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The Case for Becoming a Spacefaring Society:
Proposals for an Integrated US Space Policy

by Jonathan Goff and Ferris Valyn

Throughout history, mankind has learned to master the environments around itself—developing new technologies to harness the elements to better our lives, improve our health and wellbeing, protect ourselves from others, and learn more about our position in the universe.  In the past, mastering new environments, such as the developing of seafaring or aeronautics, has lead directly to substantial benefits for those nations which have chosen to take the lead.  

While we have started to explore the next great environment—outer space and the planetary bodies of our solar system—such exploration by itself will not lead to a spacefaring society.  The development of a truly spacefaring society—one that can master and tame this new environment, and harness its resources—is a more compelling vision than exploration alone, one that holds the potential for far greater benefits to our nation.  

We strongly urge the new administration to make the development of a spacefaring society the focus of our nation’s space policy.

What is a Spacefaring Society?

A truly spacefaring society embraces a much grander scope of space activity than currently exists:

Ease of Travel: A spacefaring society has the capability to transport large numbers of people, goods, and materials to and from the earth’s surface, and between various in-space destinations, in a much safer, more frequent, and substantially more affordable manner than is current available.

Personal Accessibility: In a spacefaring society, average people, not just the wealthy or highly trained astronauts can travel, work, and live in space.  Such a society entails large numbers of people—eventually thousands—not just visiting space briefly, but actually living there, working, and raising families.

Resource Utilization: A spacefaring society uses off-world resources and the characteristics of the space environment to provide materials, products, and services for the economic and social benefit of both earth-side and in-space communities.

Off-world "Local" Economies: As our nation becomes a spacefaring society, "local" in-space markets will be developed and strengthened, providing a more robust and diverse space economy, which will provide more benefits earth-side as well.

What are the Benefits of Becoming a Spacefaring Society?

There are many benefits to our nation not just from becoming a spacefaring society, but also from the very process of getting to that point:

Energy and Material Resources: In addition to current uses of space for earth observation, telecommunications, and national defense, the space environment potentially offers energy from space solar power, platinum-group metals for use in fuel cells, microgravity manufacturing, and many other resources to help solve terrestrial problems.

New Jobs and Industries: Mastering the space environment and harvesting its resources will create high-tech jobs and new industries for serving both terrestrial needs and, eventually, other in-space markets.

Technology Development and Affordable Space Science:  In order to master the space environment, many new technologies will need to be developed, which will also have useful terrestrial applications.  Those capabilities will also make space science missions more capable and more affordable.

International Engagement: The process of becoming a spacefaring society will allow us to engage a number of other countries, with the potential to reduce international hostilities.  

Broadening Horizons:  A spacefaring society can expand our horizons just as an Information Age society already has.

Spacefaring—Not Just a NASA Effort

Unfortunately, our current policy, with its over-reliance on NASA and under-reliance on private enterprise, does not encourage large-scale human space development.  

America cannot rely only on NASA:  The challenge of becoming a spacefaring society is bigger than NASA by itself can manage.  NASA should continue to play an important part in such efforts, but putting all our eggs in that basket will not lead to a spacefaring society.

Private Initiative:  A truly spacefaring society will only be possible as private investment and private commercial activity becomes the primary driver of space development.  There must be room for innovation by private individuals and organizations.  


To enable the development of a spacefaring society, the Obama administration should embrace the following key concepts to guide policy development

Active Presidential involvement: The president and his senior staff must take an active role in space policy.  The president must be prepared to use his bully-pulpit to galvanize the nation to become spacefaring, and be prepared to spend political capital to ensure that space development remains the primary focus of our civil space policy.
Opening markets and encouraging private investment:  The US governmental space policy should be to open markets and encourage private investment.  This can be done via technological development (using prizes, research and technology maturation programs, and programs like COTS and COTS-D), competent regulation (like ITAR reform), direct public investments, and private investment incentives (like transferable tax credits or other economic tools).  

Buying Commercial:  Policies should be implemented or, where existing, reinforced, requiring NASA and other government agencies to preferentially buy commercial goods and services wherever possible, rather than developing their own in-house solutions.  The burden of proof should be on the government to explain why it cannot buy goods or services commercially, before it is allowed to use public resources for in-house capabilities.

Broader Department involvement:  Major departments within the Federal government outside of NASA must be engaged in space development.  For instance, the Office of Space Commercialization should be fully funded and staffed, and the Office of Commercial Space Transportation should report directly to the Department of Transportation.

Legal System: Increased investment in space will benefit from an improved legal framework for defining space property rights, contractual relationships and the allocation of risk.

Public forum:  Becoming a spacefaring society will require input from all parts of society, in a format that is directly accessible to the public.  Therefore, we recommend re-establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Council, making sure it is fully funded, and has the authority it needs to operate.

Space Infrastructure Development: The national space policy should focus on encouraging the commercial development of infrastructure in space such as propellant depots, and other facilities that can lower the cost and increase the capabilities of future operations.  

NASA’s Role

NASA will still have an important role within a government that is focused on becoming a spacefaring society:

Principal Scientific Investigator: NASA’s science programs have produced incredible discoveries.  These need to continue and be expanded.

