Choice, Not Fate: A Sustainable Future in Space


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A book that challenges the traditional paradigm in which space goals are equated with destinations. It suggests that spaceflight programs should target advanced capabilities that bring direct benefits to Earth and enable exploration and development of the solar system. Space activities are examined in the context of today's globalized world while paying homage to the work of noted space futurists. Historical examples and current political processes illustrate the forces that perpetuate short-term thinking and highlight the need for incentives to promote long-term thinking. The book presents a revised rationale for spaceflight directly tied to societal needs and ambitions, with a greater role for the commercial sector.

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Choice, Not Fate: A Sustainable Future in Space

  1. 1. Choice, Not FateShaping a Sustainable Future in the Space Age published December 2009 by Xlibris Corporation James A. Vedda, Ph.D.
  2. 2. Motivations for writing this book Frustration with: – Short-term thinking – Inability to get beyond Apollo-era approach • Destination-driven goal setting for human spaceflight • R&D constrained by resource demands of operations – Counterproductive arguments about the roles of government vs. private sector Desire to develop ideas for: – Spaceflight rationales for the 21st century – Capabilities-driven goal setting – Cross-sector collaboration – Space contributions to global solutions
  3. 3. Chapter 1 The role of space in a new era• Cold War: national security tool, source of national prestige, driver of technological advancement• Globalization: includes all of the above, plus contributor to economic security and other solutions to global problems - Trends: stresses on the economy, the environment, security, energy, population - Space must be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, both in reality and in perception Need to define a new identity for a new era
  4. 4. Chapter 2Brief history of our search for a vision• Review of noted Cold War era space futurists – Arthur C. Clarke, Gerard K. O’Neill, Dandridge Cole, Herman Kahn – Why have things turned out differently from what most experts predicted and most advocates expected?• U.S. government expert panels on vision and strategy have been largely unsuccessful – Too much emphasis on “what” and “how to” and not enough on “why” and “why now” – Overreliance on the Von Braun Moon-Mars paradigm
  5. 5. Chapter 3 Pervasiveness of short-term thinking• Driven by: – Election cycles: the 2-year/4-year quest to gain or retain political power – Budget cycles: R&D and infrastructure programs are not well served by annual budgeting – News cycles: speed and brevity trump accuracy and depth; rumor and perception become reality• Effects are evident in the presidency, the Congress, the federal bureaucracy, and elsewhere These cycles undermine long-term strategic planning and public education in complex public policy areas
  6. 6. Chapter 4 Finding hope in the bureaucracy• Storehouse of knowledge, experience, and institutional memory• Affected by all the cycles mentioned previously, creating an environment with disincentives to innovation and forward- thinking• Opinions vary on which activities should or should not be government responsibilities• NASA’s evolving role – From leader to enabler – Away from operational responsibilities
  7. 7. Chapter 5 The emergence of astropreneurs• Space commerce is huge – or is it? – Compared to other types of commerce, not so much – But direct revenues don’t tell the whole story of its influence• Space entrepreneurialism: the story so far – Has its roots in post-Apollo space advocacy – Resistant to the traditional approaches to space development• Mixed results from the U.S. government mandate to “encourage and facilitate” space commerce• Undermined by hype from both public and private sectors – Shuttle era: Microgravity materials processing – Today: Space tourism? – Tomorrow: Lunar mining? Solar power satellites?• Can the public and private sectors form lasting, productive collaborations that take the long-term view?
  8. 8. Chapter 6 Be Careful What You Wish For• Wise choices can be elusive, even after extensive consideration – Results can be disappointing and costly – Examples from European colonization to space shuttle and space station• Thought experiments: life extension and teleportation – At first glance, universally beneficial; upon further examination, many negative consequences• Unintended consequences: space export control – Example of failure to examine long-term implications
  9. 9. Chapter 7 Reconsidering spaceflight rationales• Currently, there’s no strategic imperative for space exploration and development – Space is no longer seen in the U.S. as a fast-paced, cutting- edge pursuit• As primary rationales, human destiny, national prestige, science, technology spin-offs, and inspiration of youth are no longer sufficient• Expansive views of economic development and survival should be the new primary rationales• The answer to the “Why spaceflight?” question should be: – Because that’s where the resources are – Because it will save our butts
  10. 10. Chapter 7Pitching space rationales to the right levelMaslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – Aiming for self-actualization while ignoring lower levels results in public support that’s a mile wide but an inch deep – Evidence in polling data (Gallup, Harris) – People still perceive Earth as a closed system and space as a luxury activity
  11. 11. Chapter 8Taking a century perspective• The role of space in global solutions – 20th century assumptions on key global parameters (e.g., population demographics, resource availability, climate, political and economic alliances) may no longer be valid• How can space help ensure access to the core resources – clean energy and fresh water? – Advanced resource monitoring from space – Solar power satellites to feed the utility grid and high-volume users such as electric high-speed trains and water desalination plants • Today’s planning scenarios should reach at least to mid-century It’s time for space technology to save the planet(again) using a multidisciplinary, farsighted approach.
  12. 12. Chapter 9Making a commitment to the future• Need to purge false dichotomies: humans or robots; exploration or development; low Earth orbit or the Moon and beyond• The quest for capabilities and knowledge should determine the destinations, not the other way around• Space capabilities should be aligned with high-priority national imperatives• Planning process needs to recognize that infrastructure elements have very long life cycles – a few decades Stop worrying about whether all of our spaceflight dreams will be fulfilled within our lifetime – it’s not about Me in Space!
  13. 13. Main themes• Long-term thinking – at least to mid- century• Mutually supportive exploration and development strategies built around national needs and aspirations• Capabilities-driven planning (NOT destination-driven)• Potential for space efforts to contribute to global solutions
  14. 14. Find Choice, Not Fate at:• Amazon Sustainable/dp/1450013473/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie= UTF8&qid=1340742526&sr=1- 1&keywords=james+vedda• Barnes & Noble james-a-vedda/1019548328?ean=9781450013475