(fwd) Where Do We Go From Here?

I found this article on sci.space.shuttle. Thought ya'll might like it. While I don't agree with everything, he has some interesting
points.
Bob
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?*
For Immediate and General Release
The October, 2003 issue of _Discover_ contains one of the saddest letters I've ever read. Gil Bell, of Duluth, Georgia, writes " ... one would have to conclude that travel out of our solar system is impossible. The fusion, fission, and antimatter engines require too much fuel ... The laser sail is doomed by the fact that building a 6,600-mile-wide collecting mirror is simply not feasible, and ... a 600-mile-wide sail would be torn apart by cosmic debris on a daily basis. And why build a fusion ramjet when there's no fuel in space to run it, and its design would not allow it to attain the speed it needs?
"The fusion or fission engine concepts would be useful in getting around out own solar system, but what's the use in traveling to other planets in our neighborhood? Venus will never be inhabitable and neither will Mars or any of the Jovian planets or their moons, and changing the environment on another planet will never be within our capabilities. It is fun to speculate on way that humans might accomplish interstellar travel, but in the end it is just more science fiction."
There are lot of unsupported assertions in Mr. Bell's letter, and a great many factual errors (most of them, I'm afraid, based on an incredible ignorance of history), but the saddest thing about it is its spirit of defeat. As I said in a recent essay, Americans seem to have given up on the future. This letter from _Discover_ is typical and symptomatic.
But it doesn't speak for everyone.
I've been reading the works of Robert A. Heinlein (as the Brits say, "man and boy") for forty-six years, having found his books when I was sent to the school library to spend several afternoons there as a punishment. After all these years, I don't recall what for, more's the pity.
In all that time (and earlier, in fact) I always expected that, sooner or later, I'd end up space myself, maybe even die there (after living a couple hundred years, like Lazarus Long). And although I didn't necessarily want to move there, the one sight I always wanted most to see in person was Saturn and its rings, from one of its inner moons.
As I grew up, I became disappointed and disillusioned. The Mercury program came and went, the Gemini program came and went, the Apollo program came and went, followed by SkyLab, the Shuttle program, and the International so-called Space Station. What they all taught us (unless you actually care about fruitfly reproduction in microgravity) was that the only individuals who would _ever_ be allowed to get into space were precisely the kind of government-approved jockstraps who were on the varsity football team when you were in high school -- oh yes, and an occasional cheerleader -- oops, make that public school teacher.
To all the rest of us, meaning those who are "encouraged" (at the point of a gun) to pay for these programs, the message was clear: "Get lost. Outer space, 99.99999999999999999999999999999999 percent of all there is, is government property, like the Lincoln Monument and Area 51."
Nothing has happened in all that time to change that. Just look at the bewildering maze of impossible regulations the government relies on to keep anyone else from trying out a new vehicle design, or from launching anything without their permission and supervision. Or the way they squirmed and struggled, trying to keep that zillionaire space "tourist" on the ground. Or the way they're employing the handy (if illegal) Homeland Security concept in an attempt to shut down model rocketry.
Novelist Victor Koman was dead right, when he said (in his great work, _Kings of the High Frontier_) that the actual mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- its not-so-hidden agenda, having nothing to do with the development of space travel and exploration -- is to keep scum like you and me from ever getting into space.
At the same time (as Victor also points out), NASA mouthpieces have been telling the public since the 1960s that our being able to visit space, perhaps even vacationing on the Moon, or in zero gravity at a space station, was "only about thirty years away". That's what they said in the 60s, that's what they said in the 70s, that's what they said in the 80s, that's what they said in the 90s, and that's what they're still saying today. It's _always_ just about thirty years away.
In a way, you can't blame the government. Being what they are, politicians and bureaucrats, they have a very unhealthy tendency to project their own ethical and psychological shortcomings onto others, especially members of the unwashed public. Even before September 11, 2001 -- and before Luis and Walter Alvarez discovered what it really was that killed the dinosaurs -- someone in government read Heinlein's _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ (individuals are paid to do that; see James Grady's _Six Days of the Condor_), in which penal colonists on the Moon ultimately achieve their independence by threatening major cities on Earth with boxcar-sized rocks, launched from an electric catapult.