Advanced R&D: NASA’s focus must be on pushing the level for key spacefaring technologies to the point where private industry can commercialize them.    


In addition to these recommendations, the recommendations submitted by the Space Frontier Foundation and X-Prize Foundation would fit well within a national policy that encourages large-scale space development.  Also, many of the ideas proposed in the CAIB report and Aldridge Commission are also worth revisiting.  

Refocusing both US space policy in general, and NASA’s role within it, will allow us to begin the process of becoming a spacefaring society.  President-elect Obama ran on a change mandate.  By extending that change mandate to include a change towards becoming a spacefaring society, President-elect Obama would enable space to better help the US and society at large.  

Originally posted to FerrisValyn on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 05:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for becoming spacefaring (30+ / 0-)

    a version of this went to the Obama transition team

    Also, it had my real name, not my Dkos name, but I just figured I put my dkos name here.

    •  While we wait for confirmation (7+ / 0-)

      about Maj General Scott Gration, some other things to read, well worth it

      License to Change: Will NASA?

      Why Space?

    •  I agree with most everything here, but as always (5+ / 0-)

      the devil is to be found in the details.

      I also believe we NEED international cooperation and collaboration because the rest if the world will not permit any one nation to obtain a commanding lead in becoming spacefaring. If we get too far ahead on a unilateral basis we will face geo-political repercussions here on Earth.

      "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

      by Bill White on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:40:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Old Scratch always is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, NellaSelim, Vladislaw

        I would say that, with regard to certain aspects, there will some aspects that are international.  Property rights is one example.  

        I would hope, given Obama's comments, he understands the need for working with foriegn countries on things like space property rights.  And I think he does

        •  Space property rights are a premature topic (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NellaSelim, Vladislaw

          and frankly I believe the US will need to use jujitsu to get what we need. If Obama asks for something in that regard, other nations will interfere merely to score points.

          I support the no sovereign claims provisions of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. Private property rights? There are theories that allow private entities to claim privet property today fully consistent with the OST.

          A top down approach will hamstring private development.

          "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

          by Bill White on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:47:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  i'd go so far as to say that.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ultimately, making a home in space is too important to be sequestered and limited by historic ideas about property.

          For example...

          What happens to "natural and inalienable rights" when the oxygen you breathe and the envelope in which you live, thus your very life itself, is provided by a private corporation?   Do we suddenly revert to "social contract theory" where nothing is natural or inalienable and everything is negotiable including trial by a jury of peers and cruel & unusual punishment...?

          Can the corporation impose censorship, limit freedom of belief and expression, and enforce it all by saying "if you don't like it, you don't have to live here" when there may truly be no way out aside from the airlock?

          Do we allow the corporate values of profit and growth, which at root are reptile-level programming to eat and spawn, to become predominant over the mammal-level programming & values that are the baseline below which civilized cultures cannot allow themselves to drop... ....much less to become predominant over the values of civilized humans, such as liberty and equality...?

          Space is too important for that.  And given that humanity and its descendants will some day be an expanding wavefront through the galaxy, wherein Earth is only a tiny fraction of the total human population, what values do we wish to carry to the stars and make the very foundations of our presence wherever we go?  Liberty and equality, human rights and civil rights; or property interests and the profit motive?

          Says I: liberty and equality first; human rights and civil rights first.  Property interests and the profit motive must serve those values, rather than undermining them.  

      •  I agree with most everything here, but as always (0+ / 0-)

        "I also believe we NEED international cooperation and collaboration because the rest if the world will not permit any one nation to obtain a
        commanding lead in becoming spacefaring."

          'NEED?' 'Will not permit?' And just what will other countries do to the nation that commits the sin of being the most advanced in its spacefaring
        capability? Has that ever been an issue in maritime and aeronautics?

        "If we get too far ahead on a unilateral basis we will face geo-political repercussions here on Earth."

          While one (individual or nation) should act morally ethically, etc., One can not decide all actions on the possibility that others simply won't
        like them. Espeically those actions that carry no inherent harm. 'International cooperation' can mean many things, but it should never mean all parties
        restricting themselves to the lowest common denominator....

    •  The only reason you missed, and the Biggest one, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in my opinion, is that a truely spacefaring civilization will have the ability to survive an ELE (or, as those who watched Deep Impact know it, an extinction level event).

      So long as Mother Earth is our only home, the long-term survival of the human species is at risk.

      Just as Charlton Heston recites, during the intro to Armageddon

      This is the Earth, at a time when the dinosaurs roamed a lush and fertile planet.
      [From behind the camera, a giant asteroid appears, speeding towards the Earth ahead of it]
      A piece of rock just 6 miles wide changed all that.
      [Blazing through the atmosphere, the asteroid impacts with a spectacular display of fire and destruction]
      It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons. A trillion tons of dirt and rock hurtled into the atmosphere, creating a suffocating blanket of dust the sun was powerless to penetrate for a thousand years. It happened before. It will happen again. It's just a question of when.

      So, yeah, let's colonize space for the economic and scientific benefits to humanity at large, that goes without saying.  But let us keep in mind that there is no greater reason than the continued existence of the human race to do so.

