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The SUCCESS mythology in space development

The damage of the ‘success’ mythology is apparent when you look at the disasters in the space program. Challenger – when engineers were protesting they shouldn’t launch, and the managers overruled them. And Columbia, when engineers brought up the concept that maybe some damage had been done by the piece of foam, and they should look at it more closely, but managers overruled them, because no damage had happened before.

My favorite quote about farming is: 20 percent of farming is agriculture, and 80 percent is fixing stuff that got broke.


We have overlooked the fixing stuff aspect of space travel for too long. And now the environment around Earth is littered with dangerous debris. We expect the Space Station to be continuously developing new technologies, and making progress in science – but I bet most of their time and effort goes to cleaning things, and fixing stuff that got broke.


I’ve taken my family on many vacation trips and have never had a tire blow out on one, but still, when I’m getting ready to return home, I circle the car and the trailer, and kick the tires, and shake the trailer hitch to see if they are still good. Maybe I’m paranoid, but after I leave the campsite, I stop a few feet down the road and then go back for a last search of the campsite to see if we have left anything.


We need to develop an expectation that stuff will break, and need cleaning, and expect to fix it and clean it up, look for breakage and messes, expect to spend 80% of the time fixing them, and STILL be productive.

Economic Development Zones on the Moon

Every organism, organization, or system must bring in more resources and energy than they use up in their daily activities in order to thrive and grow.

In order for exploration and development of the Moon and other space resources to be promoted, exploration and development needs to be rewarded. The explorers must bring in more resources and energy from the Moon than they use up in their exploration.

I propose a UN Resolution to set up
on the Moon, to create the legal environment where every nation on Earth can create and profit from Economic Development Zones on the Moon.

The dinosaurs became extinct because they did not have a space program. – Larry Niven, quoted by Arthur Clarke.

The Current legal regime for developing Space resources is based on several treaties under the auspices of the UN. They embody a philosophy that “The resources in Space are the heritage of all mankind.”
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967…….

and the Moon Treaty of 1982…….
Which prohibit any country from claiming sovereignty over any territory on a “Celestial Body”
And set up practically confiscatory practices if any organization actually managed to produce a profit. No private corporation will or should invest anything under those legal circumstances.

As Budgets constrict and resources get scarce on Earth, government space programs will get cut back.
But we – the Earth – need a robust Space Program.
Nations of Earth can share the resources of the Moon immediately if they realize they can apportion Moon property equitably through the Agency of the UN. Every nation on Earth has an equal stake in Space development. No nation should be left behind. There are approximately 200 nation-states as current members of the UN, with possible new ones developing in the the future. If we reserve 300 areas for National land grants of 20,000 square kilometers on the Moon, there would be plenty of space for every nation to have a non-transferable, perpetual stake of Moon property.
The UN could also apportion to each nation a similar 20,000 square kilometer area, for a national economic development land grant. These lands would be available for the nation to sell, lease, apportion to their citizens, or administer in whatever way they see fit.

No nation would be left behind, and no nation could be locked out of space development.

In such a way, every nation could realize immediate funds from the sale of Moon property.

Click on the following link to open a PowerPoint presentation with further explanations.

Economic Development Zones on the Moon

SuitLocks – A bad Idea

The Advanced Design group has been parading models of “Suit Locks” lately. The concept is that the outside of the suit stays outside and connects to the outside of the habitat or rover, and the life support pack unhooks, and the astronaut climbs into and out of the suit through the backpack opening. They are hooked up to the latest fancy Moon Rover. and seem to be their preferred solution to isolating the Moon Dust from getting inside any Moon habitat.
I think they are a bad idea.
If I recall, the Apollo 17 astronauts spent the last couple of days on the Moon patching, repairing, and trying to clean their space suits. It wasn’t that they were bad suits – it is just that the Lunar environment is holy terror on suits. The dust is more abrasive than anything we have ever experienced on Earth, it is finer, and corrosive and holds a wicked static charge, so it creeps over every surface, and is un-weathered, so all the edges are sharp as razor blades. And that goes for the edges and surfaces of boulders and rocks that pepper the surface of the Moon, too. A suit – no matter how good – will get cut, abraded, infiltrated, and worn out on a weekly, if not daily, basis. Astronauts will fall down, rub up against the rocks and boulders, kneel on the Lunar surface, and tear up their gloves on equipment and Lunar rocks on a regular basis. The piece of equipment MOST OFTEN in contact with, and abused by the Lunar surface and dust, will be the space suit. And it will be the article that will be in need of repair most often.
Yet, if it is hung on the outside of the habitat or rover – how will it be brought back in, to be repaired or cleaned?
If you tear your glove and it means your life in order to get isolated inside the habitat, how willing will you be to trust your life that the mating surfaces between the habitat and the back of the suit lock will be clean and airtight on the first try?
And heaven forbid if your suit leg gets torn or a patch blows out. Will your buddies let you hook up to the habitat with a torn open hole in the fabric that separates them from vacuum?
Because there is no provision for bringing the suit inside and repairing and cleaning it, when it does need to be brought in, there will be that much more opportunity for dust to get everywhere and clog up and abrade things it shouldn’t.
Personally, I think that the design of the rover and the habitat should start with the activity they will be spending the most time doing, and that will be more important to their lives than anything else they do on a regular basis. They should start with the workshop where they will have to clean and repair their space suits, and design everything around that.

