Category Archives: Space

Evoloterra

Get together with friends and celebrate the 48th anniversary tonight. Bill Simon and I will be on The Space Show at 7 PM Pacific to discuss it.

[Update a while later]

Here’s what I wrote on the 40th anniversary. It still holds up pretty well, I think.

[Update early afternoon]

There’s a new version of the ceremony on line now.

[Late-afternoon update]

Seeing comments out there on the Interwebs that Nixon canceled Apollo. No, it happened in 1967, by Congress. Before he was elected. For those of you unfamiliar with the post-Apollo history under Nixon, John Logsdon’s latest book is a good read. Funded by Bill Anders, it’s probably the definitive history at this point. He’s currently working on the space history of the Reagan administration, which I wrote about at the time of Reagan’s passing.

[Friday-morning update]

The Space Show we did last night has been archived.

A Trillion People In the Solar System

Jeff Bezos expanded on his space vision at Buzz’s gala in Florida:

Bezos rejects the common ‘Plan B’ argument in favor of human exploration; that one day the Earth is going to be destroyed, so we’d better find somewhere else to live.

“I hate that idea, and I find it very un-motivating,” said Bezos.

“We have sent robotic probes now to every planet in the solar system and, believe me, this is the best one – Earth is a gem, it’s incredible.”

He then went on to quote several Apollo astronauts about what they thought about Earth when they returned form the Moon, notably Apollo 14’s Alan Bean: ‘Since returning I have not complained about the weather one single time – I’m glad there is weather. I’ve not complained about traffic— I’m glad there are people around. Why do people complain about the Earth? We are living in the Garden of Eden.’

…For Bezos, colonising space is a more a simple necessity for continued life on Earth. The compound effect of the incremental increase in energy requirements will mean us having to cover every inch of Earth in solar cells, he said, while the solar system offers virtually unlimited energy resources.

“We can harvest resources from asteroids, from Near-Earth Objects, and harvest solar energy from a much broader surface area – and continue to do amazing things,” he said. The alternative, he said, was an era of stasis and stagnation on Earth, where we are forced to control population and limit energy usage per capita.

“I don’t think stasis is compatible with freedom or liberty, and I sure as hell think it’s going to be a very boring world – I want my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be in a world of pioneering, exploration and expansion throughout the solar system.”

He also suggested that exploration and colonisation of the solar system would make it possible to support one trillion people.

“Then we would have 1,000 Einstein’s and 1,000 Mozarts, how cool would that be?” he said.

“What’s holding us back from making that next step is that space travel is just too darned expensive because we throw the rockets away. We need to build reusable rockets and that’s what Blue Origin is dedicated to.”

Bezos’s vision is much more hopeful and expansive than Elon’s, which is more about fear (i.e., Plan B), and mostly constrained to a single planet (Mars). But I’m glad they’re both out there competing with each other to (finally) drive down the cost of access to space.

But I do criticize one aspect of the report:

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, based at Kennedy Space Centre’s Pad 39A where the Apollo missions launched from, is due to test its 229ft Falcon Heavy (FH) rocket this September. It will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world, though NASA’s Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.

The latter is not a reportable fact. I’d have written it as “though NASA hopes that its Mars-focused SLS, at 365ft rocket, will takeover that mantle in 2028 or so.” I think it’s a fantasy, if both Falcon Heavy (and maybe ITS) and New Glenn and New Armstrong are operational by then. The SLS jobs program will not survive that.

Pence’s Speech At KSC

Bob Zimmerman listened to it, so you don’t have to. It was pretty uninspiring, at least to anyone who knows what’s going on.

[Update a few minutes later]

Keith Cowing has a word cloud of the speech.

[Update a few more minutes later]

And more from Loren Grush:

it was a speech with very little substance. There were many anecdotes about the US’s past achievements in space, Pence argued that recent administrations had failed to “match the spirit of the American people” when it came to creating space policy. Multiple times he insisted that Trump would open “a new era of American space leadership.” But the most recent presidential budget request calls for cutting NASA’s funding, as well as canceling some of the agency’s offices and programs. Space is expensive. How does Pence plan to match our ambitions with our missions if there isn’t a detailed money plan?

So, six months into the Trump administration, NASA doesn’t have any space policy priorities or definitive leadership. NASA administrators are often instrumental in steering the direction of the space agency, and without one, the agency will lack a strategy for how to move forward. This is now the longest amount of time NASA has been without a new permanent administrator; the record was previously held by President Richard Nixon, who took 164 days after his inauguration to fill the position, according to the Planetary Society. NASA’s current acting administrator Robert Lightfoot, who took over temporarily when Trump was inaugurated, has now served longer than that. And there’s no indication when a new administrator will be named.

“Depending on the details, this backwards speech could signal a backwards space policy, meaning rolling back the progress that’s being made instead of building on the commercial space policies that Reagan started and Obama continued,” says Larson.

I have no particular expectations about civil space from Trump. But I’m happy that at least milspace seems to be undergoing reform.