  •  As a Child of the Space Age... (9+ / 0-)

    I was born during one of the Mercury missions and was in kindergarten when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  When I was a kid, I just took it for granted that by the time I grew up we would be a spacefaring nation.

    Well, it hasn't turned out that way, but I still hope that I'll live to see it in my lifetime.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic" -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:10:54 PM PST

  •  We're long overdue (7+ / 0-)

    Yeah, some people are going to reply that we should fix our world first, but there's a pretty good chance we won't commit to fixing this planet until we see how rare it is.  That's not an excuse for delaying, but it is a way to get us off our collective asses in more ways than one.

    Someone is wrong on the Internet! To the Kosmobile!

    by socratic on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:15:57 PM PST

    •  I can understand that view, to a point (5+ / 0-)

      although when presented with the data that becoming spacefaring can help us, I would hope they would change their positions.  

      However, when they say things like, we haven't earned the RIGHT to go off planet, or that we should go extinct - that really gets on my nerves

      •  Ferris, here's a new way to get at this... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, Vladislaw

        Consider the potential for a profound culture shift as follows:

        A spacefaring America in a spacefaring world, will provide the opportunity for the proponents of limitless growth to do just that in the only place where it is truly possible.  And thus they will do so.

        Meanwhile, those of us who believe in steady-state sustainability will be in the position to assert that as policy here on Earth.

        Best of both worlds:  Unlimited growth throughout the solar system and then the galaxy and some day beyond, but each human-inhabited planet ultimately reaches a steady-state balance.  

  •  Breaking: Scott Gration for NASA Administrator (7+ / 0-)


    WASHINGTON - U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has asked retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, one of his top foreign policy and military advisers during his campaign, to take the helm of NASA, according to a source informed of the selection.

    Nasa Watch has more. Now carry on . . .

    "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

    by Bill White on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 06:18:02 PM PST

  •  buying commercial (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    alizard, FerrisValyn, NellaSelim

    great point, NASA should utilize the private sector when they can.

    Broader Department involvement:

    This one area President Elect Obama can do something that Bush failed to do. putting a real bulldog in the Office of Space Commercialization.

  •  It bugs me that you said "benefits to our nation" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FerrisValyn, NellaSelim

    Once we put together as spacefaring society, I sure hope we won't be thinking of our activities in space in terms of national interest. By its nature, space gives us the opportunity to get past the sort of national egoism that we can't seem to shake when dealing with earth-bound problems like trade.

    Besides, it will be really hard for any single nation to achieve the spacefaring stage without close coordination with other advanced countries.

    •  Re: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, NellaSelim, Vladislaw

      Once we put together as spacefaring society, I sure hope we won't be thinking of our activities in space in terms of national interest. By its nature, space gives us the opportunity to get past the sort of national egoism that we can't seem to shake when dealing with earth-bound problems like trade.

      I'd like to believe that, and I do think there is some truth to it, but I think its more likely that, as we become more and more spacefaring (since this won't necessarily have a clear demarcation until after we are sure its happened), we'll become more and more integrated.

      Besides, it will be really hard for any single nation to achieve the spacefaring stage without close coordination with other advanced countries.

      Yes and no.  In some respect, like funding, I would say no, we won't necassarily need close coordination with other countries - we can do space substantially cheaper than we have done it.  

      However, there are other areas, like ownership rights, that have to be internationally understood and recognized, and that will need working with other countries.

      •  yo Ferris, a word of caution.... (4+ / 0-)

        Not to go playing Mister Editor here, but some serious suggestions about wording...

        Don't use verbs such as "master", "tame", and "harness" where the noun they act upon is "environment" or "nature" or some such.   There's a paradigm problem lurking in the grammar and usage issue, similar to if someone said "man" and "men" instead of "humanity" and "people."   It has the potential to lose people who might otherwise be supporters.  

        I see you're trying to juxtapose robust vs. weak, using "explore" as part of the shorthand for "limited" and implying "other than robust, by implication weak," but I would look for different language there entirely as well.  But that ends up throwing away a word that has high positive value.  

        For the above, I'd suggest something like "...a minimal presence in space, a mere tiptoe across the threshold..." vs. "...a robust and eventually self-sustaining presence... ....moving toward an era where increasing numbers of humans will call space their primary home... ....the freedom to build new habitats, new home bases, new economies.... ....utilizing space-based resources that are truly limitless..."  Something along the lines of "...adapt to new environments and create a home for ourselves in the midst of them...."  

        Under "benefits" don't forget Earthside sustainability: orbital solar, climate survey, and the simple cultural fact of increased awareness that we live on a tiny little sphere that is finite and precious.  

        Also, the benefit of a scientifically literate culture, that will arise with increased human presence in space.  This without loss of the sense of awe and wonder that humans feel when contemplating things so vast that words hardly do justice.  

        If any of this is useful, cool; if not, not; and feel free to HR this comment after you've read it, in order to keep it behind the scenes.  

