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The Space Gazette

Space for Everyone      -     July 1, 2002     -         Vol. 2 No.13

Activism, Investing: NewBusinesses, RLVs

Private Space
The action beneath the radar...

NASA: Where in the world did this guy come from?

When the Wall Street Journal first reported in June of 2000 on Dennis Tito's plans to go to Mir, most people at NASA and in the aerospace industry were taken completely by surprise.

To them the article might just as well have said that Tito was going to take a flying saucer to the orbital station as to suggest that an obscure activist group and a small startup company could arrange such a trip.

In fact, to this day many NASA managers still have a deer in the headlights look when confronted with questions about the ongoing space tourist excursions. Small private companies running genuine businesses in space simply do not fit in their universe.

Space Activism Spawns Space Companies

A few people, though, were well aware of attempts to get space tourism and other enterprises off the ground. Those that belonged to space activist organizations or just followed developments via the web knew about all sorts of crazy and not so crazy space proposals and projects.

As reported in the History of Space Activism section, private efforts to promote space development have been going on since the beginning of the 20th century. Much of the progress in early rocketry development came from amateur rocketry clubs and lone inventers like Robert Goddard.

The huge Apollo program, however, convinced the public that nothing significant could be accomplished in space by small private organizations. NASA and space became equivalent and only NASA could do great things there.

Activists, however, became more and more frustrated with NASA's failure to build on the success of Apollo and to develop a true spacefaring infrastructure accessible to everyone. The shuttle, for example, became a huge economic fiasco, making space even more expensive to reach than ever.

In response, many activists began to look at the possibilities of carrying out their own space projects and forming their own companies. The Lunar Prospector, for example, was born as an activist project. Many of the startup RLV companies that arose in the late 1990s were composed of people who were passionate about personally going to space.

For example, Rick Tumlinson, a long time space activist, helped to create the Space Frontier Foundation with the assistance of the telecommunication magnate Walt Anderson as a way to promote space enterprises. Tumlinson was the one who first approached Dennis Tito about going to Mir. The company MirCorp, also funded by Anderson, began the arrangements with the Russian Space Agency. Though Mir was deorbited before Tito got a chance to visit, the ball was rolling and he was able to switch his destination to the ISS with some help of another small company - Space Adventures (not affiliated with Anderson or Tumlinson.)

What's Going On?

So there has been a lot of space ferment going on beneath the radar of NASA and most of the media. To find out more about "private space", there is a new book out that I recommend.

For an excellent review of the history of space activism and business development and a survey of what is happening now, read the book Making Space Happen (Amazon commission link) by Paula Berinstein

Making Space HappenMaking Space Happen: Private Space Ventures and the Visionaries Behind Them by Paula Berinstein, 2002, Amazon

"Most Americans equate space exploration with NASA, but the general public is largely unaware that hundreds of passionate individuals and private organizations are working to allow ordinary people the opportunity to tour near space and to create permanent human settlements on Mars and other celestial bodies. Through a series of fascinating interviews, this book introduces the scientists, astronauts, engineers, and entrepreneurs behind the private space movement and offers a clear-eyed assessment of their prospects for success. " - Amazon

She interviews many of the leaders in space activism and private space business such as Tumlinson, Jim Benson of Spacedev, Peter Diamandis of the X Prize, Robert Zubrin of the Mars Society, and several others.

Final frontier beckons as a development opportunity By Paula Berinstein - Orlando Sentinel - June.23.02

Though I have quibbles about some of the details in the book, I'm very impressed with the depth of its coverage of the diverse entrepreneurial space world. I've often lamented that so few people are aware of the exciting new developments in space businesses that are occuring with little attention paid by the mainstream media, as well as much of the aerospace media.

People in the field like to compare the situation to that of the early days in the development of personal computers. In the 1970s such machines were considered hobbyist toys and even well into the 1980s few of the mainframe computer companies took PCs seriously. But gradually their capabilities grew until PCs dominated the industry.

Space tourist jaunts to the ISS, sub-orbital rocket projects, low cost Moon orbiters, space advertising, and other such baby steps at building a genuine space industry are not taken very seriously today by NASA and the aerospace giants. While there will surely be many disappointments and reversals, and it probably won't grow as fast as the PC business, the tremendous energy, drive and imagination of the activists and entreprenours will keep the private space industry alive and expanding.

For more about private space developments, check out David Livingston's The Space Show. This weekly radio show, previously known as Business Without Boundaries, is now available on line. He interviews leading figures in the development of outer-space commerce and space tourism. Archives of shows since June 2001 are also available. Listen live on the internet at www.renaissanceradio.com .

Mike Hodel's Hour 25 is primarily devoted to science fiction but he also often has space activists as guests. See the list of previous shows (Index by Guest ) that are available on line.

Finally, there are many sections here at HobbySpace that monitor events in activism and the new space businesses. For example, see the Space Activism, Investing: New Businesses, RLV Countdown and the RLV News sections. See also the review of the recent Space Access Society Conference where many RLV companies discussed their projects.

