transit Line will be in place.Weather conditions may close some bases during winter intervals, but no one is shutting down baseball because of winter weather. Until they are available for space flights, the American Seven locations can serve as space learning centers and good public relations. Orbital takeoffs may not be optimal, but if optimal flight was the determining factor alone, many jet flights to various cities would be shut down. 4. We take short shots into space and overlook a systems approach. Best proof: we have not been back to the moon in over thirty years. Space development in the near future will be a nine-venue system, in which all parts will matter and will need staying power: a. Earth auxiliaries: space camps, bases, science museums and space studies at schools. b. Suborbital flights: leisure and learning experiences featuring weightlessness. c. Earth orbit: space station(s) and hotel(s) plus satellite networks. d. L5 habitats and factories between the Earth and the moon. e. Moonbase(s). f. Mars colony. g. Asteroidal mining and research stations. h. Jupiter moonbase. i. Saturn lunar outpost. 3. Spinoffs from space may be helpful to consumers, but they lack the boldness of masterplans of macroengineering, in which space scientists weigh in on the ways and means to save planet Earth from such things as global warming and the expansion of the deserts. Stop thinking small and think about terraforming our own world. Such a contradiction makes sense if you try to make the dryest places bloom; then take what we have learned to the stars. 2. Space Studies is a curriculum that requires its own career path. Students are often frustrated with trying to find what courses to take to be involved with the final frontier. Colleges and universities need to do a better job to prepare future generations of space enthusiasts. The field should be broad enough to include those who wish to stay on Earth (working at science museums, space camps and learning centers) and those who wish to explore and do research (engineers, biotechnicions and flight crews). 1. Space science has its place, but if NASA had been in charge of opening up the West, we would still only have research scientists west of the Rocky Mountains. We need a fast track toward opening up space hotel modules as part of the International Space Station, or as freestanding habitats in space. We need a symbol that unequivocally states that space is open to all of humanity, and the space hotel is that symbol NASA, get out of the doorway if you cannot lend a hand. Ad astra per Hilton.