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Space Settlements Work Groups

A Quick Choice of a Few of These

From the Many Out There. By,

Martha Adams

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'Space settlements' is what Adra is about, and it touches this topic at many points through these pages. This node looks at people, which immediately provokes a mare's nest of questions: which people? Which groups? The easy response, the unthinking response, is "Anybody who can," and "Any group that sounds like fun." But.

But, there must be exceptions from the obvious simple and easy. Who chooses those exceptions? That is, who chooses those exceptions that don't choose themselves? My observations of people thinking about off-Terra settlements (and some of those, of actually going out there to do it) point to a practical difficulty to come:

It is this: that the personal character to make space settlements happen, is different from the personal character needed to go out there and do it.

========= [Government Work] =========

It's easy to believe the first space settlements placed Out There, must be built by the government of some large country. I think that in terms of possibility to build those settlements, America heads the list (or it used to). Because, obviously, a large Government can best access the money, the talent, and the industry to do the job. It can best define and build the social and business structures that work needs. For which reason, one reasonably guesses the natural place to see the first large space settlements, is America.

But that won't happen. Because,

1) Over 50 years, it didn't. The American government has talked reams of speeches about it but in practice, they've failed. The basic test is to do it, and they chose rather, doing wars.

2) Governments generally are inefficient. Numbers I've heard around in panels and discussions make a case that a given project done by Government will cost about X10 a comparable project done by a business organization.

A case in point is the 1989 "90-Day Report," which estimated $450 billion to do a Mars mission. Robert Zubrin responded in 1990 with his "Case for Mars" study which estimated $20 billion for a longer stay on Mars and a beginning settlements program.

3) My third reason is progression risk, a sort of program drift over time. A program starts in one Administration; is managed thru two or three Administrations, and finished by some later Administration. Since each Administration will change the program (see the following quote), it won't be the same program any more at the end. There's a serious risk the program just won't survive at all thru this musical-chairs sequence.

Further, putting settlements into space requires people whose objective is to do it. See my quote at the very top of Adra, from Gary Harris.

Governments (usually) move too slowly to do programs whose ends connect to their starts. The Apollo program, killed by Nixon, succeeded not least because it ran over a short period of time. The programs proposed in Washington in 1989, and since, run over long periods of time. This makes them predictable victims of progression risk.

The "International Space Station," going through its many iterations, could serve as an example.

As I write the Chinese government seems a leading candidate to do space settlements. I believe, however, that over the next decade, not the Chinese nor the American governments will do enough soon enough to appear as major factors in space settlements, despite the large cash and physical resources they can muster as large governments.

Which outlines why I look to private business to get those settlements out into space. If the above is not convincing, then I point to the early space programs up to Apollo: their successes; and Apollo's ugly and unfortunate demise. This game is not in Washington and it's probably not in Beijing.

========= [People] =========

A very few exceptional people do succeed in working alone and in making major contributions to their fields. I won't spend a lot of time on this topic because the odds are so strong against my saying anything useful to anyone who both needs and is able to understand this topic of Loners vs Groups. I'll sum it up with this brief statement, which I believe you can rely upon:

              ------------------------------------------------
                         Who nobody knows, nobody is.
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This is not a matter the (voluntary or involuntary) Loner needs to solve immediately, but over the long run it's going to make an immense difference in what the person accomplishes over a few decades or over a lifetime. The history of science is full of immediately relevant examples.

Some people are just plain lucky in their social connections. Others must work at it. A few just can't (see the movie, "Rain Man"). Adra is not a clinical and social support so we now move on.

* * *

The core element of space settlements is not machines nor robots nor hardware -- it's people. People living in space (when we accomplish that); people working to make that happen. These people are usually found in groups, for the work is much too much for loners (despite images from the fantasy, "The Astronaut Farmer"). They don't make the news very often -- space work is work and any amount of just plain hard work doesn't create the busy excitement the news services seek.

