2004 Editorial Index

 

Jan 04 2003: Centennial in Review

 

Feb 04 Growing Pains

 

Mar 04 Once More, With Feeling

 

Apr 04 Blind Willy Johnson

 

May 04 Leading the Way — To Retirement

 

Jun 04 A Matter of Faith

 

Jul 04 Success

 

Aug 04 Mars Gravity Probe-1B

 

Sep 04 The Politics of Space — Part 1

 

Oct 04 The Politics of Space — Part 2

 

Nov 04 The Politics of Space — Part 3: Dreaming the Big Dream

 

Dec 04 The Next Four Years

 

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"2003: Centennial in Review" January 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

The Centennial of Flight is over. It was a hectic year with so many plans made and changed to accommodate fluctuating schedules and even hurricanes. Some of us had spent years planning for December 17, 2003. Even then, it wasn’t until the day finally arrived that we knew if everything had been for naught.

 

From the perspective of Cherie and myself, we definitely count the attempts to launch the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction on that rain drenched day last month as a success (although Cherie might disagree as far as the cold and rain part of it went).

 

The biggest disappointment of the day was not that conditions failed to be perfect for a flight, but that President Bush lost the opportunity to expound on the plan he supposedly is formulating to expand and reinvigorate our flagging Space program. I look at it with two caveats. First, is that the plans are not yet finalized, which actually means that enough thought is really going into the program. Second, is that Bush may just not yet be ready to actually commit to anything new at all, even though the Columbia Accident Investigation Board stated that this lack of national leadership was a contributing factor to the overall malaise at NASA and its own lack of leadership, leading to the disaster.

 

Continued leaks from White House sources are pointing to the possibility that Bush may be calling for a return to the Moon. Personally, I think that this is a great idea. No, it doesn’t mean that I want to forgo Mars as our ultimate goal for settlement. It means that I truly believe that we cannot bypass the Moon on our way to Mars.

 

Many people advocate skipping the Moon for the reason that we have already “been there, done that.” In actuality, our six missions to the lunar surface cover an extremely small portion of the Moon and spent a total exploration time of less than 300 hours (299h 36m, or about 12.5 days).

 

The Moon is a place in need of further exploration, not to mention it is the perfect place to learn to live off our home planet. Becoming proficient in this activity is a lot safer only three days from home, versus over eight months away if our expedition team is on Mars. Long-term planning needs to be done toward Mars landings and settlement, but let us not forget our nearest celestial neighbor that will teach us how to truly live in space.

 

For now, we wait for Bush to come to a decision if he believes that the United States should re-commit itself to the human exploration of our solar system. If he falters, others may take up the mantle and do it for us. OCSS member Adrienne Bean is a staunch advocate of Democratic candidate Wesley Clark because he is the only 2004 candidate so far to advocate a real space program. For more on his thoughts on this subject, check out his website: http://space.forclark.com.

 

The year, 2003 was a milestone with the celebration of the genius of the Wright Brothers and their ability to take us all into the air. The year 2004 will hopefully be the start of a true second century of flight that will include the permanent presence of humanity on other worlds, flying through canyons on Mars on vehicles that even Wilbur and Orville could not have envisioned.

 

OCSS will be there to keep all of our members informed on the progress toward our goals. We will also be doing our part to make it actually happen. The table below gives you a synopsis of what OCSS accomplished during 2003 and an idea of what we might be able to accomplish in the new year. It could not have been done without the support and hard work of all of our members. Thank you.

 

93 Total days of public displays

25 Public programs

15 Issues of O.C.Space

11 Membership meetings

12 TV and newspaper appearances

03 Space launches attended

01 NSS Chapter of the Year Award

 

Nearly all of these numbers reflect new records for OCSS. Our challenge is always to continue expanding and doing better each year. Congratulations on being part of the most active chapter in National Space Society history.

 

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"Growing Pains" February 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

“Now it is time to take longer strides.” President John F. Kennedy

 

This quote from Kennedy was given at the time when he was attempting to explain to the American people why it was important to set our sights on the Moon. We are again at a crossroads where we must decide if longer strides are necessary in space exploration.

 

President George W. Bush made his space policy public on January 14 (see page 3). Before the speech was even given, there was great debate on if this is the right thing to do and if we can even afford to think about an expanded human presence beyond Earth orbit. Even those who believe we should expand our horizons could not always agree on the method of reaching there. Should we abandon the Moon entirely and go straight to Mars, or should we use a logical stepping stone approach?

 

As you all know, I favor the stepping stone idea. Incremental journeys are a safer bet. Disasters along the way, especially if we reach too far and fast, could kill the whole program, and we would be worse off than when we started.

