AE 126

The Pillar versus the Pyramid

The cartoons presented at the ESA workshop

I drew these cartoons for my presentation at the European Space Agency’s Exploration Workshop at Edinburgh in January 2007. I still think they make a good point, despite the fact that ESA was clearly not paying attention.

Microsoft Word - Ashworth_Edinburgh_talk.doc

My argument was that the traditional space architecture would be unstable and liable to collapse at any time. Thus one single space station, followed by one single Moon base, followed by one single Mars base. This is the pillar (first cartoon).

Of course a space agency would justify the pillar architecture by pointing out that they would have neither the need nor the funds to operate more than one space station. In fact they would be more likely to want to scrap the orbital station in order to free up funds for going to the Moon, and scrap any presence on the Moon in order to be able to afford Mars.

In other words, they would assume that only government scientists have any business spending time in space.

A stable, sustainable architecture, by contrast, would require a pyramid architecture (second cartoon)…

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.


AE 125

The Way Forward

Towards meaningful progress in spaceflight

Following my criticisms of the space plans of the UK Space Agency and the European Space Agency, it’s heartening to read an interview with a man who has his plans clearly set on the right track.


By the “right” track I mean a trajectory leading towards the sustainable growth and progress of civilisation into the Solar System, with all that implies for the long-term security and further unfolding of our human heritage. By the “wrong” track I mean spaceflight regarded as a specialist monopoly hobby of rich governments, sending small numbers of machines and astronauts on occasional high-cost exploration missions in the service of science, prestige, spinoff and “inspiration”, but producing no permanent, let alone growth-capable, extraterrestrial infrastructure.

For the progressive view, read Alan Boyle’s interview with Jeff Bezos at the 32nd Space Symposium, reported on GeekWire.

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 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 102

The Great Space Debate: What Should Be the Strategic Goal for Astronautics over the Next 25 Years?

Talk presented at the British Interplanetary Society, London, 1 May 2014

Mars: the "ultimate goal" of the Global Exploration Strategy (credit: NASA)

Mars: the “ultimate goal” of the Global Exploration Strategy
(credit: NASA)

The eleven years since the Columbia disaster have seen increasing confusion and controversy over the future direction of human spaceflight. At different times and places the goals of a manned return to the Moon, the exploration of Mars or of a near-Earth asteroid have been prioritised, with other voices calling for an end to manned space missions altogether and robotic exploration to take centre stage. Meanwhile the prospects for companies seeking to commercialise human spaceflight have been highly controversial, as has the role of public subsidies in getting their vehicles ready for flight.

Is it possible to identify a key strategic priority for astronautics in the near term that will resolve the confusion? And does there exist general agreement within the BIS as to the way forward, or is the BIS as divided as opinion more generally?

Read the full post on the Astronautical Evolution website.