        •  You make some excellent points here G2, and (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bill White, Vladislaw

          I agree with the general points made in the diary, however I would to emphasize the greatest role that government has played in the development of all forms of transportation is the creation of infrastructure. Though some mention was made of this, there was not enough emphasis.  And I would argue that the main purpose of the Constellation program is not simply to return to the Moon but to enable NASA to develop a space infrastructure like more manned satellites and fuel depots both in LEO and GTO as well as the Moon.  By creating these destinations NASA can encourage private sector investments into entreprenuership of new ventures for cheaper LEO access and space transports.  The COTS program is an excellent example and without the existence of the ISS efforts like Space X, Orbital Sciences, and RtK would not have been possible.

        •  If (0+ / 0-)

          I, or Jon and myself, do a version 2.0, I will definitely take these into consideration.  

    •   It bugs me that you said "benefits to our nation (0+ / 0-)

      "Once we put together as spacefaring society, I sure hope we won't be thinking of our activities in space in terms of national interest. By its nature, space gives us the opportunity to get past the sort of national egoism that we can't seem to shake when dealing with earth-bound problems like trade."

      It's unrealistic to think that human beings are going to undergo a radical change just because they've gone beyond the atmosphere.

      I tend to agree with the words of one of those many reports on our future options in space from the last few decades, when it said:

      "The political situation in space will reflect the political situation on Earth. Not the other way around."

      'Spacefaring' refers to an increased ability to pursue whatever goals in space you may have, not an international convergence of those goals.


      "Besides, it will be really hard for any single nation to achieve the spacefaring stage without close coordination with other advanced countries."

      Why? Indeed, the thing we ('we' meaning anybody who has something they want to do in space) need the most, cheaper aircraft-like access to LEO, only tends to work against that assumption.

      Ultimately the only 'coordination' we need is in an air traffic control sense, and working out property rights. Otherwise, we should look for less centralization, not more.

  •  I don't think US policy should be driven... (0+ / 0-) Asimov novels.  

    -5.38/-3.74 We're currently in a sig interregnum. A siggie vacante, as it were.

    by Rich in PA on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:00:55 PM PST

    •  Exactly where did we site (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, NellaSelim, Vladislaw


      •  I cited you (5+ / 0-)

        to the rescue rangers, lets hope you hit. great paper.

        •  2 more coming. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          texasmom, NellaSelim

          But I think this is the best one

          •  Ferris, re "legal system." (0+ / 0-)

            You mention "legal framework for defining space property rights, contractual relationships and the allocation of risk."

            That's cart before horse, and a potential cartload of arsenic.

            Where we need to start, is with human rights and civil rights, citizenship rights and responsibilities, and the fundamental founding documents for a truly civilized society in space.

            Jefferson and Franklin et. al. sure as hell didn't start with "property rights, contractual relationships and the allocation of risk."  If they had, we would still probably be living with slavery, and torture as policy would be considered "risk management."  

            First things first!

            •  property rights (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:


              "The right to procure property and to use it for one's own enjoyment is essential to the freedom of every person, and our other rights would mean little without these rights of property ownership. It is also for these reasons that the government's power to tax property is placed in those representatives most frequently and directly responsible to the people, since it is the people themselves who must pay those taxes out of their holdings of property."

              "The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management." --Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816. ME 15:36

              "A right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings." --Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Samuel Dupont de Nemours, 1816. ME 14:490

              "[We in America entertain] a due sense of our equal right to... the acquisitions of our own industry." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:320

              "He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force." --Thomas Jefferson to Edward Bancroft, 1788. ME 19:41

              "That, on the principle of a communion of property, small societies may exist in habits of virtue, order, industry, and peace, and consequently in a state of as much happiness as Heaven has been pleased to deal out to imperfect humanity, I can readily conceive, and indeed, have seen its proofs in various small societies which have been constituted on that principle. But I do not feel authorized to conclude from these that an extended society, like that of the United States or of an individual State, could be governed happily on the same principle." --Thomas Jefferson to Cornelius Camden Blatchly, 1822. ME 15:399

              Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government: Property Rights

              •  ...are secondary. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                And Franklin persuaded Jefferson to substitute "the pursuit of happiness" for "property" in the Decl. of Ind.


                Beyond that, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are intrinsic properties of the human organism itself, whereas property is external to the organism.

                The core "natural and inalenable rights" are the codification of these intrinsic properties.  


                Every living organism, from the moment of its independent existence, seeks to preserve its own life as far as it is capable of doing so.  


                Free will is hardwired in the very physics of the neurons in the brain, as an outcome of the mechanism of consciousness hypothesized by Hameroff ("orchestrated objective-reduction") and supported by Maye ("evidence of voluntary behavior in fruit flies").  As per Maye, it doesn't even take a particularly complex brain to demonstrate free will.  

                Pursuit of happiness:

                Approach/avoidance behavior toward pleasurable and painful stimuli respectively, can be observed in organisms as simple as planaria. Pleasure and pain are the subjective feedback mechanisms for conditions that are beneficial and harmful respectively.  

                In contrast, property:

                Is something that you have rather than something that you are.  The right to have property is an outgrowth of the three core rights, and arises from the legal relations between humans; but it is not a characteristic of the organism itself.  

                But notice this:  "... the equal right of every citizen in his person and property..."   Equality of the right to property has been de-facto thwarted by a social regime in which real access to property, in the sense of land and the capital goods needed to function as a producer rather than merely as a consumer, has lately become limited to a privileged class.  