 

It was funny that one OCSS member even accused me of having seen the Bush policy speech prior to the release to the general public because the reasons I cite were almost identical to those Bush used. Nope, didn’t have any insider knowledge. Although, maybe Greg Little has a point when he states in his column (see page 6) that Bush reads O.C.Space and thus knows how to run a space program because he got his ideas from us!

 

Wishful dreaming, but it doesn’t change the fact that, when viewed in the light of common sense, I believe the Bush policy is a sound one, with the sole problem being that it has been three decades late in being stated.

 

Within the speech are certain specifics which are above and beyond any of my wildest hopes. The idea of going back to the Moon as a testing point for getting to Mars is one I have advocated for many years. One of the main reasons I think this is the best way to do it is that, if we develop the means to get back and forth to the Moon cheaply and efficiently, and if we can live and work there on a regular basis, then we will have built the infrastructure needed to sustain humanity across the entire solar system, not just for a mission to Mars.

 

In the Bush policy, he states exactly that. I was truly amazed when I heard it. The idea is to build infrastructure, not just accomplish a specific goal of a human landing on another planet. Using the Moon as a jumping-off point to go to Mars does not make sense when the materials have to be shuttled up from Earth first. In his proposal, we don’t do that. We build the factories on the Moon and build our vehicles there. In many ways, this is the best approach. Some people will say that building in zero-g, like at the ISS, is cheaper yet. But you must remember that you have to get raw materials from somewhere, so why not use the Moon as that platform? Asteroids can also be used, but may not be as easy to work with as a base with a decent, but not too heavy, gravity field.

 

This policy is something I believe we should all endorse. It is a measured approach with clear milestones that must be reached. To accomplish even the first step, the organization of NASA must be completely redrawn to ensure that we are not placed in situations as we were a year ago with managers overriding engineers concerned with safety aboard Columbia. That was unacceptable, and if NASA cannot change the way they do business, then they have no right to be leading us to new frontiers under any circumstances.

 

Who would have believed that, just a year ago, we experienced one of the lowest points in the history of spaceflight, yet out of that disaster may have been the seeds that could eventually take humanity to the stars? Will this new NASA be the one that came back from the ashes of Apollo 1 to take us to the Moon, or the organization that went from Challenger to Columbia, learning nothing?

 

Time will tell. The solar system awaits our answer.

 

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"Once More, With Feeling" March 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

The controversy still rages. Is the new space policy presented by President Bush in January worth the price and effort to make it happen?

 

For most of the people I have come in contact with, the new policy is one to be applauded and supported. We have waited 30 years for someone with leadership to say what needed to be said and set our sights back on to the heavens.

 

However, the vote is anything but unanimous. I have debated this question with members of the general public at the Mars Mania 2 event, exchanged e-mail arguments, and talked one-on-one with people who want answers to their questions. This is what OCSS is all about, and I really enjoy the dialog that has occurred.

 

The only thing that I ask is that people at least get their facts and figures straight. Some unapologetic newsman wrote a story that stated our proposed mission to Mars would cost upwards of $1 trillion over the next 26 years. This means that NASA’s budget would have to average nearly $40 billion a year during each of those 26 years. Since the NASA budget is currently only a little over $15 billion and is not expected to rise by more than a billion over the next five years, and then just keep up with inflation after that, this number is easily shown to be greatly exaggerated. How can we have a reasonable debate if opponents just make up false numbers and refuse to listen to the truth?

 

Most in the space advocacy community believe we need to rearrange our priorities in space and get on with a goal outside Earth orbit. But even then, they do not agree on the ultimate goal. Some say go back to the Moon, and others say to bypass it completely on the way to Mars (see “Looking Outward,” O.C.Space, January, 2004).

 

While reading the January 26 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology, I came across a great editorial comment that I would like to quote that sums up my position exactly:

 

“For the space community, we also have some advice: Don’t sink into an argument about whether to skip the Moon and go directly to Mars, or go somewhere else like an Earth-Moon libration point. The important thing is one of many viable courses has been selected, now stick with it. Remember, if a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step, you won’t get very far if you start by shooting yourselves in the foot.” David M. North, Editor-In-Chief

Absolutely true.

 

Why must we continue to squabble amongst ourselves over these details, especially when the policy includes both the Moon and Mars? Remember that the Moon is not just a waypoint on the road to Mars, but a stepping stone to learn to live, work, and manufacture spaceflight capability off Earth. We are not building just a means to get to Mars, but a means to get anywhere in the solar system we eventually choose to go.

 

Yes, there are many things open to debate, and I’m sure that we will see this debate rage for a long time to come. My only hope is that the debate continues after the elections in November, even if the Presidency changes parties. The future of our planet and our species is at stake. We must not drop the idea just because someone of a different party came up with it. The ideas proposed are valid, no matter where they originated.