Like politicians who push victim disarmament (erroneously known as gun control), they're afraid they're going to get what they deserve. So if you ever want to see Saturn's rings (or any other astronomical wonder) up close, you must absorb the following truth and never forget it: given their way, governments will _never_ let ordinary people into space.
Never.
Quite aside from the question of boxcar-sized rocks, think of the historically unprecedented savagery with which the Union prosecuted the War between the States. Think of similar savagery at Waco. Think about the War on Drugs -- and recall why many folks use drugs to begin with.
You're not allowed to escape.
Governments will do anything -- absolutely anything, no matter how violent or morally repulsive it happens to be -- to prevent anybody from getting out from under their authoritarian thumb. If you don't shut your mouth, sit up straight, fold your hands, look at them when they're lecturing you, and spit that gum out this minute, they'll kill you.
However if there's on thing I've learned about politics over the last half century, it's that, when there's something you need to do, and government (or anybody else) stands in your way, you simply say you're doing it "for the children" -- and it helps if you really mean it.
I really mean it.
I have a little daughter I sometimes regret having brought into this world because it's become such a dark and horrifying place. If I believed that she could live her life in some of the places I've described in my novels -- that I'm describing again in the novels I'm writing now -- I would do virtually anything I could just to make that happen.
And if I could go there myself ... Well, there just might be a way.
Roughly a hundred years ago, Lord Robert Baden-Powell was having a tough time, don't you know, in one of Britain's last fun wars, because the soldiers she shipped to South Africa by the, er, shipload, didn't have a clue how to survive in the open country. Their foes were Dutch- African settlers -- "Boer" means "farmer" -- who lived and worked there very day. They knew what plants to eat and where to find decent water.
When Baden-Powell got home to Old Blighty, he created the group that was to become known as the Boy Scouts, to fix the shortcomings he'd seen in Africa. The idea was imitated in many other countries, including the United States to impressive effect. I was in the program myself, from 1954 as a Bear Cub, to about 1963, by which time I was an Explorer Scout, an Eagle, and a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. I also held 23 merit badges, a God & Country Award (believe it or not), a translator bar (German), and a whole ladderful of BSA/NRA sharpshooter bars. Although the roots of the Boy Scouts are sordidly statist, scouting was practically my whole childhood, and a very good one.
About the same time I first got into scouting -- and well before the Soviets' Sputnik scared the Eisenhower Administration shitless, spitless, and witless -- I began to collect newspaper clippings and magazine articles about space and space exploration. I also bought a book about going to the Moon on a visit to the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry -- the author opined that no single government would ever be able to afford such a trip, so the idea must be turned over to the United Nations; and wouldn't that have been interesting? -- and I'd vowed that very evening to stand, someday, on the Moon, myself.
So what have I found in all my experiences that might be useful in solving our little space problem? The basic idea is simple, it's just a lot of hard work. At the moment, I'm writing _Ceres_ (a sequel to my 1993 novel _Pallas_) which concerns itself with terraforming asteroids and preventing "extinction level events" like the one 65 million years ago that killed the dinosaurs. _Ceres_ is not meant to be anybody's fantasy (although one of my former editors informed me that I'm not qualified to write on this subject); it's meant as a blueprint for the future.
I'm also doing research now for another novel, _Ares_, which will stand, chronologically, right between _Pallas_ and _Ceres_. It's about the men and women who terraform Mars, despite violent opposition from Earth.
At the same time, I've begun collecting ideas and material for a third book, the working title of which will be (for lack of anything better) _The Space Scout Manual_. That book will try to do three things.
First, it will help young people (I'm aiming the book at a certain mindset, rather than a given age group; it should appeal at some level to everyone of both sexes between the ages of 5 and 20) to prepare themselves for working, living, and eventually settling in space, in more or less the same way that my old Boy Scouts of America manual, _A Handbook For Boys_ (1955 edition), helped to prepare me to survive -- and even prosper -- in several different kinds of wilderness on this planet.
The book will also contain detailed instructions and suggestions for establishing your own local chapter of what I'm presently calling (again, for lack of anything better) the "Space Scouts" and everything necessary to affiliate it with a national organization of the same name. Unlike a great many other organizations I've been involved with, I want this one always to grow from the ground up, not from the top down.
