AE 130

The Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe

What’s the difference between the space agency and other departments of government such as health, social security or defence? Perhaps the difference is that, to the public, the purpose of the more traditional ministries is self-evident, while that of space is not so obvious at all?

The same would be true of research councils, of course, or of public support for the arts. Yet the space agencies have big big ambitions. Extremely costly ambitions: to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars, and set up permanent scientific bases on those worlds.

If their political masters are not willing to put up the funds, then the agencies must go behind the politicians’ backs and address the taproot of democratic power: the people. That, at any rate, seems to be the logic behind the European Space Agency’s new exercise in public consultation, the Citizens’ Debate on Space for Europe.

On 10 September, groups of members of the general public were assembled in capitals in all of ESA’s 22 member states simultaneously. In the UK the event took place in Edinburgh. I took the Caledonian sleeper train north to play my part as a typical (!) citizen.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 128

Lecture by Professor Wörner: United Space in Europe

RAeS_Woerner_small

Prof. Wörner at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London, 19 July 2016

The Director General of the European Space Agency, Professor Johann-Dietrich Wörner, gave an eloquent and uplifting talk at Britain’s Royal Aeronautical Society on 19 July.

But was the inspiration just a little too starry-eyed to make political sense?

While the public is focused on society’s domestic problems, and while at the same time the cost of each astronaut ticket to the Moon is up in the hundreds of millions of euros, Moon Village will remain an impractical dream, and Europe will continue to be no more than a junior partner in international space projects.

It would be a shame if no way were found out of this cul de sac, for Professor Jan Wörner has an infectious enthusiasm and deserves to see his ideas come to fruition.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 123

When Will Jan Wörner Get His Moon Village?

Is it yet time to return astronauts to the Moon?

One of the great formative experiences of my childhood was following the news about the Apollo Moon missions. I waited up all night to see the live TV of the first moonwalk in July 1969. So do I want to see a return to the Moon? Of course I do!

ESA’s concept for a lunar base

ESA’s concept for a lunar base (Science Photo Library)

And as I am the author of a full-length science fiction novel partly set in and around the future lunar base of Selenopolis in Mare Foecunditatis, as well as in Sinus Medii at the centre of the lunar nearside, you can believe me when I say I’ve given these matters some thought!

Now Jan Wörner, Director General of the European Space Agency, has been speaking about his plan for a Moon Village – a permanent, manned base station on the Moon… much as I would love to see astronauts walking on the Moon again, I have to conclude that Professor Wörner is going out on a limb here, pushing his dreams way beyond any realistic political or entrepreneurial support.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 106

To the Rt Hon Greg Clark

Time to challenge ESA’s priorities

The greatest political dilemma of our age arises from the facts that a free, democratic society needs to be founded on a condition of continual economic growth, whereas planet Earth can only sustain a finite amount of material growth, and it is widely accepted that the limits to that growth are already being approached.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells

Since the beginning of the space age, however, new resources for growth have come within our reach, namely those found on the other planets of our Solar System and its asteroids and comets, as well as the full power output of the Sun.  These resources are greater than those available to us on Earth by many orders of magnitude.  It is easily shown that they could sustain economic and population growth at rates of 1 to 2% per annum for a full millennium into the future

From a political point of view, therefore, the most important task of public space agencies is to develop the technologies that will enable human beings to live permanently and comfortably away from their planet of origin.  It is likewise to assist private industry in ensuring a smooth and prompt transfer of exponential economic and population growth off Earth and out into the rest of the Solar System.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 103

The Great Space Debate – Discussion and Vote

What Should Be the Strategic Goal for Astronautics over the Next 25 Years?

Debate at the BIS, 1 May 2014

Yours truly speaking at the BIS on 1 May 2014

Yours truly speaking at the BIS on 1 May 2014

Professor Ian Crawford opened the evening with a scientist’s take on the question. But his view extended well beyond science alone to include economic, geopolitical and cultural aspects of “leaving the cradle” to create a spacefaring civilisation.

Jerry Stone is leader of the current BIS study project to update Gerard O’Neill’s space colony designs from the 1970s, as described in his classic book, The High Frontier. He proposed that the situation would be resolved by prioritising the overarching goal of the settlement of the inner Solar System with a permanent human presence in space.

The voting options, together with a video of the evening, should be available soon on the BIS website, accessible to BIS members after logging in. The video by itself has now been posted on YouTube by DeltaVee media – thanks to Alan Marlow.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 101

A Four-Point Plan for ESA

Return of the limits to growth argument

From the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. When will passenger flight to and from space stations become this routine?

From the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. When will passenger flight to and from space stations become this routine?

A new paper by three researchers at the University of Maryland Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science purports to show how our civilisation could suffer collapse.

Why does the scenario of liberal democratic capitalist civilisation verging on collapse have such a powerful resonance with the public? It is surely because nobody can see the new technologies or the new resources they could unlock. Therefore those of us who look forward to an infinite human future in space need to press the urgent demand that our public space institutions, including the European Space Agency, must prioritise the steps needed to open up these resources.

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.

AE 100

Britain’s Major Tim defends the ISS against its critics

“For the sake of our own survival”

In a recent BBC news item, Britain’s ESA astronaut trainee Major Tim Peake vigorously defended the astronaut space programme:

“Humanity’s aim is to explore the Solar System, not just for the sake of exploration. I genuinely believe it is for the sake of our own survival in the future.”

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.