Access Update #146 7/30/15
copyright 2015 by Space Access Society
Contents This Issue:
ITAR Comments Reminder
A New Moon Plan
August Home-District Congressional Lobbying
Beware Partisan Politics
ITAR Comments Reminder
The deadline for public comments on the US State Department's proposed ITAR arms-export rules changes is this coming Sunday, August 2nd. As you may recall, we see a serious problem with one of these proposed changes. The definition of "public domain" information (discussion or publication of which is exempt from ITAR restrictions) would be changed from all information that has been "published", to only information that has been "published" with specific authorization from the US government.
We think this is overly broad, with potential for arbitrary prosecution of anyone publicly discussing even routine aspects of space (and many other "dual-use") technologies, with the burden of proof that something meets this new narrower definition of "published" on the accused. What's that you say? They'd never do that unless they were really mad at you? Our point precisely. We think that this would have a massively chilling effect on US public discussion of a wide range of technologies, with end result of retarding the very technological advances ITAR seeks to protect.
If this could conceivably affect you, get your comment in by Sunday. See Space Access Update #142 for details on how to submit comments.
A New Moon Plan
We've been saying for a while that if NASA were to switch over to doing space exploration COTS-style, they could reduce costs by a factor of ten or more, and maybe even get somewhere interesting once again within politically plausible budgets and time-horizons. (COTS, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, was the highly successful public-private project to develop two new Station cargo vehicles for a small fraction of typical Old NASA costs - $800 million total NASA funding, for results that Old NASA had spent many billions chasing without achieving.)
Now a NASA-funded, independently-reviewed study by a team of ex-NASA and private industry people has come to the same conclusion. NexGen Space LLC released "Economic Assessment and Systems Analysis of an Evolvable Lunar Architecture that Leverages Commercial Space Capabilities and Public-Private-Partnerships" earlier this month - Executive Summary here, full report here.
The study looked at two scenarios:
- An initial return to the Moon with preliminary robotic site surveys followed by exploratory human landings: Price-tag done COTS-style, $10 billion over 5-7 years, versus $122 billion for the most recent NASA study of something similar done traditional Old NASA style.
- A follow-on permanent 4-person base that would supervise automated mining of Lunar ice to produce 200 tons of propellant per year: Price-tag done COTS-style $40 billion over 10-12 years, subsequently allowing $10 billion a year in savings over many years for a hypothetical Mars exploration program.
This shouldn't be mistaken for a specific Lunar exploration program proposal. The stated intent is to look at what sort of things NASA might accomplish given a shift to COTS-style operations. The answer is real exploration, within realistic budgets and politically practical time-horizons. The baseline initial Lunar exploration and landings, for instance, at $10 billion over 5-7 years would cost less than a quarter of NASA's current $8 billion a year Human Exploration budget, and would take less than two Presidential terms.
The argument for pressing on Old-NASA style regardless seems to be wearing thin.
August Congressional Lobbying
The House has now shut down until early September, and the Senate will soon follow. Influencing your Representative and Senators to support our priorities - full funding for Commercial Crew, and passing the SPACE Act commercial space bill while making sure that the "Poison Pill II" embedded in the House version doesn't get into the final Bill - now gets easier, because chances are they'll be back at home during the recess and you can set up a local meeting to tell them (or at least their staffers) what you want them to do.
You've never done such a thing before, and you don't know how? Maybe you'd like a little company for moral support? Our colleagues at NSS and SFF are organizing an "August Home District Blitz" that could be just what you need to help get your feet wet in the interesting and useful hobby of citizen space lobbying.
And for those of you who've done it before (or who just like jumping into the deep end of things solo) here's a useful collection of pointers on do's and don'ts and how to go about it from our friends at NSS.
Beware Partisan Politics
Recently we've seen the increasingly bitter partisan divisions affecting many US political issues creeping into the conversation over our future in space. This is potentially hugely harmful to our coalition and to our cause.
Much of what we've accomplished together so far is because both space issues and our coalition tend to cut right across the usual party lines. This is more than a little unusual in national politics these days, and it gets noticed. It is a big part of why we've won as much reform as we have to date, and why, if we work hard and stick together over the next few years, we have a decent chance at far bigger wins.
Every time one of us spouts off about how those damned other-party extremists are screwing things up out of their boneheaded disregard for the nation's future in space, it increases the risk of our coalition fracturing, and of all the good we've done so far (and hope to do soon) going down the drain. Our recommendation: Don't do it.
Practical coalition-maintenance aside (not to mention simple courtesy among allies), blaming current space problems on party is overly simplistic and an incorrect reading of actual motivations.
One recent example we've seen too often: "This Republican Congress is trying to kill Commercial Crew in favor of the no-bid pork-barrel unaffordable SLS." No, it's a regional pork coalition within Congress trying to do that - one that happens to be largely (far from wholly) Republican because that's what party much of that region happens to be electing lately. One leading member of that coalition, Senator Shelby of Alabama, in fact executed a well-timed party switch in 1994. (Another, Representative Brooks of Huntsville, benefited from a poorly-timed party switch by his predecessor, beating him in a 2010 primary.)
And then there's the SLS coalition response: "This Democratic White House shut down NASA human spaceflight." No, they carried through a decision already made for good and sufficient reasons under the previous Republican White House, retiring Shuttle. They also (partially) implemented the recommendation of the nonpartisan Augustine commission to mercy-kill the out-of-control Constellation program. They've also championed the highly successful public-private Commercial Cargo and (so-far successful) Commercial Crew program, examples of a radical new approach that is in our view the main future hope of US human spaceflight. An approach which was, by the way, conceived under the previous Republican White House.
Trust us. Party affiliation is poor ground to fight the SLS-industrial complex on. They're already trying to wrap their white elephant in the Republican banner. Helping them provoke the entire party to view that regional-pork rocket-to-nowhere project as a partisan issue to rally 'round is a BAD idea.
From whatever side, attack the policy, not the party, and we'll end up with a much better chance of all of us winning.
Space Access Society's sole purpose is to promote radical reductions in the cost of space transportation. You may redistribute this Update in any medium you choose, as long as you do it unedited in its entirety. You may reproduce selected portions of this Update if you credit this Space Access Update as the source and include a pointer to our website.
"Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System"
- Robert A. Heinlein