My name is Aaron Oesterle (although I post under the pseudonym Ferris Valyn – a story for another day). I am a life-long space activist. When I was very young, I saw a show about outer space and it moved me to the point that I KNEW I had to dedicate my life to settling space. I attended Space Camp and Space Academy, studied to become an Aerospace Engineer at the University of Michigan and now work for a space policy consulting firm. Earlier this week I cheered on Newt’s space speech. Yes, the moon colony speech.
While everybody was focused on the moonbase aspect, there were other parts of the speech that were actually a longer reach, but more powerful – the idea of multiple flights to space a day – not once every few weeks. Also discussed was the idea of an explosion of commercial activity in Earth orbit, including things like microgravity manufacturing. This has huge positive economic and scientific implications, but is quite a leap from where we are today.
However, there is evidence of the huge potential of space –companies like Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, XCOR and Virgin Galactic are all developing cheap suborbital spacecraft: and scientific institutions like SouthWest Research Institute are buying rides on those vehicles. Companies like SpaceX, United Launch Alliance, Sierra Nevada Corp and Boeingdeveloping/operating rockets & spacecraft to take astronauts all the way into orbit. Bigelow Aerospace is building private space stations and firms like NanoRacks and Astrogenetix are using in-space platforms for research and manufacturing. And these aren’t far out ideas – many already have vehicles under construction, undergoing final testing or are actively selling products.
There is real reason to believe that we can get the price of spaceflight, even flights to the moon, down substantially, if we are intelligent in how we deploy our resources. A recent NASA study suggests that a return to the moon could be done for half the cost of earlier estimates, but only if we give up pork-laden projects and use new technologies and industries.
And with these investments comes huge benefits – these are companies in America, creating jobs, in, yes, America. Space is already worth $100-200 Billion annually (although the NASA budget is only $18 Billion). Now, imagine how many jobs would be created with an explosion of space industries. Industries including, but not limited to, microgravity R&D, private human spaceflight, tourism, satellite repair/servicing/disposal/recycling, educational science. Imagine if you have 5-10 space stations operating in orbit, doing research and possibly even manufacturing. Imagine the number of technicians and engineers needed if we have a fleet of space vehicles, going all the time, and doing so for public AND private reasons. These aren’t impossible dreams or dreams that need Star Trek or dreams that require more money than Iraq. These are dreams that are possible, that will put people to work in high-tech high paying jobs, and help our economy grow.
That is a really powerful vision that I share, a message I can believe in despite the messenger. What this is about ultimately, isn’t a moonbase – it’s about space settlement. It’s about using space to help people, help the earth and grow humanity to become better. Yes, believe it – we can use space to help people right now.
Now, let me compare it to Romney’s “plan” for space. He said he would’ve fired the person who came to him, suggesting that they spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build a moonbase. Then, the very next day, THE VERY NEXT DAY, Romney’s campaign announced that the people advising him on space are almost entirely the same people who developed George Bush’s plan to go back to the moon. Just to return – to repeat Apollo – not to build a base. And that would have cost… wait for it…about $200 billion. So Romney has hired people who have done the exact thing he says he’d fire people for (arguably even worse). Yes, the Romney Reversal can be done in 24 hours, and if your head is spinning, don’t worry… you didn’t magically teleport into orbit.
So what will Romney actually do? Romney promises to set up a committee of military, civilian and commercial space leaders to determine what America should do in space. (BTW, if you want to see a speech about space that says practically nothing - Romney's was it)
Guess what Gov. Romney? We did that already – it was called the Augustine Committee (well, actually it was called the Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee). It was this committee that decided that Bush’s moon plan wasn’t affordable or sustainable. It included:
- Norm Augustine - retired Chairman & CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp
- Dr. Wanda Austin - President & CEO of the Aerospace Corp
- Bohdan Bejmuk - Chair of the Constellation Program Standing Review, and former Manager of Boeing Space Shuttle & Sea Launch
- Dr. Leroy Chiao - Former Astronaut and ISS Commander
- Dr. Chris Chyba - Professor of Astrophysical Science and International Affairs at Princeton
- Dr. Edward Crawley - Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT
- Jeff Greason - Co-founder & CEO of XCOR Aerospace
- Dr. Charles Kennel - Chair of the National Academies Space Studies Board
- Retired General Lester Lyles - Former Air Force Vice Chief of Staff,
- Dr. Sally Ride - First American Woman in Space.
Yea, that’s a rather prestigious group, and I suggest you readtheir final report (and if you have time, check out the archives of the meetings themselves). In effect, Governor Romney wants to do what President Obama already did (and I’ll bet he will staff it with people he’s said he would’ve fired).
President Obama rightly choose not to retain Dr. Griffin, and his Constellation cronies, despite active lobbying (including an email campaign started by Griffin’s wife) to retain not just Constellation, but Griffin and the core Constellation Team. In effect, President Obama fired the people Romney said he would fire. Now these same people are working for… Mitt Romney.
President Obama embraced the vision the Augustine Committee’s vision of space settlement. It’s why we have programs like Commercial Crew that are building the vehicles that will carry both NASA astronauts and private astronauts, to space. It’s why NASA has created the Office of the Chief Technologist which is trying to invest in new, more cost-effective technologies, so we can go to places like the Moon and Mars without breaking the bank. It’s why we have programs like Commercial Suborbital Research to allow scientists and students to fly experiments on these new reusable suborbital rockets.
Real progress in space doesn’t require a huge budget increase, despite Romney’s complaint. It requires vision and a willingness to reform NASA.
And this is why I’ve endorsed Newt. And, its why, come November, I’ll be voting to re-elect President Obama.
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