Space development is URGENT. The Clock is ticking.

I have been hit by the blast wave from an exploding meteorite. The universe keeps throwing rocks at us. The dinosaurs died out because they did not have a robust space program. They were busy “being who they were…”

All other natural disasters we prepare for – hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, droughts – none of them have destroyed 99.9 percent of all life on Earth. We know that asteroids have done that to the Earth at least twice – and it is almost certain that it will happen again. Shooting stars occur nightly. Meteorites that actually hit the ground happen every couple of months. Bolides – exploding meteorites that are witnessed by and video-taped by thousands of people, happen every couple of years. NORAD tracks bolides that produce explosions on the scale of a multi-kiloton nuclear explosion, at least once a month. The Tunguska explosion in 1908 destroyed forests in Siberia over several thousand square miles. And I have personally been hit by the blast wave from an exploding meteorite that blew up near Williamsport, Pennsylvania in June of 2001. Google it.

The universe keeps throwing rocks at us, and we need to develop a robust space program in order to have any chance at being able to deal with it when it happens again. Because it will happen again.

1. There may very well be resources able to be developed in space or on the Moon. But we haven’t looked. Oh, yes, we have done research, and there are zillions of projects that have tried to make microgravity augmented materials – foam steel, plant extracts, pharmaceuticals, etc. But we have done them under the constraints of a government program that is totally susceptible to political pressures, and can
be suspended for 3 years essentially at whim. No commercial enterprise can afford to operate under those conditions. If they offer foam steel for sale, they need to have a consistent supplier, and that is just not going to happen as long as the transportation and the facility are being operated by governments that determine priorities by political necessity, and not customer service. Also, the treaties we have signed, and that the UN assumes have legal force, have bargained away the ability of a commercial organization to own property on the Moon, or an asteroid, and require them to make a copy of their facility and donate it to the UN, and donate all their research to the UN, and donate their profits from any facility on the Moon to the UN, so that the UN can distribute the profits (the “resources of space are the heritage of all mankind”) to the developing nations of the Earth. Now do you understand why no commercial organization is interested in developing mining on the Moon? Or why there hasn’t been any commercial space development in the last 40 years other than communication satellites?

One thing often overlooked about the great voyages of discovery undertaken by the Europeans, was that every expedition had to make a profit. Queen Isabella didn’t loan Columbus the money out of altruism. She looked him in the eye and said: “You bring back my ships filled with loot, or I will find you.” We have legally turned off the engine that drives development of resources in space. It can be changed. Currently 160 of the nations of the UN have signed the Moon Treaty, which embodies the communist notion that “The resources of space are the heritage of all mankind” and includes the description of the confiscatory communistic practices that prevent any organization from making a profit from developing resources on the Moon. They hope that if anybody does make a profit, they would be able to share it, and they wouldn’t have to put any effort or resources of their own into the effort. They also fear that if somebody actually does develop resources in space, that they would be left behind. So they are satisfied to keep things as they are.

The nations of the UN might change their minds if they can be shown a way to: A. get a foothold in space without having to put forward any of their own effort or resources, and B. Profit from space development right now, rather than waiting for any other agency to develop a facility.

When the US wanted to develop railroads across the continent, they gave away land – which they could do very cheaply – in exchange for development. I think we could do the same for the Moon. There is a lot of property on the Moon. You could give every country on Earth 20,000 square kilometers on the Moon as an irrevocable heritage, so no country would be left behind, and you could also give every country on Earth an additional 20,000 square kilometers as a land grant that they could sell, or barter or lease or whatever, in order to allow them to profit from their holdings right now.

And there would still be about a third of the Moon available for reserves, parks, historical preserves around Apollo or Lunakhod landing sites and so on. War would be averted, countries wouldn’t be left behind. And people that wanted to develop Moon resources would be allowed to, and allowed to profit from them.

The clock is ticking. We could be hit by a large asteroid at any moment. We are also going to run out of fossil fuels in the next century or so. People will no longer support what they regard as frivolous space exploration for no return, when they are not able to keep their homes heated in the winter, or cooled in the summer. Just because you and I like to explore, doesn’t mean other people won’t resent supporting us while we do so. My ex-wife, for instance, had no use for simply exploring, and resented the time and resources I spent when I went for a weekend camping trip to explore.

The clock is ticking. We do not have an extended period of time to do this exploring. Some people think that as fossil fuels get more scarce, that people will conserve, and stretch out the time before we run out. I don’t think so. As the final trees were being cut down on Easter Island, the competing political groups
raced each other to get to use the last tree to move and raise the last biggest statue. It wasn’t until the last one was cut down, that quarrying and carving the stone statues were abandoned, leaving many partly quarried and partly carved statues in the stage they were in when the work was abandoned. Easter Islanders did what they did, because that is the kind of people they were… Today, the big oil companies are madly chasing oil field developments around the globe, in some of the most remote areas, in order to bring in the next big oil field.

