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It's Not Getting Done: #4

Hardware. By,

Martha Adams

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There's a risk for any organization that it freezes into working at some subtopic and after that, it goes nowhere. For instance, it might degenerate into an organization for mutual social backscratching and classy costly banquets. Here, there's a risk the space settlement organization falls into indefinitely extended planning and research. For this reason, the organization wants people in it whose lives and objectives focus on getting those habs out there now.

Namely, people whose lives are about development models; about hardware to ship off Terra and others will live their lives in it and if someone isn't ready now then they want to set trivia aside and hop to it immediately. This is not a place for party people. A Settlements project requires hard-driving managers who refuse diversion from the work at hand.

Artists may offer such diversion. Any engineering work wants artists. Nicely done artwork and videos that illustrate program objectives as if they are complete through to (successful) reality can immensely help the workers get there. However, art also makes nice entertainment. If you're on vacation, why not sit back and enjoy the pictures? If you're not sure of your engineering, why not sit back and enjoy the pictures?

Which makes good art a risk. The best art is not the hardware it pictures. Sitting back to watch nice pictures won't bring any hardware to reality a minute sooner. The future you want only exists after you build it. The organization pulled together, the money in hand, the Terran industrial base starting to work, the problem is habs, lifespaces and their support systems, and where to put them. The sooner the better, and it's going to be a lot of hardware. Let's think about making hardware.

Each young engineer who begins in the work, passes through a small crisis. The crisis is, to cope with the risk of building the hardware. Plans on paper or in a computer system, are malleable and (relatively) inexpensive. Hardware is commitment and answering to the guys with big money. Not everyone can do it. Thus not all with an engineering education are engineers. As work moves along from the idea of space settlements, to the fact of hardware to be shipped off-Terra, this commitment is one of the big risks along the way.

I wonder if this has something to do with NASA's failure to go anywhere over several decades since Apollo? To do something? ...Interesting, but off-topic.

Today's NASA machinery that so nearly copies the Apollo machinery of fifty years ago, is called "progress." Well, it redevelops some of the knowhow we lost when Apollo was killed. There might be good in that. But it's not serious movement toward building real live space settlements.

Starting to build hardware will be a beginning, not an end. The work can move quickly to a production line and near mass production. Thus the cost of building settlement cores drops. Which calls for each unit that is produced, to be as like as possible to its predecessor and to its next. Which idea in its application tells us, if we're going to do an initial production run of six settlements, they are going to be a lot alike.

I think this example makes my point. We step away from the idea of building many settlements not one, because it's necessary. We step away from the idea our settlements are all different because they go into slightly different places, because they really aren't so very different at all and we need the economy of (as near as we can get to) mass production.


Meanwhile, back in Washington DC. There are a few practical problems. ITAR, the thinking it codifies, the people who think like that. And as history shows, for whatever reason, Washington wants to make wars, not space settlements. Seeds for the next war are visible today. After wars, there's not much money for anything like space settlements. Which leads me to believe, humans in space is not going to grow very much until there are enough humans in space to develop economics not locked to what Washington does.

Which won't develop in a hurry. For now, in the perception of most people, space is NASA. And I cannot believe NASA is going to do space settlements. Their feet are too firmly glued to Terra's surface, and they're going to keep it that way.

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