 

We have already shown on numerous occasions how OCSS can foster the debate necessary in our local community. We must do what we can to make sure the debate continues. The President must also do his part to keep NASA on track. A single speech does not a policy make. The effort must be ongoing. The people of our country need strong leadership, and NASA must know that our leaders will demand that they remain accountable. The debate will be out in the open for the participation of us all.

 

“I’ve rarely seen a member of Congress that’s reticent to have open debate; or the science community. Sometimes the unelected are insistent as well, and that’s fine, that’s the way it ought to be. This is an open and democratic process.”

Sean O’Keefe, NASA Administrator

 

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"Blind Willy Johnson" April 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

It is not often that I am moved by something on television. It happened this time on a recent episode of The West Wing. This program has been consistently good since its inception, but, like the real White House, space is usually not a topic of discussion.

 

As we all saw on January 14, space exploration moved to the front burner in Washington, D.C. While it was widely known that some sort of announcement was imminent from President Bush, a writer for The West Wing, Peter Noah, was able to incorporate a story line to discuss the issue of sending a human crew to Mars.

 

The story unfolds throughout the hour as a secondary story to the guessing game about which country has just accomplished an atmospheric test of a nuclear weapon. The character, Josh Lyman, is asked to field a conference with some NASA people who want to pitch a new program of humans to Mars as a national goal. His reaction to these NASA “geeks” is about what many people would expect. When the first scene played out, I was extremely angry at how these NASA people were portrayed as stereotypes, and the easy way the idea of exploration as an important part of our agenda was being shrugged off.

 

I stuck with the show, hoping for better, and I was not disappointed.

 

A fictional NASA Associate Administrator decides to try to change Josh’s mind about space. She asks if he has ever looked through a telescope. He expects her to take him to a local observatory. Instead, she takes him to the outskirts of D.C. and sets up her own personal telescope, showing him Jupiter, Mars, and the Orion nebula. Josh starts to understand that maybe space is not a place to be ignored, and she continues by telling him about how we could go to Mars today with our technology, if we only had the will.

 

Josh goes back to his office and continues his research, and eventually wants to pitch some ideas to his assistant, Donna Moss, who has absolutely no interest in space. Their conversation went like this:

 

Josh: “Everyone hates us. We’re the most dominant nation on Earth, but too often the face of our economic superiority is a corporate imperialism where technological dominance is shown by smart bombs and Predator drones. We could do something else, something generous and uplifting for all humankind. We could send the first representatives from Earth to walk on another planet. We could land people on Mars.”

 

Josh pauses. “It needs work.”

 

Donna replies, “It needs something.”

 

Josh: “Yeah, that inspiration thing.”

 

He pauses again while looking at his books and notes laid in front of him on his cluttered desk. He had talked earlier about the Voyager spacecraft now at the very edge of our solar system. He speaks to Donna, in a low voice.

 

“Voyager, in case it’s ever encountered by extraterrestrials, is carrying photos of life on Earth, greetings in 55 languages, and a collection of music from Gregorian chants to Chuck Berry, including ‘Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground,’ by 20’s bluesman, Blind Willy Johnson, whose stepmother blinded him at seven, by throwing lye in his eyes after his father beat her for being with another man. He died penniless, of pneumonia, after sleeping bundled in wet newspapers in the ruins of his house that burned down. But his music just left the solar system.”

Donna: “Okay, that got me.”

 

Well, it certainly got me, too (and my wife, Cherie, as well). The writer summed up the reason to persevere so succinctly, so brilliantly, so poignantly. Anyone that could be unmoved and cynical after seeing this three-minute scene and understanding the import of what was said, could not be human.

 

MOB: Mars Or Bust.

 

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"Leading the Way -- To Retirement" May 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

Throughout history there have been groups of people that lead the way to the future. Ancient Greece unleashed scientific thought that would not become common knowledge for a thousand years or more. The Chinese, Egyptians, and Mayans all developed astronomical knowledge that was the envy of modern astronomers. Spain financed voyages of exploration to open what they thought of as a whole new world. America and Russia started a space race that would literally open those new worlds.

 

The amazing thing is that all of these apparently far-reaching and far-thinking countries have each squandered their lead, falling by the wayside, to be passed up by a new generation, from a different part of the world, who took their vision and ran with it.

 

It appears that every civilization seems to reach a certain plateau and then abruptly comes to a screeching halt. This phenomenon is very similar to a person who works hard all their life until they reach retirement age. Then they simply stop achieving in an attempt to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors. Isn’t that what most of us say that we are striving for? We all want to eventually just kick back and enjoy The Good Life.

