All projects have a guiding vision. No project can exist without one. The guiding vision that led to the formation of NASA was created by Wernher Von Braun in the 1950s. It consisted of using large multi-stage rockets for launching satellites, cargo rockets, and manned space shuttles into Earth orbit.
The purpose for this launch system was twofold. It was to allow the United States military to place reconnaissance and communications systems in Earth orbit so as to help prevent a global nuclear war, or allow the United States to dominate such a war should one get started. Its second purpose was to build a space station in Earth orbit that would serve as an assembly site for putting together manned spacecraft that would go to the Moon and Mars.
Space itself was not thought of as a destination in this vision. Space was the high ground for the military, and a place to be crossed in order to go to another planet. Due to the high cost of getting to orbit, space was also not thought of as a place for large scale commercial activities such as orbital industries and asteroid mining. Space was thought of as a place for military and government activities along with a few civilian communications satellites. This is the guiding vision that NASA and the military have been operating on ever since.
There have been other visions.
Over one hundred years ago, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the man who worked out the mathematics of rocketry and spaceflight, envisioned space as a new home for mankind. A place where mankind would continue to grow and evolve long after our solar system has died. His vision started with people moving out into the solar system where they would build habitats the size of small moons and who would harvest the asteroids for the raw materials that were needed to live and grow there. Eventually, as our technology improved and as the solar system became more crowded, the more adventurous would eventually take on the challenge of going to other stars, thereby starting a process that would lead to mankind spreading out across the galaxy. It was, and still is, an incredible vision.
In 1976, Gerard O’Neill proposed a similar idea in his book, The High Frontier. This is the book that introduced the world to the idea of Space Colonies, and of space being not just a place to travel through, but as a place to live and build a civilization. The only thing that was missing from this vision was a realistic concept for a launch system that would make spaceflight affordable enough to make this possible.
From the very beginning, most people who support and follow the space program, do so with the idea that it will eventually lead to the creation of a spacefaring civilization. Yet here we are, 50 years after the first manned Moon landing, and no progress has been made towards opening up the high frontier for development and settlement. Yes, there has been plenty of space science in the form of unmanned spacecraft exploring the solar system, space telescopes for exploring the stars, and space stations for studying the long term effects of zero gravity on humans, but that is it. Where are the orbital factories, orbiting hotels, the manned spacecraft for exploring the solar system, the outposts on the Moon and Mars, the asteroid mining companies, and the large rotating space stations full of people engaged in the development and settlement of space? Where are they? Why don’t they exist? The answer is simple, they don’t exist because NASA is operating on a different guiding vision. If you want to see these things occur then it will be necessary to give NASA a different guiding vision. That guiding vision comes from the President of the United States. The President of the United States gets his input from the American people. So it all comes down to us. What kind of space program do we all want? Do you want one like we have today that does space science and manned spaceflight for only a very few, or do you want one that includes developing the technologies that will make spaceflight affordable to everyone so that all the dreams of space become possible?
Think for a moment, how many of you are truly content with the space program we have today? How many of you are content with NASA’s plans for the next ten years and the rate of progress that is being made on those plans? Do you think those plans will lead to the opening of the high frontier so that anyone who has the dream and desire to go there will be able to go to a spaceport and buy a ticket?
If you are not happy with what is happening, ask yourself what kind of program you would like it to be. Would you choose the space program of today where only a small handful of people get to go to a space station in Earth orbit every year? Would you choose the planned space program of tomorrow, the one that consists of a small, man-tended space station in lunar orbit that will hopefully be the beginning of a return to the Moon in 2028 and maybe a manned mission to Mars 10 or 20 years after that? Or would you rather have a space program that makes spaceflight affordable to everyone so that orbital industries, orbital hotels, commercial asteroid mining operations, commercial ice mines on the Moon, commercial spacecraft for going to the Moon, Mars, and the asteroids, all exist? A program where all of this is done in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of what NASA currently requires? Which one of these excites you? Which one of these would you like to support and see happen?
The key ingredient that is necessary to make all these commercial activities possible, is making spaceflight affordable to everyone. Currently, it costs $82 Million to send an astronaut to the International Space Station on a Soyuz spacecraft. Obviously, not too many people can afford that. The Dragon 2 spacecraft is supposed to be able to carry a pilot and 6 passengers to the International Space Station for $120 Million. That works out to $20 Million per passenger. While that is a huge improvement over the Soyuz, it is still not a price that many people can afford. In order for commercial manned space activities to start, the cost of getting a person to orbit will need to drop down to the $200,000 dollar range or less. For really large scale space settlement to occur, the price to orbit will need to drop even lower than that. The only known launch concept that can be affordably built with existing technology that has the ability to do this is a Combination Launch System that includes a non-rotating skyhook.
Think about that for a moment. A way to make spaceflight affordable to everyone is truly within our reach. What kind of life would you choose for yourself if you could go to a spaceport and purchase a ticket to orbit and beyond? Would you go to Mars? Would you take a job at a shipyard out near the Moon building spaceships, satellite solar power stations, and Space Colonies? How about signing on as a crew member to a spaceship that is going asteroid mining where you have a good chance of coming home a multi-millionaire? Or would you take any job in space that you could get so that you could build a spacecraft in your spare time and go homestead an asteroid when it was done? In this universe of affordable to everyone spaceflight, if you are college age, you could even apply to go to the United States Space Force Academy to become an officer in the US Space Force. With the skills you will learn there you could get any job in space you want. So what would you choose? Really think about this, we are standing right at the edge of the most amazing future imaginable. All that is needed is to make spaceflight affordable to everyone. This will make possible a future that will make all the possibilities of the past look like nothing in comparison. It is a future without limit. What would you choose for yourself in this future?
If you are happy with the space program of today and its plans for tomorrow then there is nothing for you to do. If you are like me and you want more than that, then it is time to write a letter to the President of the United States and tell him that it is time to enlarge NASA’s mission statement to include the development of affordable to everyone spaceflight. Should you write the President, be sure and send copies of your letter to the Vice President and the head of NASA. You might also want to think about including a copy of this article with your letter. You have nothing to lose by doing this and everything to gain. Let’s make all our dreams of space come true, write the President and tell him about the future you want.
Ad Astra (To the Stars)
Note: For those of you who are new to this website, this site is about making spaceflight affordable to everyone so we can finally start building the most incredible civilization the world has ever seen. A civilization that will include planets, asteroids, moons, space-based industries, and space colonies throughout the solar system. For those of you who are fans of space exploration but are new to the subject, the best way to read this site is to start at the beginning and read through to the most current article. If you are already familiar with the subject then feel free to jump around.
Index of Articles
- Opening the High Frontier
- Skyhook, a Journey to Orbit and Beyond
- In the Beginning . . .
- Why do Rockets Cost so Much?
- Combination Launch Systems
- It’s All About Speed!
- Visions of the Future
- The Call of an Unlimited Future
- Combination Launch Systems, part 2
- Outward Bound: Beyond Low Earth Orbit
- and someday . . . Starships!
- Mars: how to get there
- Outpost Space Stations
- Dreams of Space
- The Moon or Mars?
- Skyhooks and Space Elevators
- Stratolaunch and the X-15
- Starship Congress
- Making Spaceflight Affordable
- How a Combination Launch System Works
- Starship Conference 2017
- New Worlds Conference 2017
- Opening the High Frontier
- Building a Spacefaring Civilization
- Space Exploration and the Future
- Skyhooks, Space Elevators and Space Exploration
- Vertical Accelerator Launch Tower
- Combination launch system
- Opening the High Frontier (the Book)