Becoming Spacefarers: Rescuing the American Space Program


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What is a spacefaring society, and how do we get there from here? In addressing these questions, this book examines how partisanship and parochialism have hindered American space dreams in recent years, and demonstrates that the lessons we should have learned from U.S. history can put us on a more productive path. Instead of being stuck in Stage One space development (space as a training ground), we can move more quickly to Stage Two (Earth-Moon space as an industrial park) and eventually to Stage Three (human activity across the solar system). The keys to achieving this are routine proximity operations throughout Earth-Moon space, sustainable space infrastructure, and a new level of collaboration between the public and private sectors – not adventure trips to distant solar system destinations.

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Becoming Spacefarers: Rescuing the American Space Program

  1. 1. Becoming Spacefarers Rescuing America’s Space Program published June 2012 by Xlibris Corporation James A. Vedda, Ph.D.
  2. 2. Motivations for writing this book • U.S. space efforts are at a turning point – We’ve been saying this for decades, but this time it’s really true • We’re doing a poor job of strategic decision-making at a critical time – Partisanship and parochialism distract us from long-term vision and the national interest – We’re still focusing human spaceflight efforts on destinations rather than capabilities and knowledge – We’re still arguing about the roles of the public and private sectors, and the extent of collaboration between them • The best approach to space development is receiving little attention
  3. 3. Reviews• In Becoming Spacefarers: Rescuing America’s Space Program, James A. Vedda, one of the most innovative space policy analysts working today, offers a no-nonsense account of the current doldrums of spaceflight in the United States and how the nation might deal with it. He makes clear that we are in a crisis, that business as usual will not enable us to overcome it, and that it is not sufficient to rest on past successes or to accept the present partisanship and parochialism. In addition to diagnosing the problems, Vedda also offers useful and in some cases provocative prescriptions for how Americans might untie the Gordian knot of current approaches to spaceflight. – Dr. Roger Launius, senior curator of space history at the National Air & Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution• Vedda offers us a well-written and well-argued case, drawing on his expert knowledge of the history of spaceflight and his vision for the future. If you want to understand what’s wrong with U.S. space policy and how to fix it – read this book! – Dr. James Clay Moltz, professor at the Naval Postgraduate School and author of The Politics of Space Security and Asia’s Space Race• Jim Vedda gives the reader a no-nonsense review of the on-going, albeit twisted trajectory of U.S. space program prowess. This is a well-reasoned and expertly researched book that is unique in its scope and issues tackled. For even the most hardened space cadet, my advice is to lift up your helmet visor and take a clear, close read about good, bad, and muddled decision-making in the past – but more importantly, what’s needed to create a sustainable space agenda for the future. – Leonard David,’s Insider Columnist
  4. 4. Main themes• Three stages of space development: training ground, industrial park in Earth-Moon space, and settlement & expansion in the solar system• Goals for the current era: reach stage two by building space infrastructure that creates economic value, societal benefits, and new knowledge• Parallel development of multiple space infrastructure elements through strong public- private collaboration• Making space activity mainstream: it needs to move beyond being a political pawn and a jobs program
  5. 5. Chapter 1 Defining “spacefaring”• Today, a “spacefaring society” is one that has some combination of capabilities in launch, scientific research, and space manufacturing - In the long run, the definition is a moving target that may come to include space settlement and wide-ranging commercial activity• Societal acceptance of space applications has become widespread, but human space activity is still elite, exotic, futuristic• Next steps in space require expansion and diversification of enduring infrastructure - As on Earth, that means a greater role for the private sector as investors and operators
  6. 6. Chapter 2Resistance, doubt, and other realities• Some discredit the notion that we’ll go any farther than we already have; others worry that space advances will bring more harm than good• Proponents counter with an array of space visions, but many of these are premature or try to skip important stepsSpace is a high-cost, high-risk, long-term activity, so it’s more important to get it right than to do it fast.
  7. 7. Chapter 3 Hope, change, and the space program• The Obama administration immediately directed its attention to the space program – More than expected, given the problems inherited in the economy, overseas conflict, etc. – Initiated interagency study; appointed the Augustine Committee; chose a new NASA administrator• Shuttle flights would end during first term, severely impacting the space workforce – Current path was unsustainable, particularly in human spaceflight• Augustine Committee report (October 2009) was not well received by Congress
  8. 8. Chapter 4 2010: The year we made conflict• Obama’s FY2011 budget proposal set a new path – Right direction, but inadequate vision and strategy – Lunar program (Constellation) cancelled, causing a firestorm of protest• Everyone with a stake in the status quo objected loudly; opposition politicians cast the proposal in apocalyptic terms• Many applauded the new direction, but partisan resistance and parochial interests forced substantial rollbacks in Obama’s plan
  9. 9. Chapters 5 & 6 2011-12: The battle continues…• Members of Congress maneuvered for advantage over the White House and each other – Partisan attacks on the president – Parochial schemes sought to gain (or prevent loss of) jobs in particular states and congressional districts• Space on the presidential campaign trail – Generally not an issue, but the Republican primary in Florida brought brief exposure (mostly ridicule) – Newt Gingrich advocated a lunar base; the media and his opponents (especially Mitt Romney) belittled his ideas• Contrary to conventional wisdom, the space program has always been buffeted by partisanship – but it’s become more visible recently – However, parochialism can trump political ideology when jobs are the hottest issue on the domestic agenda – Example: Many Republicans have favored big government space programs over commercial space development because they have NASA activity in their state or district
  10. 10. Chapter 7 History tells us…• Big infrastructure projects always involve collaboration between the public and private sectors – and space will be no different – Common requirements: research, risk management, large up-front investment, need for an anchor customer (at least initially), public safety, product quality• Analogies in U.S. transportation industries over the past two centuries – Many lessons to be learned from development, operation, and regulation of maritime, rail, road, and aviation industries
  11. 11. Chapters 8 & 9 Space must become mainstream• The Apollo approach is no longer valid, but what do we replace it with? – Destination-driven crash programs are unsustainable and lack a lasting purpose – Difficult to find the right balance • Specific missions demand specific solutions, providing technical focus and deadlines, but hindering broad, lasting utility • Investment in a broad range of technologies can have multiple applications, but lacks focus and milestones• Government investment in research must continue, but operations need to move out of NASA as soon as possible• Infrastructure should aim to serve multiple purposes over an extended period, not isolated missions
  12. 12. Chapter 10 The Next Great Thing• To become mainstream, space activities must develop functionality similar to terrestrial activities – Repair, refuel, and reposition orbiting assets – Clean up debris hazards – Protect against natural hazards (e.g., radiation, incoming asteroids) – Use nearby (i.e., extraterrestrial) materials and energy sources• Key to all of this is proximity operations – Today’s space applications simply send electrons back and forth for communications, navigation, and remote sensing – There are options for addressing treaty and security concerns
  13. 13. Chapters 11 & 12 Big questions and strategic roadmaps• Agreement on the “big questions” for human spaceflight has been more elusive than for space science – But it boils down to: Can humans “live off the land” in space, and can they consistently create value that justifies the cost and risk?• National and global efforts are formulating technical and mission roadmaps (e.g., NASA, National Research Council, and the Global Exploration Roadmap) – Some promising approaches, but still some outdated destination- driven ideas – Global effort proposes two alternatives, both ultimately aimed at Mars: Moon-Next and Asteroid-Next Proposed alternative: Cislunar-Next, which would address the “big questions” close to home and buildthe fundamentals for the exploration and development to follow.
  14. 14. Find Becoming Spacefarers at:• Amazon olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=• Barnes & Noble spacefarers-james-a- vedda/1111766868?ean=9781477130919