 

Unfortunately individuals, countries, or even a whole world, will quickly die off when this goal is achieved. Let me give you an example from personal experience. I served in the Air Force a while back. At one time I seriously contemplated making a career of it. (Getting paid to play with airplanes and missiles did have a certain appeal to me!) There was also that wonderful goal of being able to retire after just 20 years of service. For most servicemen, this meant retiring at the ripe young age of between 38 and 42 years old. It sure is hard to beat that.

 

One day my plans changed abruptly when I read about a sickening statistic. What this study found was that the average life expectancy of a military retiree was only an additional ten years! During my time in service, I looked around me at the people retiring and found that there was truth in that horrible figure. (My first boss in the Air Force died less than two years after retiring, barely 40 years old.)

 

Determined not to become one of those statistics, I removed my uniform and reentered the world of civilians. What that military study had failed to mention was that this death-after-retirement problem was inherent in all professions. It was just more noticeable in the military since you finish your career so much younger than most.

 

It was also obvious what the culprit was: stagnation and boredom.

 

When all your goals have been reached, what is there that is left to survive for?This is the question that nations, as well as individuals, must ask themselves if they are to survive their retirement years. Instead of lying back and reliving old glories, we must all strive to strive for new glories.

 

The Arab culture was once one of the most scientifically advanced in the world. They traveled widely, gaining knowledge in one place and passing it on to another, adding their own thoughts in the process. In our country we have the Amish community that one day said, “This is the date where all progress stops.” At least with them, they made a conscious decision to come to a halt. If you are a part of their culture, you know exactly where you stand.

 

Sometimes this decision is made unconsciously. We are never even aware it has taken place. Centuries later someone finally asks the question, “Why did Greece stagnate?” or “Whatever happened to Spain?” I doubt if the citizens of Rome sat there in their homes and in one moment realized, “Today is the day our Empire fell. We will never be great again.”

 

That day may have already happened here in America. Will July 20, 1969 be the footnote in the history books of the next millennium, marking the retirement of our nation? Will we ever reach those heights again and strive to go beyond? Must we sit on our laurels and worry more about the comfort of our citizens than about expanding our horizons to make the next generation even better?

 

I know that I’m not ready to retire, how about you?

 

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"A Matter of Faith" June 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

In Walt Cunnigham’s book The All-American Boys (see cover article), he writes about how our next step in space should be Mars. The problem is finding the proper justification that the American public can understand and support. Ideas for support consist of science, spin-offs, education, and the expansion of humanity.

 

Everyone can come up with counter arguments for any of these, as we have seen repeatedly.

 

Science: We can get more bang for the buck by using robots.

 

Spin-offs: We have no idea what the spin-offs might be, so can we use the idea of Teflon frying pans to sell a $100-200 billion (or more) program to the public? (And to set the record straight, contrary to popular memory, Teflon and Velcro did not come from space research.)

 

Education: Educators and politicians would want to use the money directly on Earth-based projects like more schools and teachers, especially in their home districts.

 

Expansion: The world’s population expands at a rate of approximately 250,000 people each day. We are a long way from being able to send even the smallest fraction of this number into space at any one time. It would take 36,000 years of daily flying by the space shuttle (crew complement of seven) to equal one days population expansion.

 

So how do we convince people it is worth while to go into space in a big way such as exploring our nearest planetary neighbor, Mars, or even going back to the Moon?

 

Cunningham goes on to justify his comments with the following: “If no single reason can justify a manned mission to Mars, perhaps their combined weight will provide legitimate justification. Failing that, the trip must be justified on religious (in the broadest sense) grounds. That is: faith. You either believe in the value of exploration for the human race or you do not. It is a matter of faith!”

 

How many of us have thought about our passion for space in the context of religious zeal? Yet, what Cunningham says is absolutely true. we must have faith to go into space.

 

— Faith in the future of humanity.

— Faith that we will overcome short-term adversity to survive to see the long term.

— Faith that humanity is worth saving in the first place.

— Faith that some catastrophe will not stop us before we are successful in our quest.

— Faith that whatever task we put our hearts and minds to can be accomplished.

— Faith that the negative thoughts and actions of a few who wish to see us return to the stone age will be bypassed.

— And faith that we are destined to become a Solar System Species, reaching outward from Earth to place our feet on other worlds in exploration and eventual settlement.

 

Where do you stand on this new religion of spaceflight? Are you a futurist or a Neanderthal? What would it take for you to fully believe that this is the way to go?

 

Many of our members already feel this way. Maybe they just haven’t had it put into the right words before. For my part, I have often been accused of being too passionate about space. Can we be too passionate, especially when we realize that literally the entire future of homo sapiens rests on our decision and our zeal.

 

What better reason to believe in something than to know that it will bring about a paradigm shift in the way our species embraces the future.

