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The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     March 15, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.6

The Spacefaring Web 2.4:
Community and the Technology of Trust

John Carter McKnight

In this column I occasionally use the term "space community." Does it actually exist, and does it matter whether it does? What are the implications of having, or wanting, such a thing? To the extent our goal is the permanent human settlement of space, some conclusions follow. Communities require work to create and sustain, the nature of that work depending on time, place and people. Appropriate technologies need to be envisioned, prototyped, tested - every bit as much as our life support and power technologies do. But while specific research and experimentation is needed, there is much to learn from the ways we organize to reach our goals. There are some very positive elements in the record, but much hard work to do. The goal of being able to build healthy, sustainable communities - in our spacefaring future as well as here and now - can and must shape our actions towards that goal.


Space Tourism

Suborbital Flights:
The Way to Space?
C-21 positioned over carrier M-55
Space Adventures Ltd. Photo
A mockup of the Cosmopolis - 21 sub-orbital rocket vehicle being positioned over the first stage M-55 carrier aircraft.

On March 14, 2002 the X-Prize and space tourism project Cosmopolis XXI was unveiled for the news media at Zhukovsky Air Base near Moscow. Space Adventures is a major investor in the Russian project led by the Myasishchev Design Bureau (MDB) and the Cosmopolis XXI Suborbital Corporation . See RLV News for more details and links.

Space Adventures wants to use the 2 passenger, 1 pilot craft for its Suborbital Tourist package that it sells for $98,000. The company already has 100 customers who have placed deposits on flights and claims that it can easily double that number once a vehicle is shown to be viable.

This customer demand comes despite the fact that the entire flight will last only about an hour and will result in only about 3 minutes of weightlessness and the top of the 100km trajectory. (A week of preparation and training, though, will lead up to the flight and enhance the overall experience.)

The project is an indication of the possibilities of building a private launch industry on the strength of space tourism and using suborbitals as a first step.

In Sub-orbital Rockets to Space: The next logical step?, a reprint of an article accepted for the March-April 2002 issue of Ad Astra Magazine - National Space Society, I argue that sub-orbital rocket vehicles will provide a base on which private launch companies can build a viable business. Experience and income gained from routine flights will then eventually lead to development of orbital vehicles.

Space Tourism News Briefs: US Airways frequent flyer miles can now be used for purchasing Space Adventures packages, including the sub-orbital flights:

...Former head of the National Space Society, Lori Garver is attempting to arrange corporate financing for a trip to the ISS: Former NASA Official Joins Bidding for Space Station Visit in November - Space.com - Mar.6.02

Space TV, Solar SciFi

The Lone Mango Explores a Brave New Solar System

Strange Frame

Strange Frame is a new animated TV show under development. The scenario is set in the solar system during the 29th century. Strange Frame

" follows the interplanetary flying hunk of junk 'The Lone Mango' as she hauls her musical crew to explore the brave new humanity wrought by hundreds of years of genetic engineering and biomodification."

In the spirit of Solar SciFi , the program assumes no faster-than-light travel or alien encounters. However, humanity and it's genetically modified offshoots have spread throughout the solar system and make it a place every bit as exciting and exotic as the worlds of Star Trek. The diverse societies, lifestyles and conflicts that the Lone Mango encounters will provide limitless possibilities for adventures.

The program's style is inspired by Japanese anime and graphic novels, and is aimed towards teens and adults.

More info in the press release - New Animated Scifi Show Strange Frame - News Release - March 2002

[Promo now available at ifilm.com. Mar.24.02]



Survey Finds a Core Group of
Enthusiasts for the Space Program

The Orlando Sentinel commissioned a poll to investigate the level of public support for the US space program.

Unfortunately, it found lukewarm interest in space by most of the public and very little interest in seeing increased funding for NASA programs like the ISS: Poll: Space program generates low enthusiasm in public - OrlandoSentinel - Mar.10.02

There were nuances, however. For example, the more educated the person, the higher the support, especially by those who were informed about space developments and benefits.

In the article, the space analyst John Pike says that NASA should concentrate on the core group of space supporters or "space cadets" who have the most interest in space.

This definitely follows the HobbySpace philosophy. Many space activists dream of somehow replicating that brief post-Sputnik period of the late 1950's to the early 1960's when support for the space program was overwhelming among the general public.

This will never happen again short of a major dramatic event such as a comet found to be approaching earth or contact with aliens.

The article reports in a disappointed tone that "only 9 percent" of the respondents say that NASA funding should increase. If accurate, however, it represents about 30 million Americans who have a strong interest in space.

That's plenty of people with which to build markets for space businesses such as space tourism (see above).

While I generally think NASA's current budget is sufficient to accomplish great things if properly leveraged with private companies, it should be noted that often budgets and policies do not strictly follow public poll percentages.

The influence of groups like farmers and AIDs activists on the government is much larger than would be indicated strictly by their percentages of the population.

The relentless intensity with which they pursue their causes is the biggest factor and space activists should follow their example. However, their success also indicates that there is a minimum number of at least one or two million people needed to have an impact.

The total number of space activists in the NSS, Planetary Society, Mars Society, and other activist groups adds up to about 150,000 at most . The first priority of these groups should be to grow and reach the critical mass needed to make a difference.

I think this growth is only possible, though, if people are given compelling reasons to become involved with space. And the only way to do that is for these groups to concentrate on the kinds of hobbies and activities that people can get deeply involved in, i.e. the kind that HobbySpace describes here.

Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

The Art of C. Sergent Lindsey
NewSpace Watch at NSG

Eyes in the Sky, Education

Kids Monitor the Earth from the ISS

EarthKam View of the Mississippi
EarthKam view
of the Mississippi River

The EarthKam project allows middle school students to control over the Internet a camera on the Space Station to take pictures of the earth.

Since the project began in 1996, over 5000 pictures have been taken by students with the camera. Originally flown on space shuttle flights, it now resides full time on the ISS.

You can see the latest batch of images EarthKAM Images from ISS

The project is based at the Univ. of California at San Diego and funded by NASA.

Satellite Building, GPS

Locating an AMSAT
with GPS

The article

Formation Flight in Space: Distributed Spacecraft Systems Develop New GPS Capabilities - GPS World - Feb.1.02

describes the benefits of flying several small satellites in a formation such as for interferometric imaging of the earth or astrophysical observations.

However, to maintain tight formations the locations of the satellites must be precisely determined. For low earth orbit, it is known that the GPS system can be used for this.

The article gives an accounting of the two GPS location finding units installed on the AMSAT A0-40, which was launched in the fall of 2000.

The satellite's orbit is a large, highly elliptical one that takes it outside the orbits of the GPS constellation.

It was not known if GPS location determination would work in such high orbits.

In fact, the project showed that location finding works even when outside the GPS spacecraft orbits.

The GPS project, in collaboration with NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, adds yet another significant contribution to space development made by the AMSAT series of spacecraft.

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