ISDC 2012 – Jeff Greason and the Implications for Space Policy Advocacy

Last year at ISDC in Huntsville, Jeff Greason gave a rabble-rousing address wherein he maintained that the obvious, but unspoken word in current space policy was “settlement”. Not any specific program, but settlement.

This year in Washington D. C., Jeff made a much more important statement; this time concerning commercial space and how to create a viable settlement.

Thinking about his observations of the scary paradigm shift down which NASA has begun to be dragged kicking and screaming, I am reminded of the politics in Colorado in the 2004 -2006 congressional campaign. There were six or so special interest groups working to select a candidate. But the environmentalists would not support the labor union candidate because his constituents favored mining and harvesting forests. The women’s rights group would not support the environmental candidate because he was anti-abortion. And so it went.

A politically astute gentleman, with considerable means, arrived to discuss the issue with the groups. He pointed out that if any one group withdrew from the coalition, they would lose the election, and the opposing party would elect a representative who was going to vote against each and every program that the respective groups wanted.

He also pointed out that if this program oriented withdrawal of support were repeated state by state, then congress would be controlled by people who would roll back gains that each group had achieved over the years.

On the other hand, if the groups agreed to compromise, to be willing to accept that in Colorado their candidate had to stand for mining and foresting in order to be elected, and they could show other coalitions in other states the same need to compromise and support an underlying need to elect people who supported most of their positions most of the time, then they would control congress and each of their issues stood a good chance of advancing. Although any individual congress critter might vote against an issue to satisfy their local situation, the majority would vote in favor. And finally, if a compromise candidate were truly supported by all, he would contribute a million dollars to the campaign.

Now, in space policy, we have the Moon Society advocating for a Moon program. And we have the Mars Society advocating for a Mars program. We have the Planetary Society. We have the National Space Society. We have the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. We have many groups advocating for their program. And it is easy for the congress critters to ignore us. No one has a very big voice.

What is needed is for all to advocate for the paradigm shift that Jeff discussed. Settlement, no matter where it will be or when it will be, will only be successful if we can migrate each step along the way (to wherever we go) off of the NASA budget and into the commercial sector. And we can only do that if we create the conditions that allow individuals, free people, to own the assets (labor and capital) that not only allow for subsistence, but for excess capacity, for success and failure. It is the excess capacity that will eventually result in wealth and trade.

It is past time for the central planning of all space exploration efforts. We must all be advocating for the chaotic market within which commercial space can succeed. The combined voice will be strong enough to make a difference in the space policy debate.

Dr. C. David Fischer, Jr
Phoenix, Arizona

[Ed. Note: The thoughts expressed here are the author’s, and do not reflect the thoughts or policy of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society nor the National Space Society.]

ISDC 2011 Video Presentations

Presentations from the 2011 NSS International Space Development Conference in Huntsville, Alabama.

Jeff Greason

Jeff Greason, President of XCOR Aerospace. Keynote Address at the Awards Banquet: A Settlement Strategy for NASA. This talk is widely regarded as a major statement in the field of space policy. 42 minute video.

Robert Bigelow

Robert Bigelow, President of Bigelow Aerospace, dedicated to developing next-generation crewed space complexes to revolutionize space commerce and open up the final frontier, and recipient of the 2011 NSS Space Pioneer Award for Space Development. Keynote Address at the Governors’ Gala. 32 minute video.

Owen and Richard Garriott

Owen and Richard Garriott. Father and son astronauts. Owen Garriott spent 60 days aboard Skylab in 1973 and 10 days aboard the Space Shuttle in Spacelab-1 in 1983. His son Richard Garriott is a video game developer and entrepreneur who funded his own 12-day trip flying on Soyuz to the International Space Station in 2008. 42 minute video.

Adam Harris

Adam Harris: SpaceX and the Future. Adam Harris is Vice President for Government Affairs, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). SpaceX President Elon Musk is recipient of the 2011 National Space Society Space Pioneer Award for Business Entrepreneur. 24 minute video.

ISDC Awards

NSS Awards Ceremony: 2011 ISDC Awards Ceremony held at the Wernher von Braun Center in Huntsville, Alabama, May 21, 2011. 43 minute video.

Augustine Commission – 30 July 2009 Session

The 30 July public meeting of the Augustine Commission on The Review of Human Space Flight Plans was fascinating from several points of view.

First, to see some really bright folks working on a really hard problem. Second, to see how individual views had changed since the first public meeting on 17 June.

The session was devoted primarily to the subgroup “Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit” (see the previous NSSPhoenix post here). The chairman of this subgroup is Dr Ed Crawley, first on the left, above.  He introduced the topic.  The charter of the subgroup is to present options for Why we explore, Where and How.  There were a lot of surprises during the two and a half hour presentation.  Of major interest was Crawley’s observation that President Kennedy had changed the American space program from Pay as you Go, to Pay this Decade.  It was to have profound impact on the future of Space Exploration.

Dr Wanda Austin, second from the left above, discussed the Evaluation and Assessment methodology the subgroup would propose for evaluating the options for exploration.  Bo Bejmuk (first from the right) discussed Science at various destinations.  Then things got really interesting.

Jeff Greason (CEO XCOR Aerospace, and second from the right above)) was committed to Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (EELV) at the first meeting on 17 June.  At the 30 July session, he spoke on access to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and beyond.  To get beyond LEO, you need a large Earth Departure Stage (EDS) and a lot of propellant.  Then we got his first surprise.  The next few minutes were devoted to the concept of Propellant Depots (PD).  As Greason noted, this would allow launch and exploration to be decoupled.  This is similar to the “tanker mode” advocated by Werner von Braun before he consented to the Apollo Luner Orbit Rendezvous (LOR) architecture.  Greason noted that had von Braun been successful in his position, Apollo would not have landed on the Moon in 1969, but we likely would have been on Mars by the 1990’s.  The reason is that you can launch a large empty EDS with payload, and fuel it in orbit.  This Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR) architecture requires two launches of smaller and less expensive rockets. The Apollo program was effectively canceled with the elimination of funding for the Saturn V before Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. It was too expensive.

And now, Greason brought forth his second surprise. He suggested there were three classes of launch vehicles in sight: 25 mt (metric tons), 75 mt and 120 mt. The first, 25 mt, is represented by the Delta and Atlas EELV rockets. These he concluded, are “too small”.   The 120 mt class, represented by NASA’s Ares V rocket, is a repetition of the Saturn V problem: it is “too big” and too expensive. The 75 mt class, however, is “just right”. With propellant depots, you could launch an empty EDS with payload weighing 75 mt. Then you would add 375 mt of fuel from the depot. You now have a 450 mt EDS, which would allow you to explore a wide range of destinations in the Solar System. Such a rocket is represented by the Direct Team’s Jupiter Rocket, which was presented to the Augustine Commission at it’s 17 June 2009 meeting.

In future posts, we will discuss the options presented by the subgroup and the summation by Chris Chyba (third from the right): “Destinations are not Goals”.