 

Detractors say we can’t afford to explore. We must bury our heads in the sand and concentrate only on our day-to-day living standards. Yet the standards they want us to embrace have brought about the world we currently live in, full of chaos, hatred, and war.

 

Isn’t there a better way to do things? Space has always had the ability to unite opposing countries in cooperation and scientific discovery. The more countries that come aboard our vision and join our religion, the less likely we will self-destruct.

 

Space is the faith.

 

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"Success" July 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

The title of this editorial says it all. Perhaps I don’t even need to write more than that single word, but then, you know me. I just can’t help myself.

 

We have been waiting for this day for so long it was almost a letdown when it finally happened. I’m sure you know what I’m saying. You work on something for so long that, when it is completed, you’re not quite sure that it really happened at all. This isn’t to say that there isn’t much more work to do to make space tourism a reality. Burt Rutan talked about this with us after the flight.

 

“Suborbital space tourism is really very different than orbital in that in suborbital, you don’t go to a destination. You can’t go to a hotel. I don’t think that orbital space tourism makes sense to fly in a vehicle where you stay in it for your vacation, because it has to be small and cramped. So you go to a resort hotel in orbit is what you do. You build something small and cramped because it’s cheap, so you can get there. But suborbital, you can’t do that, you can’t put a hotel up there and visit it because you fall right back down.”

 

Burt continues, “I absolutely refuse to use the word ‘shuttle.’ I use ‘transfer van.’ Think of it as the transfer van that you take to your resort hotel. A transfer van is needed for orbital space tourism, but a transfer van will not work for suborbital space tourism. Now, what that means for suborbital space tourism is you’ve got to give everyone a large window and you’ve got to get their face close to it. And you’ve got to give them a lot of room. I particularly feel that 100 kilometers is not good, you’ve got to go to 150 to give them time to unstrap and float around. So you have to give them the experience in the spaceship that does not have a destination. I’m not a business guy, but I’ve run some numbers, and I think that it really needs to have at least five, maybe six seats.”

 

So, obviously Burt is giving this problem a lot of thought. Maybe we’ll soon see SpaceShipTwo.

 

The other point I want to bring up is that we are constantly told how the general public really isn’t interested in space. Well, things are certainly different when those people can now say that they are directly affected by it. When NASA launches an astronaut into orbit, it is exciting to watch, but we are all detached from it because we know that there is very little possibility that we would ever have a chance to go ourselves. Rutan has put that personal connection back into the space program. We now have a chance to go, too.

 

The public showed their enthusiasm by turning up by the thousands in the early morning that day, and even the day before, braving the desert heat to be one of the first to see a private spaceflight happen before their very eyes.

 

Mike Melvill commented on it by saying, “I was just so excited to see that so many people had taken the time on a workday to come out and watch what we’re doing in Mojave. We do exciting things here, but not often do we get a crowd like this here to watch it. So it was a wonderful feeling to look down and see all those cars, all those recreational vehicles, and all those people lined up against the fences. When we taxied out, I was absolutely in a state of shock at the amount of people standing along the fences, screaming and yelling and waving. It was great, it makes you feel good, something that the people are interested in.”

 

Burt Rutan also understands this innate desire to explore new places. In order to make a closer connection to the public streaming in to see the flight of his creation, he even went down and helped park cars for a while before he had to return to his duties.

 

“I like to interplay with the public,” Burt said, “because everything that we do, whether it’s software or spaceships, everything we do is for the public.”

 

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"Mars Gravity Probe 1-B" August 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

The first thing that popped into my head when I first heard about the Gravity Probe-B mission (see page 1) was that some scientist was a fan of one of the greatest science fiction films ever made. What might surprise some of you is that I am not talking about 2001: A Space Odyssey, but a lesser known flick, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. (Remember, I wrote one of, not the greatest movie of all time!)

 

I’ve been wanting to write about this movie for quite a while and I figured that this was finally the perfect opportunity. Released in 1964, I consider Robinson Crusoe on Mars as the movie that marks the turning point from the silly sci-fi of the 1950s to the Clarke/Kubrick epic that flickered to life just four years later.

 

Prior to this, most sci-fi ignored the “sci” part in the genre category name. Fantasy was certainly more the norm. Sure, looking back at it, Robinson Crusoe on Mars may be dated, but at least they made the effort that hardly anyone had done previously.

 

What is the story? Well, you have two astronauts and a monkey (no, this is not the start of a bad, off-color joke!), and they are on a mission to Mars aboard their ship, the Mars Gravity Probe (separate escape capsules are numbered 1A and 1B, thus the connection with the real-life Gravity Probe-B). The two astronauts are orbiting Mars on a science mission to map the gravity of the red planet. Once they have completed their mission, Mona the monkey is to be encapsulated and dropped to the surface to see if the planet can support future human explorers. The discoveries they make from orbit prompt them to cancel Mona’s mission. They don’t feel it is safe enough and are not into animal cruelty.