The clock is ticking, and we don’t have an infinite amount of time to explore,
before people and governments will begin demanding that space exploration bring in more resources and energy than it uses up. And we have signed treaties that make it impossible for commercial organizations to do the research that might bring in a profit. Maybe Moon dust is a pre-eminent agricultural soil additive, and also destroys insect pests. Currently, we will never do the research to know.

One of the reasons that New World foods spread so rapidly through Europe, was that the expeditions traded whatever they could, to fill the ships to take back to Europe, and when they returned, the marketing managers of the exploration companies had to sell what had been brought back. The natives smoke this stuff called tobacco, or eat these potato things, or squash, or make a mash of the fermented coco bean stuff – can people be convinced to buy it? For a hundred and fifty years or so, the economy of North America depended largely on beaver pelts. Who ever would have thought that, ahead of time?

Only through robust economic development can we hope to have enough assets in space to divert an incoming asteroid the next time one comes at us. And we currently have bargained away the engine that could possibly develop a robust space economy.

Esoteric research is all well and good, and I dearly love to find out new things about the universe and how it works. But every organism, organization, or system MUST bring in more resources and energy than it uses up in its activities, in order to thrive and grow. If it isn’t, it will starve and die. In your own life, you
recognize this. You wouldn’t be able to continue doing your work if they didn’t pay you, and if there was no hope of ever getting paid. You need to bring in more resources and energy from your work, in order to continue. If you weren’t bringing in any money from your work, you would have to go elsewhere and do something else.

We must establish a basis for commercial development of the resources of space, and be able to bring in more resources and energy from space, than we use up in our activities in space.

Or the next Tunguska-sized meteorite may very well take out New York City, or Moscow, or Shanghai.

Space station Skin Design

In order to develop a large space station most rapidly, and minimize the amount astronauts will have to spend working in space suits, the easiest solution would be to loft a large inflatable balloon type membrane into orbit, and work inside that, once it hardens from an internal coating of epoxy. It would still be fragile, somebody could easily stick a shoe through it, and would have to be augmented with strips of fabric and epoxy. Aluminized kapton has been recommended.

Assuming the inflated hardened shell of aluminized kapton will not shatter when in space, and allows astronauts inside it to apply fabric and epoxy to augment it, the best arrangement will be to have two shells about 3 meters apart, and be able to work between them. Brunelleschi used that technique to build his famous dome. Two issues arise – 1. how do workers travel between the shells, and navigate from place to place, and 2. how are things anchored to the shells?
For the first question, the shells are thin membranes, and would be incredibly hard to use to push or pull against, so there would need to be another structure or scaffolding developed between the shells for workers to use for travel. Such a structure would be needed eventually for structural stability and integrity anyway, so it would be logical to develop it as the next step in helping to augment the shell membranes. The simplest solution I can think of would be to set up a pvc pipe extruder in the interior of the station, and begin extruding 3/4″ pvc pipe to extend in great circles throughout the space between the shells to serve as scaffolding of a sort.
The raw materials could be shipped up in bulk, with little wasted space, and fill out any extra mass in any shipment to the station, and just continually crank out great circle sections of extruded pvc pipe. Or whatever the plastic is that works as a good cosmic ray shield. There is probably a most efficient sequence of placement of these great circles that would provide the most structural benefit soonest, not just sequences of meridians.
As soon as the first great circle scaffold pipe is in place, workers could scoot along it, applying strips of fabric and epoxy to both shells.
Attaching things to the shells would be much easier once the fabric and epoxy layer covers everything, so that a flap or strap could simply be sewn onto the fabric already in place, and then a layer of epoxy laid on, coating the joint.
Perhaps instead of the outer memebrane being just one layer of aluminized kapton, the outer membrane needs to be a sandwich of a couple of layers, one of which is already a fabric. Or, there needs to be a third delivery of an internal skin of fabric and epoxy that gets inflated and bonded to the outer skin before the inner shell gets inflated.

Plan for a Mars Mission

An alternate proposal for a manned Mars Mission

The minimum Mars Mission is going to require:

1. A group of people
2. Travel for 8 1/2 months from earth to Mars through space
3. Taking all the supplies and materials necessary for the trip there, the 10 month stay on Mars and the 8 1/2 month trip back.
4. Arriving at Mars with their health, physical strength, mental and emotional faculties intact and ready to set up a base on an alien planet.

One small vehicle, staffed with a crew of 6 or 7 seems too frail of a mission to survive. One accident to the spacecraft, or one disease or accident to one of the crew could spell disaster, and there would be no turning back, no hope of rescue, and no hope of re-supply or rehabilitation.

Three larger ships carrying crews of 30 to 50 staff each would provide a robust mission, capable of weathering multiple accidents, diseases or mishaps. Three separate vehicles could support each other in times of need, provide replacement or flexible staffing, and carry enough supplies and materials and protections for the extended journey a mission to Mars would require.

Three ships with substantial crews would also be able to leave a robust landing party on the surface with a base large enough and substantial enough to survive while two of the ships and a majority of the crew returned to Earth.