                And, "He who is permitted by law to have no property of his own can with difficulty conceive that property is founded in anything but force."  What occurs as a result of invidious laws, also occurs as a result of economic forces that have become as compelling as law and as arbitrary as the divine right of kings.  The juxtaposition of the outcomes of the bailouts and foreclosures make this point clear.  

                So if we wish to speak of an equal right to property, the necessary corollary is that access to land and capital goods must become truly universal, a right rather than a privilege mediated by degrees of wealth that become inaccessible for greater numbers of citizens over time.  This no doubt gets into philosophical debate territory far beyond the scope of this diary; except to say that the fundamental ideas must be discussed openly before we head out into space and produce some kind of mercantilist feudal society.

            •  Not at all (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              lets consider the allocation of risk - This is a major issue, we are facing right now - not when we get to the moon, but right now.  What sort of insurance is going to be required for space tourists?  How do we ensure the industry is growing, while at the same time is doing its best to ensure safety?  Is the responsibility of spaceflight participents their own, or is it the company that is operating the spacecraft?  

              These are issues we face right now, and there are SOME laws in place that deal with this, but not all.  2 examples of this - The Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004, The Virginia Space Liability and Immunity Act.  This is legislation and laws that have to be addressed NOW.  Believe me, allocation of risk, and liability must be addressed in the near term, and some of it has, although not ALL of it.  

              Let us also consider the contractual relationship - ITAR falls into this, arguably to a point, and there have been billions, probably even trillions of bytes wasted on ITAR reform.  

              Finally, the issue of property rights - Here, I agree with Bill, to a point - the presumptive establishment of a legal ownership framework by the US alone won't help us develop space.  There must be an understanding among, at least a bare minimum, the major players within the space-going countries, before we have a resolution to the issue of space property rights.  

              That said, I also think we can start working on this now, in the sense of setting up an international working group, within something like the International Court system, or maybe within the UN itself, whose purpose is to actively consider the issue of property rights.  And there are actions that can be taken right now - consider for example, the people who sell deeds for land on the moon - how about a class action suit agianst said person, for attempting to defraud customers, or something like that?  I've heard it being discussed, but I don't know if anything came of it.  

              Finally, to you point about principles - the problem is that principles must be enforceable.  Or rather, the consequences must be enforceable.  That is the underlying concept of law - principles with enforceable consequences.  Otherwise, you end up with things that everyone says is great, but no one follows.  Therefore, what must be discussed is Space Law, and part of that is of course, property rights.  

              What we want to avoid is a space equivalent to the Andrew Jackson quote

              John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!

              •  here's the central problem. (0+ / 0-)

                We want to create incentives for private sector space development.  No sane person would dispute the value of that.  

                However, if we're not careful, what we end up creating instead is a system that is such a huge potential pot of gold that it attracts the worst kinds of sociopaths to fight tooth and nail to get in and dominate the system.

                If you don't know what a sociopath really is, "you'd better find out".  Keyword search "antisocial personality disorder" and read.  Key examples:  Cheney, Madoff, and Tom DeLay.  Other examples: the weasels who crashed the financial industry and bailed out with big enough fortunes that they never have to work another day in their lives.  Some of them even had the ballz to ask Congress if they could use taxpayer bailout dollars for their obscene bonuses, and some had the ballz to just not ask and do it anyway.  

                Various deregulatory moves, and the removal of progressive taxation, have created that result in the economy at-large: an economy dominated by and lately destroyed by people who are master manipulators, liars, and charmers with knives in their belts.  

                If we translate that paradigm: inadequate regulation (and I have a ferocous libertarian streak, so for me the term "regulation" generally leaves a nasty taste in my mouth) and huge financial incentives: to space, we are effectively creating a situation that will lead to enormous abuses, precisely because they occur "so far away."

                For example, let's say I have a space mining colony.  Now I'm taking my last load of valuable minerals out of there.  Do I really want to pay for the cost of transporting those workers off site and back to Earth or some other expensive gravity well?   Hell no.  So I arrange for a "regrettable accident" that blasts the colony to smithereens, and insurance pays off the widows and their kids.  And then I fold up the company, and another one arises shortly thereafter, with ads touting the glamours of working in space.  Meanwhile, Congress and the Interplanetary Bureau of Investigation can investigate all they like, but the evidence has long since scattered across the vast blackness.  

                As for enforcement, the first step is prevention: if you don't want rats, don't leave cheese lying around unprotected.  Regulation of the industry itself, and of the permissible levels of financial incentives, is an obvious place to start.  Perhaps do this on a "utility" model, with a lower but safe level of return on investment.

                The second step is strict criminal liability for management, including prison terms.  We need to do this one correctly on Earth before we're really ready to go into space.  We've just seen a Democratic Congress and the Bush-controlled Justice Department each neglect obligations to go after wrongdoing right up to the level of torture, and we've just seen a trillion dollars put in the hands of players in the banking industry who should have been sitting at the defense table in criminal courtrooms.  This is hardly cause for confidence.

                Today we have "too big to fail" and with the enormous economic potential of space, tomorrow we may have "too big for any legal system to contain."  After all, what's one little blue planet and its laws, compared to the entire solar system?