 

However, the unfortunate happens: a giant meteor forces them to use fuel to maneuver out of harm’s way. It puts them into a descending orbit and they now have no choice but to abandon their mission and land on Mars in a last ditch attempt to save their own (and Mona’s) lives.

 

Each lands in their own escape pod and each suffers malfunctions. Unfortunately, Dan Macready (Adam West) doesn’t make it, but his copilot Chris Draper (Paul Mantee) and Mona do survive the crash.

 

What follows is an amazing story of survival in an alien wasteland, much the same as Defoe’s Crusoe faced hardship on his island. Here, instead of relying on gimmicks, Draper leans to cope and discovers how to live off the land long enough to eventually be rescued by a follow-on mission. He even acquires a man Friday (Victor Lundin) whom he helps escape from alien miners that hold him as slave labor.

 

It is always said that this movie is based on Defoe’s classic, but the actual source material is not from quite that long ago. In 1957, Rex Gordon wrote First on Mars, which is based on Defoe, but has all the basic elements that would go into Robinson Crusoe on Mars, just seven years later. This is the true genesis of the motion picture.

 

Both the novel and movie take a scientific look at survival on Mars in ways realistic for their times. The timing is certainly right, so I’d like to think that this movie served as the inspirational catalyst for Stanley Kubrick to seek out Arthur C. Clarke for a story conference. The rest, as they say in Hollywood, is history.

 

As with many scientists, they first obtained ideas through watching science fiction. With Robinson Crusoe on Mars, I think we can trace a direct lineage to

the scientists behind the current Gravity Probe-B mission, now seeking the answers to fundamental laws of how our universe works.

What better legacy could a work of fiction leave behind.

 

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"The Politics of Space — Part 1" September 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

Two months from now we will be making some momentous decisions that could affect the future course of our civilization and possibly our very species.

 

Okay, now that I got your attention (at least I hope I have by now!), I’ll explain that I am referring to the upcoming national elections in November. We go through this every four years, so what makes this Presidential election any different than those that have come before? Well, we have waited for 30 years for someone, anyone, in Washington, D.C., to come to the realization that space is more than an important issue, it is a crucial one for our future.

 

Most politicians don’t understand this. Even those that appear to have, may have done so only for the fact of political expediency. In reality, it doesn’t actually matter if they truly understand it or not. What matters is if anything happens toward our goal of creating a spacefaring civilization before life on Earth becomes unbearable.

 

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy set a course for this nation that took us to the Moon just over eight years later. Recent recordings of conversations in the Oval Office have hinted that even with the great speeches he gave on the subject, Kennedy only created and stuck with this goal because he thought it would take everyone’s mind off of other problems, both foreign and domestic.

 

Today, do any of us care what those other political problems might have been? Probably not. What matters is that we launched human beings from Earth and landed them on the surface of another world in full view of anyone who turned on a television.

 

We are now faced with many other crises here at home and definitely abroad. One crisis that hardly anyone seems to understand is our lack of commitment to space exploration and settlement, our looking inward and not looking outward.

 

Bush and Kerry are the two people vying for the highest office in our land. Bush was governor of the state of Texas and yet he never set foot inside Johnson Space Center until the memorial service for the Columbia astronauts after he became President. However, he finally seems to have had a turnaround with respect for the need for space by becoming the first President since Kennedy to set a true achievable national goal of getting us out of low Earth orbit and back on track to the solar system and beyond.

 

His speech of last January [see “President Bush Sets New Space Agenda,” O.C.Space, February 2004] outlined a specific plan to head us in the right direction. Since that time, there has been much criticism of his policy speech in that it lacked some of the exact design features about how certain things might be accomplished.

 

When Kennedy committed us to go to the Moon, we didn’t yet know exactly what hardware would be required or even the proper method to go to the Moon. A big debate was ongoing about the benefits and drawbacks of two competing systems: Earth orbit rendezvous and Lunar orbit rendezvous. The point being that once the commitment was made, the debate started, the details worked out, and the accomplishment was achieved on time and pretty close to budget. Without that initial commitment, nothing would have happened and we’d still be sitting on our thumbs.

 

In fact, that is pretty much where we find ourselves today, sitting on our thumbs, or more specifically, stuck in low Earth orbit, because no one will commit to anything beyond.

 

When Bush made his policy speech, Kerry was right out front deriding the President and making jokes about how the only person that should go to Mars was Bush, not our nation or humanity.

 

Kerry recently made a fact-finding trip to the Kennedy Space Center where he donned a “bunny suit” and toured the interior of the Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery. When reporters asked him for his opinions on space policy, he refused to answer and only spoke of his ideas for health care.