Even the most cursory considerations must reveal that a quick mission to Mars that plants the flag, collects a few rocks and studies the geology in some depth, will not be worth the effort if that is all that is accomplished. The eventual goal must be to begin the development of a permanent base on Mars. A quick grab and dash mission that leaves a few cramped worn out huts and some equipment would set the eventual effort back. For approximately twice the cost of a grab and dash mission, a robust mission consisting of 3 ships and 130 crew could leave a base that could function autonomously during any intervening interval before the next mission and take great strides at developing the materials and infrastructure necessary for a permanent base on Mars.

The Coming Meteorite

Sometime soon, in the next decade or two, the earth will be hit by a sizeable meteorite that does significant damage. Something on the order of the Tungaska hit. The Tungaska meteorite hit thousands of miles from any population center, and devastated ten thousand square miles of Siberian wilderness.
The next big meteorite may very well hit a major world city, like Rome, or Moscow, or Los Angeles.
The religious fanatics will say it is God’s will, and reason that it was because of some evil people did.
The scientists will say it came too fast and was too big and we couldn’t do anything about it.
The politicians will blame each other and ask for more taxes to help the relief effort.

They will all be wrong.

If you see an accident on its way to happening, and do nothing to stop it, it is NOT God’s will that it happens.
If you see that something bad might happen, and do nothing to stop it, when it happens, it wasn’t because it was too fast, or too big.
If you know you should prepare to protect yourself, and do nothing to prepare, it is not the fault of the politicians.

We KNOW that meteorites hit the earth all the time. Meteor Crater in Arizona is evidence. The meteorite that exploded over Tungaska, Siberia in 1908 is evidence. The meteorite that exploded over northern Pennsylvania in 2001 is evidence. On any dark night you can go out and watch shooting stars – those are evidence that the earth gets hit from rocks from outer space all the time. We know this.

We KNOW we can do something about it now to prepare. We KNOW we can get orbiting space stations to interdict large meteorites. We KNOW this. We know it now. We know it is NOT God’s will. We know it is not too soon or too late. We know that if enough of us tell the politicians to do something about it, they will.

This isn’t something that we can set aside and hope that after it happens, we will learn how to do it better next time. The other disasters we prepare for – fire, volcanoes, Tsunamis, war, famine, storms, they haven’t ever destroyed 99% of all things living on earth. We know that large meteorite strikes on the earth have done so, probably several times.

I imagine the dinosaurs kept thinking: you know, maybe we should do something about those rocks that keep falling from the sky. And they never did.

We know we should do something about this. We should do something. Before its too late.

Learn the Names of the Areas of the Moon Right NOW

Map of the Moon
You need to remember two things in order to remember the parts of the Moon. 1. …The almost circular blotch over towards the right side, is the Sea of Crises. and 2. The guy that named the parts of the Moon had WAY too much fun…Full Moon

Blank Moon Map

To remember the names of the areas of the Moon, you have to remember two things. One: In the upper right hand area of the Moon, there is an almost perfectly circular spot which is called the Sea of Crises. Because of the way the Moon goes around the Earth, sometimes the spot is closer to the top of the Moon, and sometimes it is closer to the right side, but it is almost perfectly circular, and somewhat off by itself. OK, remember that? Sea of Crises. The second thing you have to remember in order to remember the names of the major areas, is that whoever named them in the first place had WAY TOO MUCH FUN while naming them, and is probably chortling in his grave to this day.

Named Moon Map

OK, remember - Over to the right - The Sea of Crises. Next to it, is the Sea of Serenity. Below that is the Sea of Tranquility(where the first Apollo landed). Below that is the Sea of Nectar (which is probably a euphemism for alcohol), which is next to the Sea of Fertility (hmmm. Serenity, Tranquility, alcohol, and Fertility...) which is probably why they are all near the Sea of Crises. Next, all the way on the left side of the Moon, opposite the Sea of Crises, is the Sea of Moisture, which is next to the Sea of Clouds, which are below the Ocean of Storms, and after you have storms, you have the Sea of Rain, which is below the Sea of Cold. The Sea of Cold is sort of the long blotch that is at the North Pole of the Moon, and if you remember that the North Pole on Earth is pretty cold, then it makes sense that the Sea at the North Pole of the Moon would be cold, too. Then, in the middle of the face of the man in the Moon, are two small blotches which are sinuses, and the Sea of vapors. I told you that whoever named these things had a sense of humor.

Blank Moon Map

OK, you try it. The North Pole of the Moon would have a Sea of Cold. Over on the right would be an almost perfectly circular spot called the Sea of Crises. Directly in towards the center of the Moon is an area called the Sea of Tranquility, and below that, is the Sea of Nectar (or alcohol), next to the Sea of Fertility. Serenity, Tranquility, Nectar and Fertility gets us back to the Sea of Crises for some reason. Probably humor. The Latin name Humorum is the name of the blotch directly across the face of the Moon from the Sea of Crises, and means the Sea of Moisture, which is next to the Sea of Clouds, and the two of them are below the Ocean of Storms, which is next to the Sea of Rain, and after the Rain, is the Cold. Then, in the middle of the face of the Man in the Moon, are two sinuses, and the Sea of Vapors. I tell you, the guy had a seriously warped sense of humor.