                The race to commercialize space is like the race of a couple of hormone-addled college kids to get their clothes off, hop in the sack, and do the proverbial deed.  The incentive of what awaits at the finish line causes them to throw caution to the wind and not even take the time to put a condom on.

                We need to develop the ethical and other philosophical principles for a truly sane, humane, and sustainable society in space, before we gallop in with a gold rush mentality.  

                Otherwise we may turn out to be the forerunners of the kind of cruel, rapacious galactic empire that we read about in fiction.    

        •  Good for you Vlad. :) nt (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
    •  that would be a far sight better than... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FerrisValyn, NellaSelim, FarWestGirl

      ...US policy being driven by ancient myths.  Been there, done that, eight years are enough.  

      As for "science fiction," do you ever watch TV broadcasts that are transmitted by satellite?  The entire concept of communications satellites was first suggested in science fiction.  

      How'bout put your money where your mouth is, and unplug from all media that are delivered in whole or in part by satellite?

      Policy as such needs to be driven by science: the best available facts, and the best available theories.  But don't think for a minute that scientists and engineers don't dream wild dreams.  As an engineer I can tell you that we do, and that those wild dreams translate to practical realities on the ground, that improve the quality of life in real and measurable ways.  Bell's vision of every person having the ability to speak with anyone else across the world.... Tesla's dreams of universally-available AC electricity lifting burdens from our shoulders and the darkness from our homes... the Wright brothers' wild idea that humans could fly... Turing's idea of machines that changed their function according to sets of instructions (you're typing on one)...

      ...or to get as basic as shit, the vision of Col. George Waring, of cities that were clean and healthy as their sewage was safely conveyed in pipes beneath the streets to central treatment facilities.  I've read Waring's papers, and he was certainly a dreamer and a visionary, in the days when knee-high boots were not a fashion statement but a necessity for going out in city streets typically 12 - 18 inches deep in horse manure.  

      Ultimately, the dreams and visions, hopes and wishes, of thousands more who concieve of humanity sustainably at peace with nature as we learn to provide for our own needs without ravaging our home planet.  

      One way or another, for better or for worse, future we envision is the future we build.  

    •  Scrooge much? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Who that has read Asimov, Clarke, or Herbert could fail to be driven by them?  

      Freedom is in the fight.

      by Troubadour on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 08:34:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Smart and well-stated. Good work. (4+ / 0-)

    "It's like we weren't made for this world, But I wouldn't really want to meet someone who was." --Of Montreal

    by andydoubtless on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:23:34 PM PST

  •  For me, the only definition of spacefaring that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NellaSelim, FarWestGirl, Vladislaw

    truly matters is the ability of our species to safely and routinely conceive and bear children at multiple celestial locations.

    These other things will be necessary to become spacefaring however when all is said and done, its about the children. ;-)

    "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

    by Bill White on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 07:38:02 PM PST

    •  heh, it's all about sex:-) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bill White

      Not to worry about that one, humans will always find a way to multiply like mice.  That's the root cause of what's killing our home planet right now.  

      But one thing about doing the deed in space: when there's no "up" or "down," the "missionary position" and all it implies will become immediately obsolete!


      Seriously though, one thing we have got to be careful about, is not ending up in the position of the early Judeo-Christian (in the historic sense) peoples' dilemma of assuring reproductive success in a hostile environment by exercising fanatical social control over every sexual act.  

      We need to be sure that we don't end up with a puritanical space culture where, at some future point on some planet or another, every sex act has to at least entail the possibility of pregnancy.

      In any case, by the time we have a permanent colony on Mars, we'll have the option of growing babies in beakers.  

  •  I've been thinking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with peak oil(peak everything), the collapse of the ecosystem, etc... we really need space colonies. But what if we've already squandered enough natural resources to foil our chances of even successfully colonizing the moon. Kill for thrill.

    I want to create my own culture, I don't want to be entertained. - Lawrence Lessig (-7.25/-5.54)

    by barz9 on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 08:45:51 PM PST

    •  the sustainability benefits... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barz9, FarWestGirl, Vladislaw

      of going into space are enormous.  Ferris in particular talks about orbital solar, and also about space-based manufacturing that will relieve Earth of certain types of hazardous industrial processes.  

      Interestingly enough, the Moon has the resources to build much of what we need up there.  Lunar soil for example contains so much oxygen in various chemical compounds, that it could supply all the O2 needed for habitation, and H2 for fuel, and other stuff... I'm weak on chemistry but have heard this explained a number of times including by a friend who's smarter than I and who isn't involved with the space program.

      Here's another subtle benefit of going into space:  All the Earthlings who believe in limitless growth will have a place to do just that, while those of us who believe in steady-state sustainability will be in a better position to do that on Earth.  In fact I think this could be the major cultural effect of a serious move into space, and would have profound implications going forward.   (Hey Ferris, Vlad, et. al.:  what do y'all think of this item?)