 

Who would you rather have with your future in their hands, the one who made a commitment, or the one who made the jokes?

 

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"The Politics of Space -- Part 2" October 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

I am often asked, “Why is space exploration such an important consideration when it comes to voting for our next President of the United States?” There are so many other issues to be considered: terrorism, the war in Iraq, the economy, jobs, abortion, marriage rights, and the budget deficit.

 

My answer is that space exploration is more important than any of these other issues for one simple reason: it could mean the continuation of our species, or its destruction. Politicians simply do not understand this, and that is why space policy has never been on the table when it comes to any national election.

 

It has been over 40 years since a politician has taken the question of space seriously at a national level. Since landing on the Moon in 1969, all “progress” has been inward, not outward. The space program has floundered and all but disappeared from most people’s radar screens. The only time this has not been true is when we have lost a space shuttle (two times is certainly enough in my book!).

 

In the four decades since President Kennedy set our course to the Moon and electrified not only our nation, but the entire world, we have slowly lost the infrastructure that was created to take us there. In addition, the expertise has also disappeared. In 1957, it became a national priority to get math and science education into our classrooms so that we could compete on the world stage.

 

Today these subjects are laughed at by most college students. Who wants to be a geek and waste their time in those hard study programs when liberal arts makes it easy to get your diploma?

 

How long do we have to wait for a President of this country to understand the importance of space? Well, we finally have one. After four decades, President Bush has decided that enough is enough. We have lost too much and must regain this lost ground before it is too late.

 

Some say we can wait. The other national and international issues must take a priority. I say, if not now, when?

 

At least Bush has stepped up to the plate and decided that it is finally time to do something. It may have taken him a long time to understand this, but at least he does now. Kerry has made it clear that he still does not. Kerry thinks that keeping the status quo is the right thing to do. Of course with his penchant for changing his mind depending on the way the wind blows on any given day, you really don’t know where he stands on space (or anything for that matter) anyway.

 

Now that the President has finally come around, how long until the rest of us also realize that the space program may be gone for good if we don’t take action to save it or use it today? Should we just put the shuttle back in service and keep flying it until all are lost in accidents? The space program will then be finished for good. Our country and our civilization could literally enter a new Dark Age. Who knows how many centuries could pass before the will is finally found to rebuild what was lost so long ago?

 

Why wait for the space program to spoil and be tossed out like a bad piece of forgotten food in the back of your refrigerator? We have a President with a firm vision of what we should do. That vision is not sitting on our hands and wasting the billions that have been spent in the last 40 years going nowhere.

 

When we went to the Moon, all sections of society benefitted. The money was spent and the jobs were created right here on Earth. The world watched in awe as we did what ten thousand years of humankind had only dreamed of doing — we walked on the face of another world!

 

Will we choose to return to the time when spaceflight was only a dream? Already the accomplishments of the past are relegated to the history books. Moonflight is something that another generation accomplished, and then it was put away, only to be written about and watched on the History Channel.

 

It is time to make new history before it is too late. There are many issues that need our attention and our priorities on our national political scene. Space exploration and our expansion into the cosmos is and should be a high priority amongst our members and amongst the population in general.

 

Vote Pro-Space in 2004!

 

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"The Politics of Space -- Part 3: Dreaming the Big Dream" November 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

The election is here. This has been one of the most controversial national elections in memory. Can anyone recall a time when there were such stark difference between the two candidates?

 

As you should be aware by now, I am not at all in favor of John Kerry being elected to the highest office in the land. I feel he has been wishy-washy on issues and has downplayed his actual voting record while in the Senate in hopes that when he states something exactly opposite to that record that the American people will be gullible enough to buy into it.

 

I am continually amazed at how many polls show that his this has actually been the case.

 

It may not seem that way, but I assure you that I tried to be fair and balanced in my assessments in this election. When the primary season started, I was very much in favor of finding an alternative to Bush. What the Democratic party came up with was about the worst possible candidate. To me, it shows the complete disconnect that this party has with the American people as a whole. That voters have actually bought into this shows how mediocre this country has become.

 

For the first time in 40 years, however, Bush stepped up to the plate and became a candidate who I could truly endorse due to his stand on the space program. Most of us in OCSS have waited for that day to happen and it finally did. Yet, others still don’t think that the future of the human race is a good enough reason to vote in favor of this candidate. They would rather vote on issues that the candidate cannot effect because the laws of the United States already are in place to prevent them from being changed.

 

I say that we should vote for issues that do affect us and that will have an impact on our future as a race. The space program is that issue for me. Is it short-sighted to want a candidate that understands this? Bush may not have always understood it, but he appears to do so now. That is what is important.