Kick Start Moon Development

Ownership of Property on the Moon

Our current situation virtually prohibits anyone owning any property on the Moon, practically ensuring that no one will invest any resources into developing any of the resources or energy available on the Moon. Countries have, and possibly will continue to devote huge sums in exploring the Moon, but there are legal, international and philosophical issues with actually developing anything on the Moon.

Efforts to leave the Moon undeveloped, or require that any resources developed on the Moon be “shared with all mankind” will guarantee that the Moon will stay forever undeveloped, and there will never be anything to be shared.

The countries that are working on developing expeditions to the Moon calculate that their military might can counter any effort by the UN to confiscate or “share” resources they might develop on the Moon, and countries that are not working on developing any expeditions are hoping that the democratic workings of the UN might force any nation that does develop resources to share them, without having to put any effort or resources into developing the Moon on their own.

There is a legitimate fear on the part of non-developing countries, that there needs to be some mechanism to share access to the Moon, or those countries might be left behind once mankind does expand into space.

There is a fairly simple way to accommodate all these narratives: Grant ownership of different parcels of the Moon to all nations in perpetuity, with no ability to trade or sell their ownership rights. They can, however, lease or rent out their parcels, in part or in toto, or they can lease or rent out different rights, such as mineral rights.

The Moon has been mapped in detail, and it would be simple to parcel out tracts of 10,000 or 20,000 square kilometers, and have a first, second and third request-plus-a-lottery system for allocating the parcels equitably. A country could choose to have a 10,000 square kilometer parcel on the nearside, plus a 10,000 square kilometer parcel on the farside, or they could choose to have just one large 20,000 square kilometer parcel. In this way, every nation would have a secure foothold in space, with no need to worry about losing out on space access while others are developing.
To encourage private commercial development, large portions of the Moon would be left available for a “Homesteading” type of claim-and-develop practice, with the UN administering Moon Property sales of parcels of 500 to 5,000 square kilometers, at a nominal fee of $1,000.00 USD per square kilometer, and the requirement that governmental or private organizations interested in acquiring Moon property purchase the property at a nominal fcost from the UN (proceeds to be shared among all mankind), and also that they prove their capability to responsibly develop Moon resources, by landing equipment on their holding within 1 year and begin developing a facility on their property within 5 years of the purchase.

Every organism, organization, or system must bring in more resources and energy than it uses up in its daily activities, in order to thrive and grow.

In our human activities, we keep track of that energy and resources in terms of money, and the extra we bring in is called profit. In order to continue with an activity, we need to find value from it, commensurate with the effort and resources that we use up engaging in the activity.

Without industry, however, towns die. The world is littered with ghost towns that were left behind when the local industry no longer supported the people living in the town. People are typically not interested in developing someone else’s property, yet they will stay awake nights thinking about how to develop their own property.

This plan would allow immediate accumulation of proceeds from property sales for sharing with the countries of the world, encourage commercial development of the resources and energy available on the Moon, while preserving space access for countries that might otherwise be left out of space access, if space access were left uncontrolled or unregulated.

Previous landing sites of both Soviet spacecraft, and United States spacecraft should definitely be preserved as Mankind Heritage sites, along with ample property around them to shield and preserve them, perhaps 500 square kilometers around each landing site. As China is preparing to launch Lunar probes in the near future, as a gesture of goodwill perhaps the UN could allow 3 or 4 China landing sites for whenever and wherever they might land, if they do not encroach on previous landing sites, or previously registered “Homesteads.”

It has been observed that important or more desirable locations on the Moon should be reserved for those countries that are now active in developing space, such as the US, Russia, Japan, France, and so on. This effort is misguided, in that doing so would convince the non-developing nations that the process was unfair, and we intend to promote development of the Moon’s resources, we would want to encourage every nation to participate. Also, if a non-developing nation were to acquire a highly desirable location through this system, yet not be in a position, or have the inclination to develop the resources, the result would be that they would lease their property to organizations or countries that were in a position to develop the property. They would benefit without having to invest their effort, and those who wanted to develop the Moon’s resources would be able to.

The remaining clauses of the original Outer Space Treaty of 1967 would be fully applicable, including no further national appropriation, no weapons of mass destruction, use and development only for peaceful purposes, States liable for damage caused by their space objects, and avoiding harmful contamination of space and celestial bodies.

If we don’t develop the resources on the Moon, mankind could be stuck on this rock forever. Development of the Moon is imperative.

weightless bathroom procedures

A couple of ideas that I haven’t heard discussed elsewhere:

1. This is actually the real advantage of artificial gravity.  But it doesn’t have to be a 200 foot diameter rotating structure.  Playground merry-go-rounds routinely achieve 3 and 4 gees, and are only 8 or 9 feet across.  Place a toilet on the periphery of one of them, and spin it up to 1 or 2 gees, and voila, mission accomplished.

2. Helper.

A tyrant, intending to cause hardship to a country he had conquered, decreed that all eating utensils – forks, spoons, knives, must have 2 foot long handles.  He expected this would cause difficulty for the people trying to eat, and demoralize them.  When he toured the country later, the people were happier and seemed to be having even more fun.  They were feeding each other.