The _Space Scout Manual_'s third mission will be to establish a political constituency for abolishing NASA and getting government out of the way of space exploration. If the book, and the organization it creates, are useful and interesting enough, then within a few years, there should be hundreds of thousands of young Space Scouts and maybe, a few years after that, millions. Politicians and bureaucrats will eventually be up against an enormous group of voters who are educated, tough, who won't take "No" (or even "Give us another 30 years") for an answer.
I want this book to get into conventional distribution channels and to show up on paperback racks everywhere. I want this book in airports and grocery stores where the words SPACE SCOUT MANUAL will leap out at all those who had almost -- but not quite -- given up the dream.
Please note that the manual will not be about the current hardware of government space exploration (which is constantly changing anyway) but about personal physical, mental, and moral preparation. It will draw on history, and on both factual and fictional sources. Also, it will give its readers the beginnings of a decent science education (another thing public schools were never up to), and encourage in them a proper skepticism with regard to public education and the democratic process.
Another reason not to get bogged down in such details is that there's no telling what methods of spaceflight will evolve if this idea works.
The book's moral outlook will be rooted in the Bill of Rights and the libertarian Zero Aggression Principle, but it will not preach. It will assume from the outset that individuals own their own lives and the products of their lives, and that no one has a right to initiate force against another human -- no, make that _sapient_ -- being for any reason.
The book will advocate "Reconstitutive Unanimous Consent" as the preferred means of making group decisions and settling disputes. It will also advise politicians and bureaucrats that, from the moment that the first off-planet settlement is created, on Mars, on the Moon, in the Asteroid Belt, or wherever, it should reasonably be expected to become politically independent of Earth whenever its people want it to be.
Don't let any of the above mislead you, however. This will not be a book about libertarian or constitutionalist philosphy. It will be a book about getting into space and staying there. It will be guided as much by the scientific method as it will be by the Zero Aggression Principle. Its largest section, by far, will be a detailed survey and commentary (despite that editor's view that I'm not qualified to write it) on everything that's known, at the moment, about the Solar System, including its constituent star, its planets, moons, planetoids, and comets.
It will also talk -- again in detail -- about all of the many reasons we might want to see these things close up, and even go to live on, in, or among them. Those reasons will range from what might be called the "spiritual" -- because it's the destiny of humankind and a good first step to the stars -- to the exceedingly practical: our species won't survive another rock like the one that put an end the Cretacious; we're 15 million years overdue, so we have to go out and stop it, the topic of a lecture I delivered to the Eris Society in 2000.
Your thirty years are up, NASA.
They've been up a couple of times over.
There will be no more waiting politely. Even if it has to be done like the moldy old joke -- the hotel clerk admits that a room is available, but you'll have to make your own bed; upstairs you find you've been supplied with a hammer, saw, and lumber -- it _will_ be done.
So this is what I've given up electoral politics for -- at least this decade, when the goodguys are powerless. But I think I've traded up. I'm ready to make my own bed. And to plant the seedlings for the lumber.
How about you?
N. -- __________________________________ * Thanks for the title, Mr. Knapp -- or was it Buffy the Vampire Slayer? ======================================================================= Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including _The American Zone_, _Forge of the Elders_, _Pallas_, _The Probability Broach_, _Hope_ (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, _Lever Action_, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at http://www.lneilsmith.com . Autographed copies may be had from the author at snipped-for-privacy@lneilsmith.com.
Frank Ney N4ZHG WV/EMT-B NRA(L) GOA CCRKBA JPFO ProvNRA LPWV -- "You want to get Voldemort? I'll tell you how to get Voldemort. He casts 'Crucio', you cast 'Avada Kedavra'. He puts one of yours in St. Mungo's, you put one of his IN THE GROUND! THAT'S the Hogwart's way. And THAT'S how you get Voldemort." - The Untouchable Harry Potter United Airlines Must Die! http://www.dont-fly.com Abuses by the BATF http://www.elfie.org/~croaker/batfabus.html
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Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the books of the late William S. Burroughs.
"Earth is a prison planet and nobody is supposed to leave. Kill the guards and walk."
-dave w
-------------------------------------
baDBob wrote:

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<< I refuse to belive that I will not venture into Space... >>
That's the problem, people refusing to believe in the limits of science. We've read and seen so much science fiction for so many years that it's easy to forget that it is just fiction.
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (RayDunakin) wrote in message

Yeah, like the very ludicrous idea that a human being could land on the moon and return safely.
Or the idea that a malicious computer program could somehow replicate itself and transmit itself to other computers in order to do the same thing.
Or that nuclear fission could somehow be made into an explosive weapon.
Or that adult children could sue their parents for child abuse.
Or that pocket calculators could become so ubiquitous that simple calculations such as long division or square roots would be beyond the capabilities of most people.
Ot the really incredible notion that everybody could carry a personal communications device with them, cpable of reaching just about anybody on the planet with a similar device.
Or how about the idea that women could become host mothers, bearing the children of total strangers for a fee?
I could go on and on. But why bother? Everyone knows that science fiction is nothing but escapist drivel, having nothing to do with reality. No thinking person would ever give any credence to the idle speculations of a bunch of pimply-faced nerds. It's clear that science fiction is a complete waste of time, fit only for those with no true appreciation of the true nature of the world. Which is, of course, flat, and is the undisputed center of the universe.
Bill Sullivan </sarcasm mode off/>
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<< It's clear that science fiction is a complete waste of time, fit only for those with no true appreciation of the true nature of the world. >>
I'm a big fan of sci-fi, and always have been. But I understand that much of the "science" in SF is just as fictional as the story itself. And while it may be possible that someday many SF staples such as FTL travel could become possible, I think it's extremely unrealistic to think it's going to happen anytime soon (ie, within the next century), and certainly isn't being held back because of some big bad government conspiracy as Mr Smith implied in his article.
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The Rocket Scientist wrote:

Being an old fart, I recall that in pre-calculator days taking square roots was also beyond the capabilities of most people.
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<<Being an old fart, I recall that in pre-calculator days taking square roots was also beyond the capabilities of most people.>>
Yep. Nowadays the problem is that even adding and subtracting without the aid of a calculator is becoming a rare talent. Look how many cashiers and burger flippers unless the register tells them how.
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RayDunakin wrote:

No disagreement there, and if it were just restricted to burger flippers it wouldn't be so bad. BTW, I can still take square roots the old fashioned way (if I have a lot of time on my hands).

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Slide rule?
Tom

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Tom Binford wrote:

Well, I can do it with a slide rule too, but I was thinking of synthetic division (pencil and paper method). I guess I can also do it by Newton's method, come to think of it. Penalty of being old.
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EEEEWWWW!! That's why I got a slide rule in the first place!
Tom
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Not for geeks with slide rules!
    Bob Kaplow    NAR # 18L    TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"         >>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<< Kaplow Klips & Baffle:    http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
Save Model Rocketry from the HSA! http://www.space-rockets.com/congress.html
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(RayDunakin) writes:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong. -- Arthur C. Clarke's First Law
    Bob Kaplow    NAR # 18L    TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"         >>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<< Kaplow Klips & Baffle:    http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
Save Model Rocketry from the HSA! http://www.space-rockets.com/congress.html
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Lord Kelvin stated in the 19th century: "Heavier than air flight is impossible."
He lived until 1907, long enough to see his statement proved false.
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hmm an example please. saying something is impossible and then proving it would seem an impossibility in and of itself.
IE if I say FTL is impossible. the day I die it may be discovered ? unless you live for an infinite amount of time and even then it would take an infinite amount of time to prove it.
IE you can not.
Chris Taylor http://www.nerys.com /

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(RayDunakin) writes:

So far...
    Bob Kaplow    NAR # 18L    TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"         >>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<< Kaplow Klips & Baffle:    http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
Save Model Rocketry from the HSA! http://www.space-rockets.com/congress.html
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com says...

But that's just it...somebody WILL come up with "something new". Just as somebody came up with steam engines, internal combustion and Tivo (greatest invention yet ;-). Might be tomorrow or it might be 200 years. But it will happen.
--
Kurt Kesler



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If I ever have enough money I WILL launch myself into space or die trying.
Chris Taylor http://www.nerys.com /
says...

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You build the Grrr. I'll bring the duct tape :-)
    Bob Kaplow    NAR # 18L    TRA # "Impeach the TRA BoD"         >>> To reply, remove the TRABoD! <<< Kaplow Klips & Baffle:    http://nira-rocketry.org/LeadingEdge/Phantom4000.pdf www.encompasserve.org/~kaplow_r/ www.nira-rocketry.org www.nar.org
Save Model Rocketry from the HSA! http://www.space-rockets.com/congress.html
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(Stirring imaginary cauldron) You go Chris! You go Chris!

Bring the duct tape, even if he DOESN'T...... ;O)
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