      •  great ideas (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But how do planet bound hunter gatherer farmers artists defend against space based uber capitalists. Lord of the Flies syndrome is rather inherent to human nature. Boys with big toys have always scoffed at and abused farmer. Sorry if this isn't quite coherent;)

        I want to create my own culture, I don't want to be entertained. - Lawrence Lessig (-7.25/-5.54)

        by barz9 on Tue Jan 13, 2009 at 09:56:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  see my items under "property" and "law" here (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          If the founding of space law is based on property, contract, and risk management, and if that becomes the set of founding principles for spacefaring society, then we on Earth lose, and the majority of "we" who eventually live in space also lose.  

          If the founding of space law is based on first principles such as liberty and equality, we have a decent chance.  

          The thing we don't want to do is to replicate in space the worst of the social arrangements on Earth, whereby predators and parasites gain every advantage.  

          •  so you believe it should be like the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            treaty of the seas?

            fair and equal use?

            Example: your company spends 100 billion dollars scraping off the top 10 feet of regolith off an ancient volcano on the moon. You locate the tube and start digging down and discover gemstone deposits. now you would not have any proprietary rights or ownership rights i could jump in the hole and start digging next to you?

            •  carts and horses. (0+ / 0-)

              First we have to establish founding principles.  See my posting that goes into "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

              Having done that, next come property relations.  

              I think it would be interesting to "do the experiment" whereby a number of diverse economic models operate in different locations, to see what's possible.  With the infinite horizon of space, this should be simple enough to set up.  


              Counterexample to your example:  

              You see an ad for "jobs near Jupiter," and sign up, lured by the promise of life in space and high-tech employment.  Ten years later you arrive, bearing the rather large debt of the voyage.  Then you discover that you will be working as a virtual slave in a mining colony, excavating gemstone deposits and being kept in debt servitude so you can never leave.  

              And those who threaten to organize the workers, are shown the airlock, to make an example of them.  The videos of their lightly-clothed bodies flailing desperately in the weightless vaccuum outside, and spewing out their guts as their blood boils like water on a stove, while they suffocate and turn a frightful shade of purple... those videos are circulated just to be sure no one ever gets that idea ever again.

              The news only reaches Earth in the form of scant rumors, but the weekly emails from people to their families, saying they are "having a wonderful time," put those rumors to rest, except among those of us who tend a bit toward paranoia...

              What, after all, is to stop the corporations from doing that?   Surely you know about Abrahamoff and the Marianas and Sai Pan, and the importation of women on de-facto one way visas to slave away in Dickensian satanic mills with sexual slavery for desert.  What didn't stop those owners from doing that with their property, won't stop tomorrow's equivalents from doing likewise.  

              And as the movie once said, "in space, no one can hear you scream."  

              •  One safeguard shall be the ability of any (0+ / 0-)

                one person to inflict catastrophic damage on the facility. For example, I've read that the prisoners forced to build V-1s and V-2s for the Nazis found clever ways to sabotage the equipment, by placing small rocks where they shouldn't be or filing off parts that weren't supposed to be filed off, then  concealing the sabotage.

                Also, slaves are generally unproductive in a technological environment and keeping people alive "out there" shall be very expensive.

                It would be better if people were not as you describe however there are practical limitations even if moral limits are ineffectual.

                "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

                by Bill White on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 08:19:42 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  and yet there was also the stuff.... (0+ / 0-)

                  Abrahmoff was involved with.  Those people didn't sabotage much or otherwise resist as far as I know.  And the people at the Nazi slave camps at least had the consolation of knowing that there was a full-scale war on, and that there were others on the outside fighting the Nazis as well.  Whereas "in space, no one can hear you scream" and if it's all about commerce, by & large no one cares.  

                  The thing is to prevent the situation from ever arising in the first place, and the cornerstone of that is a system of law that among other things does not allow private entities to set up feudal domains.  

                  Start from first principles:  liberty and equality, human rights and civil rights, and civil society rather than fiefdoms.  The present focus on property first, is backassward.  

                  •  How do you enforce principles? NT (0+ / 0-)


                    •  start here... (0+ / 0-)

                      How do you enforce any set of laws or agreements?   Imperfectly at first, as we have seen in the US, but better over time.

                      Start here...

                      A lawful and freely-elected government on each long-term human settlement in space.  Either a) a settlement is part of an existing government or international agency, or b) a settlement is an independent political entity with its own elected government.  

                      A constitution and bill of rights for each independent settlement, subject to a minimum set of standards as per universal declarations of human rights, etc.

                      International and interplanetary law requiring free access to communications by all persons in a settlement, with privacy assured, to enable reporting of egregious conditions.  Also an absolute right to leave, and an absolute right to sanctuary.  Also specific laws such as forbidding indentured servitude, child labor, and so on.  

                      Inspections by international/interplanetary agencies to assure compliance, and including private interviews with any person at any given settlement.  

                      Sanctions, up to & including military sanctions against egregious violators.

                      Where things get interesting is when we're dealing with interstellar distances where lightspeed communication may take decades to reach another inhabited planet.  That's a much bigger topic for another day, or at least for when I get back to desk (I'm about to go field for @ 6 - 8 hours).  

                      Ferris, if you're seriously interested in pursuing these topics with the goal of creating policy documents or something along those lines, I'm there, 100%, and I've thought this stuff through in detail.  In which case point me to your email address and I'll write and we can get started.  