This seems gross in regards to bathroom procedures, but it should be considered.  We have nurses that help infants,  people with medical conditions, and the infirm – they help others with their bathroom procedures.  Weightlessness might be considered as a condition that necessitates helpers.

Economic development of Moon

In thinking about economic development for the world’s countries, I think we overlook the possibility that developing space resources might also spur development in some of the lesser developed countries.

I am interested in the development of outer space. It seems to me that our current treaties impede development in space and they need to be changed.

Every organism, organization, or system needs to bring in more resources and energy from its activities, than it expends, in order to thrive and grow. It is becoming clear that private property ownership is the key to developing resources. You need to be able to trust that you will recover your investment, with a substantial increase, in order to invest resources and energy into developing property. A farmer doesn’t plant one kernel of corn in order to receive just one kernel at harvest time.  A farmer hopes to get two or three cobs of corn, with 20 to 30 rows of 20 to 30 kernels in each row, for an increase of 800 to 2700 percent. To promote development of space, we need to provide legal and political assurance that people who invest time and effort into that development will be able to reap the return they work for, if it is at all possible.

Our current treaties practically prevent any interested parties from developing resources in space.  With the agreement that no nation can claim sovereignty of any celestial object, the ownership of any property on the Moon or any asteroids is in legal limbo, and with the language of the Moon treaty echoing that the resources in space are the common heritage of all mankind and must be shared equally, and further, with the language demanding the development of an international UN regime to control and share any resources that someone might develop, any private or commercial development is doomed from the start.  Any corporation seeing those legal and political hurdles rightfully does not spend a dime trying to develop any resources in space.

While you or I would not spend any of our time or money developing our neighbor’s garden if we realized we would never be able to share in what would grow, we would stay up nights trying to figure out ways to develop our own property to realize more benefits from property we own.

One thing that most people don’t recognize, is that the European voyages of discovery all had to make a profit, besides exploring.  When Queen Isabella loaned Columbus the money for his voyage, she also told him to bring her ships back filled with loot, or she would find him.  Thus, when his men tried to convince him to turn back in the middle of the Atlantic, he couldn’t.  He had to land somewhere in order to load his ships with something to take back to Spain and sell and pay off his debts. The British East India Company, the Dutch East India Company, Henry Hudson – all of them had to make a profit from their voyages.  One of the reasons that so many of the New World foods and commodities spread through Europe so quickly: Corn, beans, potatoes, squash, tobacco, chocolate, Beaver pelts, etc, is that the explorers had to bring back stuff and get Europeans to buy it as fast as possible, to pay their debts.

Whereas our current treaties effectively stifle development, I think I know a way to both share the resources in space, and ensure that all countries benefit from space development, and also provide for private development, and assure private returns, which would encourage private commercial exploration and development.

Yes, I understand that the UN is more-or-less a club that is used to mug the United States, and that the nations in the UN are satisfied with the current treaties because they feel they might be entitled to share the rewards if someone does manage to start developing some resources from space, without having to invest anything into developing space themselves.  The space-faring nations feel that they can ignore this, because with their military might, and the backing of the other space-faring nations, any of them that begins developing resources or energy from space can tell the rest of the nations of the UN to go pound sand, but private commercial organizations can’t. The non-space-faring nations are not interested in spending time or resources on space themselves, but are afraid that if someone else begins to develop resources in space, they will be left behind forever.

I suggest that we cede the ownership of the Moon to the UN, with the mandate to grant every nation on earth a non-transferable landhold on the Moon in perpetuity.  Possibly, give them both a holding on the near side, and one on the far side.  We can grant every nation on Earth 50,000 square kilometers on the Moon, and still leave more than 60 percent of the Moon available for a “homesteading” type of land ownership, requiring a landing and proof of capability test, plus nominal payment, for private development and purchase at a nominal fee, say 1,000 US per square mile, in lots of 500 to 1,000 square miles. Or something similar in hectares.

The Moon has been extensively mapped, and it would be simple to divide it up into appropriate plots.  Countries could apply for the plot or plots of their choice, and if there were no conflicts with others wanting the same plot, it would be granted.  If there were a conflict with several countries wanting the same plot for their grant, the plot could be allocated by lot.  It would be easy enough to ask for first, second and third choices, and so on. There is plenty of Moon property to go around. There should probably be reserves set aside of 1,000 square kilometers around the equipment and landing sites of the probes and landers already on the Moon as World Heritage sites.

When I have mentioned this regime to others, many of them have thought that some of the richer areas, such as the craters on the South Pole, or areas rich in HE3 should be reserved for the space-faring nations as, perhaps, they have more right to them.  But I think this would be a mistake.  If other nations felt they would not be able to get a fair stake in Moon property, they would not be willing to change the current situation, and, if they did get a prime piece of Moon estate from this, what would happen? If they didn’t want to spend the time and effort themselves to develop their property, they could lease their property – or the different rights to their property – out to someone that would.  They would immediately profit and their children would become interested in helping develop space.  I don’t see a downside to that.

The downside I see, is from having the current confusing and nebulous situation, where property rights themselves are in contention. No commercial development is taking place because the legal and political situation is too poisonous, and not very much governmental development is taking place because the costs are too high and the resources can always be used for something closer to home.