In fact, under the hot and busy news and TV radars, there's really a lot happening. You just have to look for it. Local and overseas schools with strong engineering agendas are good places for groups. This is important for the future: these groups are 1) young people; 2) selected for their interest and potential for the future; 3) studying in their fields (very mind stimulating) and 4) in the company of others doing similar work (a valuable to necessary support in the work). Besides seeking space groups near where you live and in cyberspace, checkout your nearby schools. For example: Georgia Tech; M.I.T.; local state colleges.

* * *

After answering NASA's 1989 "Battlestar Galactica" in 1990, Zubrin began organizing the Mars Society, a group focussed on Mars settlement and upon the technology, knowhow, and resources to do it. This story is interesting, complex, and it has (so far) not gone where it could and should have gone.

For Washington has spent trillions of dollars on its wars while Zubrin has campaigned for his eminently sensible and practical plan and has been ignored for it.

However. Along the way he has formed the Mars Society, an organization whose principal focus is placing settlements on Mars. For a further introduction to the work of Zubrin and the Mars Society, see,

=============================================================== Re: Named Groups. ===============================================================

Here are some nationally prominent space work groups. These are ranked alphabetical by name. If you prefer ranking on some other parameter, then visit them and check them out. Follow their activities, and in time you will come to know enough of them to rank them however you choose.

========= [Mars Society] =========

See, http://www.marssociety.org/.

I expect to hold the Mars Society at the top of this list for long time to come. Their work is focussed where the work is needed and it is directed to the central objective so many people are talking around but far too few people are working toward.

These two Research Stations are often referred to as "analog" stations. They model so far as possible (which is pretty far) and on minimal budgets, the small stations, settlements, and research in a Mars and space environment which may someday become an off-Terra human activity.

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========= [National Space Society] =========

See, http://www.nss.org/.

NSS is a nationwide organization with links around the world. It is politically active, doing two "blitzes" per year where a "blitz" brings together a large group of people into Washington where they carry out many coordinated lobbying visits to Congress people.

This activity is central today to building settlements in space. It has two core purposes: to promote the participation of the American government in space research, development, and settlement, so far as that is possible. And secondly, to oppose hurtful legislation such as the proposal from Congressman Barney Frank that aims to cut off any funding relating to humans on Mars. (Where Mars is the best place off Terra in our Solar System for human settlement and industrial development!)

To find NSS related sites, simply Google on "National Space Society". This will bring up URLs such as,

=== [mark] ============================================================

NSS is a nationwide organization with links around the world. It is politically active, doing two "blitzes" per year where a "blitz" brings together a large group of people into Washington where they carry out many coordinated lobbying visits to Congress people.

This activity is central today to building settlements in space. It has two core purposes: to promote the participation of the American government in space research, development, and settlement, so far as that is possible. And secondly, to oppose hurtful legislation such as the proposal from Congressman Barney Frank that aims to cut off any funding relating to humans on Mars. (Where Mars is the best place off Terra in our Solar System for human settlement and industrial development!)

To find NSS related sites, simply Google on "National Space Society". This will bring up URLs such as,

========= [Planetary Society] =========

See, http://www.planetary.org/.

The Planetary Society publishes a periodical, 'The Planetary Report,' six/year. Its current issue is Vol. 27 #5, Sept/Oct 2007. It carries a very interesting piece of work on its page 5, 'Euphoria and the Scythians' (1957) by Loudon Wainwright, Jr. It might look slightly tongue-in-cheek; but it's deep and it's true. True then, true now. However, it doesn't go far enough.

I think the Planetary Society looks good, as they work to put more research machines out in space; but that's the wrong idea. It responds to the wrong need. I'm ok with doing space research, for if we are to survive as a culture and as a race of living beings, then we must know about space and cosmology as we know today the local weather. The point they miss, is that the place to do that research from is space not from down here in this thick atmosphere and deep (well, relatively speaking) gravity well. That is, right idea, wrong time.

========= [SEDS] =========

See, http://seds.org/.

SEDS is a large national organization of college and university students doing serious work around space settlement. This work includes Conferences such as 'SpaceVision 2007' scheduled for Nov 9--12 at MIT in Cambridge MA USA (see "Announcements and Calendar" from Adra's Top page here).

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