          •  John Locke, quick and dirty from Google answers (0+ / 0-)

            One aspect of space exploration I love is the necessity of re-arguing all those Enlightenment authors we debated in college but figured would never matter in the "real" world.

            Who owns (should own?) the Moon?

            Heh! That shall require reference to Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Karl Marx, Adam Smith, George Orwell and many others, including non-Western philosophers . . .

            Anyway, here is John Locke in a bite sized nutshell:

            Chapter 5, Sec. 26. "God, who hath given the world to men in common,hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience."

            Locke used a labor theory to make the bridge from common to private property. Man is able to call property "private" meaning man has exclusive use and disposal rights, by using his labor.

            Chapter 5 Sec. 27. "Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

            How do we keep it? You get to keep the fruits of your labor as long as you follow the basic rules, you do not waste anything, i.e. and there is enough left in common for others. (the last phrase of the
            above quote). Quick and dirty interpretation, no wasting or hording.

            How would we lose it? You would lose the fruits of your labor if you went against the above two clauses, waste and leaving enough for others. so, for example, Locke believed that you could not go to the apple orchard and pick all the apples for all the trees for yourself because there would be no possible way for you to eat all the apples,
            they would go to waste. You would also not leave enough for others. However, there is a caveat. Locke believed you could go into the apple
            business and gather more apples that you could possibly eat and then exchange them with others for goods and/or money.

            One reason I favor starting with lunar LOX extraction from ordinary regolith rather than scarce cold trap deposits is that the entire Moon is covered with oxidized material and there is plenty more for others to set up their own LOX extraction facilities.

            "Seeing our planet as a whole, enables one to see our planet as a whole" - Tad Daley

            by Bill White on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 08:15:23 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  BTW, nice quote from Lessig. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Bill White

          In general: Be a producer, not a consumer.  

      •  response (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        "All the Earthlings who believe in limitless growth will have a place to do just that, while those of us who believe in steady-state sustainability will be in a better position to do that on Earth.  In fact I think this could be the major cultural effect of a serious move into space, and would have profound implications going forward."

        it would be dependant on infant surviablity rates in off world environments.

        •  yes, and... (0+ / 0-)

          Once we get a planet terraformed, and establish agriculture or something equivalent for producing food, people will be free to multiply like little mice if they so choose.  And the economic growth rates on those planets will look like China in recent years: double digits.  

          Once a given planet's civilization approaches the "mature" stage where it is reaching its limits to growth, the game goes into another iteration where the growthers migrate to some other planet that has just been terraformed.  

          Think in terms of "pioneers," who do the initial setup & terraforming, "growthers" who are the dominant culture during the development stage, and "sustainers" or "conservers" who become the dominant culture when the planet reaches maturity.  

          After the conservers take over, economic & population growth on a planet stops, except for offworld migration; and the steady-state economy, having met its peoples' needs, turns toward a focus on basic scientific discovery and cultural creativity.

          Monetized trade is pointless in an interstellar civilization due to the time lags of negotiating trade at light speed.  The back-and-forth of negotiating deals at the financial level would delay the actual spread of knowledge until it became worthless.  Therefore progress occurs far more rapidly by simply broadcasting on an open-source model, such that each planet can make use of what it chooses in order to better itself in whatever way.  

          In the long run what we have is a spreading network of planets that are trading primarily in knowledge and cultural goods/services, on the basis of reciprocity or the open-source model where everyone contributes and everyone gains.  

          Or we keep multiplying like mice here on Earth, consuming like locusts, and pushing our planet past the tipping point that leads to a near-extinction event and a return to life in the caves.  At which point our descendents will say that we "held the stars in our hands" but "let them fall" and thereby condemned the future to a fiery death when the Sun explodes.  

        •  And a lot of other logistical factors (0+ / 0-)

          Kim Stanley Robinson goes into this in the "Mars Trilogy."

          Essentially, Earth wants to unload as much of its bloated population onto the sparsely populated Mars as it can, but the native Martians resist, arguing that the disparity is so great that Mars will be absolutely inundated with people without Earth making a serious dent in its population (of course, in the trilogy, the problem is exasperated by a cure for death, making much of both worlds functionally immortal).

          If God hadn't wanted us to fly, he wouldn't have given us Bernoulli's Principle.

          by HamillianActor on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 05:12:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Re: Property rights. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If I could go to the Moon in my lifetime, I'd happily go as property.  

    Freedom is in the fight.

    by Troubadour on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 08:20:46 AM PST

    •  How big should I get the suitcase then? :D NT (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      •  I meant indentured servitude. (0+ / 0-)

        What do you think - would you dig ditches in the regolith and sleep on a cot in a stifling balloon hab with dozens of people for a few years as the cost of going to the Moon?

        Freedom is in the fight.

        by Troubadour on Wed Jan 14, 2009 at 10:34:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No. (0+ / 0-)

          You're probably just joking, but I would like to unequivocally state that slavery of any kind should never leave the surface of this planet.  If that is what it takes, we shouldn't go.  But I do not believe that it will come to that.

          Society in space should be like Heinlein's It's Great to Be Back!, not his Logic of Empire.

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