Mankind has been in this situation before. In the late 1300s, China had the world’s largest navy. They had ships 400 feet long and 120 feet wide.  They had explored around Australia, India, and most of Africa.  Their exploration voyages were politically motivated, with exchanges of ambassadors, and treaties, and because the Emperor liked exploration. The old Emperor died, and his son took over, and because of internal politics, and the Mongolians attacking from the north, the fleet was recalled and left to rot in the Yellow river.  Soon, it became illegal to build ships longer than about 70 feet long, or to sail more than 10 miles from China’s shores.

It was left for the European voyages of discovery almost a century later to explore all the way around the world, and develop a worldwide economy.  And those, as I’ve already noted, all had to make an immediate economic profit, or in other words, bring in more resources and energy than they expended in their activities.

For another example, when the United States wanted to develop an intercontinental railroad, they didn’t form a government agency, which then designed and built the infrastructure and the equipment, and the railroads.  They instead gave away something they had plenty of – land – to the railroad companies, and the railroad companies built the infrastructure, the equipment, and the railroads.  The railroad companies also spent lots of time and effort trying different ways to develop the land they had been given along the railroad. And, lo and behold, America became developed. Yes, some men became robber barons, and some men made way more than they were entitled to, and there was extensive fraud and abuse.  But the infrastructure was developed, and railroads were built, and the country was developed rather better than nothing. All based on government-promoted commercial development based around giving away lots of land that didn’t cost them very much to begin with. We again are faced with the opportunity to trade land which we have plenty of, for development which we want.

Some of the people I’ve mentioned this to have responded that the UN doesn’t have any facility to be a land ownership office.  I contend that the UN, in the office of the ITU, is currently very much in the property rights sales business.  Countries purchase lease rights for a slot for geosynchronous satellite use, and pay the ITU for them. That slot is a legally defined area of space, with precisely defined usage rights that get bought and sold and recognized internationally. There is no difference between that and real property.

This method would provide clear and internationally recognized ownership rights and demarcations, which at the moment are confused and subject to immense conflict.  It would provide real benefits with all nations on Earth gaining new resources, and their own foothold in space immediately, with no fears of being left behind without access to space forever. Nations would immediately get resources without the need to invest any time, money nor effort into these new resources.  In many, if not most cases, the benefits would be more substantial than any they might hope to reap under the current regimen. It would also provide clear benefits for those who would wish to pursue active development of the resources of the Moon.

Asteroids would be amenable to the same process.  There should probably be some of the major and more interesting asteroids reserved as World Heritage sites – Ceres, Eros, and a dozen others for instance, but the remainder could be allocated between nations that wanted them, and ones that were open for commercial development.

In any case, this would clarify and settle the current confused and contentious situation of property rights on the Moon and asteroids, and open up development for any who truly want to develop the Moon.

I think this merits careful consideration, because our current situation impedes space development and World understanding, rather than promoting it.


Price of a Tourist Ticket to Space

Cost of a Tourist ticket to Space
We’ve all studied the real number system in math class, and most of us have studied the imaginary numbers, and the irrational numbers. Today, I’d like to talk about almost-real numbers.

The reported cost of a tourist to ISS is in the neighborhood of 35
million dollars. The reported cost of a suborbital ticket for Virgin
Galactic flights is somewhere around $200,000. I think both of those
are incredibly low. The cost for a Soyuz launch is something like $150
million dollars, add $100 million dollars for insurance if it were to
be a private commercial operation, and if all three passengers were
paying tourists, they would have to be paying $85 million per ticket
before you get anything to pay for a private orbiting facility, launch of your
orbiting private facility, your ground control team, your ground
control and communications center, and your legal and financing costs.

Off the cuff, I think the cost of a private orbital tourist ticket would need to be near $135 million dollars. There are some advantages – you would be
able to do that every couple of weeks, rather than every five years or
so, and you wouldn’t have the restrictions and international intellectual property
complications that a tourist to the ISS has, but still, 135 million is
way different than 35 million. But you could do it every couple of weeks for folks and organizations with enough money.

That gets a tourist to an orbiting tourist facility. Now, the current paradigm is something similar to a facility like the ISS, in a highly inclined orbit – because orbiting around the equator all the time is boring, and you don’t get to see most of the Earth, and the ISS is constrained to staying in Low Earth Orbit for a number of different reasons. But, if your tourist facility is independent – THERE IS NO REASON IT HAS TO STAY IN LEO.

Consider if the facility were a self-contained structure such as the Excaliber Almaz facility. Famously, once you are in orbit you are half way to anywhere. OK, by itself an Almaz facility is limited to LEO, but the only limitation to sending up a separate booster and docking it to the Almaz is the cost of the booster and the cost of a second launch. The cost of a second launch is once again 250 million dollars, and the cost of a propulsion module based off the Centaur booster would possibly be in the 50 to 100 million dollar range. This would get three tourists to orbit the Moon for a cost of 755 million dollars – or a per ticket price of 252 million dollars. It might be possible to allay part of the cost by having them drop off a small communications satellite once in Lunar orbit, that would then accelerate off and orbit L2 to provide communications to the Moon’s far side.