As I explained in the first part of this series [September], it doesn’t even matter that a candidate may believe completely opposite to what he is saying publicly. What does matter is what policy the President sets forth and the course he has charted for us to take. If his policy is implemented, then we win, even if he does not personally believe it in his heart.

 

However, in the case of Bush, I think that there is actual evidence that he does believe in his heart and his brain that the space program is good for this country.

 

An excellent example is the recent winning of the X Prize (see page 1) by pilots Mike Melville and Brian Binnie, and the Mojave Aerospace Ventures team led by Burt Rutan and financed by Paul Allen. This effort has not received one penny from any government source and it has absolutely no bearing on NASA space policy in the United States. Yet those of us in OCSS understand the importance of the accomplishment and what it means for the future.

 

John Kerry has made nothing but jokes about the U.S. space program and the Bush Moon/Mars policy in particular. He has never, to my knowledge, even been aware of what SpaceShipOne accomplished. I could probably safely say that he really doesn’t care because it has nothing to do with winning a significant number of votes.

 

George W. Bush does care. Even though it would mean nothing to him politically, he thought the events were exciting enough to make a phone call to congratulate the team. Has anyone reading this heard that phone call? Probably not, since it was not made for political expediency. Here is what Bush had to say:

 

“I’m proud to call you all. I am calling from Air Force One; not exactly as high as Mike and Brian were, but I’d love to meet you sometime to find out what it was really like to do what you did… Thank you very much for dreaming the big dream. I was raised in west Texas, and like Mojave, the sky is very big and therefore you have big dreams. Congratulations and thank you for taking my phone call.”

 

DREAM BIG! Vote for what counts. Vote pro-space on November 2.

 

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"The Next Four Years" December 2004

by Michelle Evans

 

One of the most horrible periods in American history has finally drawn to a close. For more than a year, the people of this country have been at each other’s throats. Name-calling and questions about one’s intelligence have been rife. Personally, I tried to keep a civil tongue about it, but nonetheless, I am sure to have stepped over the line on occasion myself. What is it about politics that can do this to normally decent people?

 

If you have read the last three installments of my column, you will definitely know where I stand and why. I felt it was time to take a stand for this issue that I hold most important: the future of human space exploration.

 

All other matters aside, if we don’t have a future to look forward to, then everything else we do serves little or no purpose whatsoever.

 

President George W. Bush has been elected to serve a second tour of duty as President of the United States. I supported this for one primary reason: his support of a renewed space program that actually had goals and a firm vision of what it wants to accomplish.. There was absolutely no conviction of purpose toward space exploration from his former rival, John Kerry.

 

There are many other issues where I am at great odds with our current President. If I sat down and delineated many of these issues, you might be very surprised to hear how far left I might lean. It’s just that the overriding issue for the first time in over 40 years finally came down to Space! Not since the election of John F. Kennedy (at which time I was a tad too young to vote!) has a President articulated a national goal for space as was done by Bush.

 

Many people that I talked to over the last months prior to the election feel that Bush will forget his promises to space and the future to focus on his other agendas. Some even say that his true agenda is to gut the space program and disband NASA, and that his space “policy” is just a sneaky way of making that happen.

 

I tend not to agree with this nefarious scenario, but only the next four years will truly tell who is right or wrong. In the meantime, I will certainly continue to support all the efforts of OCSS and other groups to bring about this new vision of space, with the ideas of putting people back on the Moon, setting a course for Mars, and keeping our eyes on the settlement of the entire solar system in generations to come.

 

In support of my position that Bush will not relinquish this dream, he has promised to veto spending bills that do not provide adequate funding to start the programs outlined in his policy speech of January 14. This has provided a quick bellwether to prove his support since Congress initially set forth a budget proposal that would have decreased NASA’s funding, not increased it by the small amount required to get moving.

 

Some have also pointed out that Bush has made no mention of space in the past 11 months. This is actually untrue. He has not made major policy speeches as we might hope for, but he has mentioned space while campaigning. He also enlisted the aid of Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin to join him at a campaign stop just before the election to show that his support is unwavering.

 

The opposition in this election chose not to talk about space at all. Even when Kerry was at the Kennedy Space Center wearing his “bunny suit” to crawl around inside the orbiter Discovery, he chose not to answer any questions concerning his possible agenda for space.

 

Former NSS Executive Director Lori Garver came aboard the Kerry campaign as an advisor to him on space policy. She made speeches and even debated on behalf of him and his agenda. Unfortunately, her words rang hollow with no follow-through from her chosen candidate. Also unfortunately, the stuff of which she talked had no vision at all. The policy was simply that of continuing the course already set, a course that we all know will lead us nowhere.

 

It is now time for Bush to deliver, and he has done so. On November 20, a budget was passed that not only restored the funds cut earlier for NASA, but gave the President every single dime he requested. The journey has now begun.

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