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First National Space Council Meeting Date Announced

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
September 26, 2017
First National Space Council Meeting Date Announced

Vice President Mike Pence Announces First Meeting of The National Space Council
“Today, Vice President Mike Pence announced the first meeting of the National Space Council is scheduled for October 5, 2017 at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The meeting, titled “Leading the Next Frontier: An Event with the National Space Council,” will include testimonials from expert witnesses who represent the sectors of the space industry: Civil Space, Commercial Space, and National Security Space. … Additional details about the meeting are forthcoming.”

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

6 responses to “First National Space Council Meeting Date Announced”

  1. Michael Spencer says:

    Questions for you folks familiar with the ways of Washington: what is to be expected from this event? Is it, as Dr. Matula has elsewhere characterized Congressional hearings, merely public grandstanding, real issues having been previously aired or decided? Or is it a true fact-finding? Is it an opportunity for the Mavens of Space to spread their feathers, explaining why any particular company or approach is essential to anything whatsoever the US does in space?

    Is it an opportunity for the real space people to show the members of this committee, particularly the chairman, a primer on space? will witness after witness ponderously explain how critical their particular ox is to the country?

    Or, maybe, will there be some really new and exciting ideas?

    • fcrary says:

      I’d have to see the agenda, but meetings like this typically have speakers invited by the committee (or council.) That means no unsolicited presentations or “open mike” time. At a meeting like that, you only hear the opinions of people selected by the organizers. At best, that limits the possibilities for “fact finding.” At worst, it’s just performance art. We’ll have to wait and see what this one ends up being.

  2. Michael Spencer says:

    (moonman1969’s comments about the comments of Mr. O’Keefe started some thinking about leadership and vision. With apology to our host it is lengthy.)

    In the days of sail, the great schooners approaching a distant shore anchored in deep water. Landing would be handled by smaller vessels, usually because safe and deep harbor for large ships wasn’t available, or indeed against hostilities or rough weather. These great ships were designed for one thing: moving very large amounts of people, or kit, or goods over very large distances. At first with sail, then powered by external and then internal combustion engines, vessels could follow a watery path anywhere the keel was perhaps a dozen meters from the bottom.

    These ships served well during the great age of mercantilism, of colonialism, and in more modern age of capitalism.

    SF writers adopt the same model. Visions of Captain Janeway ordering her great starship landed on a remote planet notwithstanding, imagined starships ply the deeps of space, designed to bear neither trans-atmospheric rigors nor the requirements of a gravity well.

    And here we are in 2017, daring to imagine humans occupying Mars or Luna or indeed Europa. Only a faint few envision the solar system as anything other than ours for the taking; the chief point of discussion being the order in which each morsel is taken, and by whom.

    This being the case, and the multiplicity of targets uncountable, why do we not build spaceships? Where are these beasts of burden, living in space, carrying untold tons?

    Every solar destination is in three parts: lifting kit from Earth to the ship; support and vector control during the voyage; and finally a landing. This last of three parts will require a bespoke method. The first two parts are essentially identical in every case.

    The list of required technologies is obvious. Every destination bears this single feature; it is a very very long distance from here to there. Each target requires a different approach to actually landing, it is true. But the mission overlap is also huge.

    The somewhat crude “spaceships” represented by the Aldrin Cycler could possibly be our first step, requiring as it does little on-board energy.

    What is manifestly not clear is our current focus on hobbled capsule contraptions with neither flexibility nor range. Certainly capsules offer much to infant races, such as ourselves. Inelegant, capsules offer safe (if perhaps ballistic) return from space, an advantage not to be underestimated.

    Many human civilizations have faced the great distances of water. All but one found the same solution. Minoans and Phoenicians, Europeans and Chinese and others built ocean-going craft. The Pacific peoples faced the same obstacles but never found the way forward, depending as they did on human-powered canoes, rowing “capsules” from island to island.

    And that’s where we find ourselves: building dugout canoes when what’s actually needed is a much longer term vision tackling the transportation needs of interplanetary species.

    There is some evidence that Mr. Musk has seen the bigger picture, but no evidence whatsoever that NASA has done so.

    Could this “Space Council” offer enlightened thinking? Are we to continue as Pacific islanders, or do we build the great ships needed to explore the neighborhood?

    • MichiCanuck says:

      Your Polynesian reference is a bit off the mark, I think. They used large ocean-going canoes with people, plants and livestock on board. And they did employ sails. The Polynesians managed to colonize a vast area despite having few places to land. The Hawaiians came originally from the Tahiti area, an enormous distance. They were, perhaps the best navigators the world has produced.

      • Michael Spencer says:

        Point taken- I couldn’t think of a better example. But the central question remains, which is this: why aren’t we building spaceships?

        Mr. Musk doesn’t like them, either.

    • Not Invented Here says:

      NASA has done so, checkout the Nautilus-X concept. But like so many other NASA concepts, it remains a powerpoint.

      The reason is obvious: The cost of access to space is still too high, when you throw away the whole launch vehicle every time you launch something, you couldn’t afford to build big structures in space, neither can you afford to launch the necessary fuel to move the big structure around in space.

      When you have to minimize your architecture’s mass in LEO, the best method is to use staging, which is how you end up with a small capsule back on Earth since everything else was thrown away on the way.

      This is why lowering the cost of access to space should be the number one priority for any nation who wants to be spacefaring. Elon Musk understands this, but congress doesn’t.