The costs get really intriguing when you consider that it is possible to rework a Centaur booster to LAND ON AND TAKE OFF FROM the Moon with a 20 tonne payload. That bit of rework might cost 400 million, but at the end of it, you have the capability to send three tourists to land on the Moon for a week at a per ticket cost of 385 million dollars each. And that might be very doable.

Since most of the hardware is already tested, I think I could get it done in 3 years.  Anybody out there want to walk on the Moon in three years? If you and two other organizations pitch in 385 million dollars each, let’s go.

Economic Analysis of Orbiting Space Tourism

Economic analysis of Space Tourism
In analyzing the Orbital Space Tourist Industry, the stark reality is that launch costs dwarf anything else in the income/cost stream. Currently, ignoring the Shuttle, the only game in town is Russian, and a Russian 3 person Soyuz launch is rumored to cost in the neighborhood of 150 million dollars. Add another 100 million dollars for launch insurance, and if all three of the seats are paying customers to your custom orbiting space resort, they already are paying 84 million dollars each, before you get any income to pay for your staff salaries, your development costs, your command/communications center, your orbiting resort facility itself, any maintenance, Re-entry, recovery and disposal costs, and any financing. Add these in, and the cost of a ticket to an orbiting space resort for a week will come to about 140 million dollars. Am I missing anything?


Design is driven by narrative – by the story we tell about what the situation, requirements, circumstances, environment, materials that will be used. The technical specifications are just part of the narrative. The story we tell ourselves about what needs to be designed, how it needs to work, what it needs to do, that drives design.

Exploration and Development of Space

Paul Spudis has a great comment about exploration over at airspace: http://blogs.airspacemag.com/moon/2010/01/25/have-we-forgotten-what-exploration-means
Here is my reply:
Every organism, organization, or system must bring in more resources and energy than it expends, in order to thrive and grow. Exploration needs to contribute to society in order to be sustained. Unfortunately, the US signed the 1967 Space Treaty that essentially prohibits anyone from making a profit from space development, and the de facto acceptance of the wording of the Moon Treaty, that the resources of space are the heritage of all mankind, currently presumes that any profits made by a private commercial enterprise on the Moon belong to the UN, and require that any such enterprise create an exact copy of their facility to give to the UN, along with all their research. Under those circumstances, no private organization would or should spend any resources in developing a Moon based facility.
A farmer doesn’t plant a kernel of corn in order to only get one kernel back. They expect to get at least 3 cobs of corn on each stalk, with about 30 rows of 40 kernels each – or a return of 1200 percent. When Queen Isabella loaned the money to Columbus, she looked him in the eye and told him to bring her ships back filled with loot, or she would find him. So when his men tried to get him to turn back in the middle of the Atlantic, he really couldn’t turn back empty handed. Exploration can not exist as an altruistic fantasy.
NASA, as a government agency, can not take the next step from research and exploration, to development and exploitation. And the current international treaties practically prohibit anyone else from doing so, either.
Russia, China and the US governments aren’t bothered by that, either suspecting that if they do develop a facility on the Moon or an asteroid that produces a return, that their military can tell the rest of the world to pound sand, or ignoring the question entirely, for the same reason. A private commercial facility doesn’t have that ability.
The non-space-faring nations are comfortable with the current situation, expecting that they don’t have to do anything, and if someone else does produce a return with a Moon based facility (or any “celestial body”), the UN will make them share it.
So, what needs to happen, is that something political needs to change, so that all the nations of the world will not be left out of space development, while at the same time providing a rational property ownership regime that allows private (or public, I don’t care) commercial development to reap the returns they can from investing in development.

I propose that we cede legal ownership of the Moon to the UN, with the proviso that every nation on Earth be granted 10,000 square hectares of Moon property in perpetuity, without them having to invest anything, but they can not sell their rights to it. They could lease it to anyone who would want to develop it. The Moon is big enough, each nation could have 10,000 square hectares on the near side, and 10,000 square hectares on the far side. Conflicts of property wanted by several different countries to be decided by lot.

Further, a “World Heritage Site” be declared of 1,000 square hectares around any equipment or probes currently landed on the Moon, to be undisturbed in perpetuity.

Further, the UN agency in charge of this Moon property be instructed to sell (with proceeds going to the UN) remaining property on the Moon in some sort of “Homesteading” type arrangement, at a nominal fee (something like $1,000.00 US per hectare) to any person or organization willing and capable of launching and maintaining a functioning facility on their property on the Moon, in lots not to exceed 5,000 square hectares.

This would protect the interests of the nations of the world, and provide for development of space resources by those interested in doing so.

New Space

Part of my definition of beauty is that the work not be perfectly symmetrical. Michelangelo talked about it also.
The most important question in physics for the past half century has been why the original big bang was not exactly symmetrical – why, when according to all we know and theorize, the big bang should have produced exactly equal amounts of matter and anti-matter, which should have then perfectly annihilated each other, our universe instead produced a slightly unsymmetrical amount of matter. Perhaps the universe is naturally beautiful? As part of its basic definition? I find it curious that something as idiosyncratic as my personal definition of beauty is so intimately connected to the basic question of the origin of the universe.