More Interesting Things!

So since there really hasn’t been much more advancement regarding the two Congressional approaches to the FY2011+ budget for NASA, I’m going to keep posting interesting things I’ve found.

So the NewSpace 2010 conference happened last weekend, and Doug Messier over at Parabolic Arc has been running a series of summary articles–essentially notes from the various panels. Here are just a few articles that I think are interesting:

Making Money Mining the Moon

Interesting and alliterative! Basically, this article’s notes are rehashing everything I like to say about going to the moon and more: minerals are there, water is there, it’s easier and cheaper to develop, etc. Certainly worth a read…as much as this notation style is a “read” and not a “glance-over”.

Space Solar Power Discussion

Another of my favorite topics. Short story shorter: this article is talking about things like new technologies lowering launch costs, the effects of SBSP on the world (China is #1 exporter of resources–what does that mean for the US, I wonder, if we had SBSP?), the cost of power from a powersat, the effect of decentralized electrical power on property values, etc. Interestingly, there are apparently trillions of dollars of uninvested money just sitting around. Who knew?

Cheap, Reliable Access to Space

Certainly necessary. Commercial (read: SpaceX) is clearly able to develop and launch more cheaply than NASA, NASA is a public jobs program, low-volume problems solved by tourism (maybe) and SBSP (definitely), etc. Also, money solves all problems. True enough, I suppose, but where’s the money come from? Congress? Ha ha. Clearly not.

Bob Clarebrough at The Space Review has an interesting follow-up to an article he posted back at the beginning of July. The topic of the day is, of course, commercial vs. government–with non-NASA examples to back it up. A brief skim shows me an article that, in some respects, is perhaps slightly optimistic with respect to the efficacy of commercial over government, but it counters that nicely with a description of how NASA could be repurposed (read: made human-centric) to be more effective at what it does: getting human beings into space.

Favorite quote so far:

“Without a vision-driven, sustained space effort, the focus has been blurred. The space program must become human-centric. For decades, NASA has probed, roved, orbited, observed, surveyed, photographed, and mapped, but in the last 40 years, apart from the Moon, not one boot print has been made anywhere and not one rock has been picked up by a human hand off the Earth and closely inspected by human eyes. While robots can help to scout the way, exploration cannot truly be said to have been done until humans do it. It has been said that no photographs taken or words written can prepare you for your first sight of the Grand Canyon. I know that to be true. So, don’t give me grainy snapshots of Olympus Mons—take me there!”

Very true, I think.

Another article from The Space Review talks about the Congressional approaches to commercial space: specifically, how deficient the House funding is, and why. Having browsed through the Representative’s quotations–especially committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), who said:

“I believe the bill before us today provides the nation with a productive future for its human spaceflight program, one that can be sustained even in the midst of budgetary uncertainty[.]”

Alan Grayson (D-FL) said, in what smacks of Wall Street bailout reactions:

“Why hand $500 million of federal resources to companies that don’t need it, haven’t asked for it, don’t want it, and in all likelihood will provide nothing for it?”

I could go into what I think is wrong with both of those statements (brief summary: productive future? Not at those rates, buddy. And: But they probably need it, they certainly would ask for it, they likely want it, and have already started providing things for it) but I won’t…not in detail, at least.

Next is this article from Aviation Week, talking about what the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), an independent think-tank, thinks about the Obama space plan. Short version: not good. Longer short version: non-government market is sparse at best, the budget doesn’t provide a way to achieve “laudable goals”, national security is at risk through commercial satellite…something (apparently commercial bandwidth makes up 80% of the Pentagon’s space communication usage, and that somehow moving the emphasis to commercial flights will make that coverage unreliable. I’m not sure what that means, since ULA has the rockets and the government can launch their own satellites through ULA, but whatever), etc.

Finally, NASA Watch has an interesting look at what many people seem to have forgotten: the R&D cuts in the new budget proposals–both of them. Worth a read, especially for a look at just what the new budget proposals won’t be funding.

Here’s waiting for more policy news, as agonizing and frustrating as it is.

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