Halfway to AnywhereHalfway to Anywhere: Achieving America's Destiny in Space
by G. Harry Stine, 1998
Another excellent view into the world of space activism, is this older but still highly relevant book by the late Harry Stine, who examined the history and politics behind efforts to lower the cost to orbit. (The title comes from Robert Heinlein's comment that once you get to low earth orbit, you aer halfway to just about anywhere in the solar system as far as energy requirements are concerned.) Stine focuses, in particular, on the DC-X project, which was started outside in the Air Force rather than in NASA. Its primary goals were to show that a rocket powered vehicle could be built at low cost, fly repeatedly with minimal maintenance, and be operated by a small staff. Activists played a big part in getting this groundbreaking project going despite many efforts within NASA and the Defense Department to stop it. Readers may be surprised, for example, at how easily mid-level bureaucrats can stymie a project even when Congress explicitly orders the project to proceed. Other topics include the history of SSTO and RLV designs, Gary Hudson's efforts in the 1980's to build a privately funded rocket, and more.

The Spacefaring Web 2.9:
An Apollo National Monument

John Carter McKnight

This December, thirty years will have passed since the last human walked on the Moon. As things stand now, that anniversary, with its strange mix of pride and shame, will go unnoticed outside a small circle of space advocates. That silence will be as great a loss as our return from the Moon was, if we cannot even raise ourselves to remember the dream of space we once shared, and set aside.

We - space advocates and Americans at large - need to do better than that. And we can. Let us call on the President to declare the Apollo launch site at the Kennedy Space Center, Pad 34, the Apollo memorial, if at all possible restoring one of the remaining Saturn V relics to the pad, in honor of every one who dedicated years of their life to the dream of landing on the Moon, to remind us all of what we had, what we chose to abandon in place, and what we might have once again.

Let us begin an initiative to establish an Apollo National Monument.....continue

Other Space News and Links of Interest

Satellite Radio: boosting space business? The Iridium and Globalstar failures left in tatters the reputation on Wall Street of the space industry. Though direct to home satellite TV and traditional satellite broadcasting services are doing fine, the damage done by these very public disasters has badly damaged the stock prices of all space companies.

So there is special interest in whether the new satellite radio services will succeed. A success could restore faith in space business as a whole, while another failure would be devastating to the industry.

Today, the Sirius company, which has been rolling out its service gradually for several months, announced that it now provides service nationwide : Sirius Satellite Radio Launches Service Nationwide - Sirius PR - July.1.02.

XM Radio, which has been operating nationwide for most of this year, announced that it had exceeded its subscriber goals for the second quarter: Satellite Radio Leader XM Tops 136,500 Subscribers, Exceeding Wall Street Q2 Projections; With XM Retail Sales Rolling, General Motors Commences Factory Installation of XM on 25 Car Models - XM Radio - July.1.02

The services are getting great reviews: Heather Newman: Music is out of this world with satellite radio in car - Detroit Free Press - June.5.02.

The early signs are good but both companies need to attract 3 or 4 million subscribers to break even. So they still have big hills to climb.

Amateurs quick to scan sat images - NOAA recently launched another one of its low orbiting weather satellites. As discussed in the Space Radio section, it is a fun hobby to build and use a PC based ground station to pick up the images from these satellites as they pass overhead.

Even before NOAA released an image from the satellite - First image released from new weather satellite [NOAA-17] - Spaceflight Now - June.25.02 - an amateur satellite scanner had posted his own image from the satellite on his site. See: Otso Laakso / OH2GAX.

AMSAT 7 keeps going and going: An amateur satellite, launched in 1974 and presumed dead after a short in its battery in 1981, has begun broadcasting again. It's Aliiiiive! AMSAT-OSCAR 7 Satellite Returns from the Dead - ARRLWeb - June.24.02. Apparently, thermal cycling has broken the short so that it can now run off solar panel power whenever it is in sunlight.

Rockets roaring - The British MARS rocketry group reports a successful test of their latest high power hybrid rocket motor: Hybrid success for British rocket - BBC - June.25.02

In the US Rocketman Ky Michaelson and his Civilian Space Exploration Team are reportedly on the verge of taking a shot at the high altitude record for an amateur rocket: Amateurs to Make a Stab at Space With Rocket - Space.com - June.18.02

Draw on a really big canvas with your GPS - sketch a masterpiece with a map of your waypoints. See With GPS, World Is Your Canvas by Lakshmi Sandhana - Wired - June.22.02


Modified July 3, 2002

Find previous space news in
Articles Index 1999-2002


See also  
Space Headlines
RLV News
News Links

Space Science

Back on Mars
in the Arctic

Another invasion of scientists, engineers and future Martians (we hope) has fallen once again upon Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic as the short summer season begins.

There are two main projects going on simultaneously at the remote island where an meteor impacted 23 million years ago.

The big one is the NASA Haughton-Mars Project 2002, which is a multipurpose program with a large number of participants including universities, research institutes, and space activist organizations including the National Space Society, Planetary Society, and the Space Frontier Foundation.

Within this project there are many different science and exploration sub-projects that include looking at similarities with Mars geology, studying bacterial life that thrives in extreme environments, examining the effects of large meteorite impacts, testing robotics for future rover missions, and other studies.

The second project is the Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station (FMARS) that is run by the Mars Society.

This will be the third season that the Society has manned the simulated Mars habitat.

The crews will serve 3 week rotations. They will test various technologies and techniques for future Mars missions.

Spaceref.com will provide regular updates and web cam images from the Mars on Earth at Mars.tv - SpaceRef web site.

One of the primary goals this summer will be to assemble a greenhouse sponsored by Spaceref.: Earth on Mars: Greenhouses on the Red Planet by Keith Cowing - SpaceRef - June.2.02

Learning to grow food and oxygen producing plants in a Mars-like environment will be a great help in making a Mars base self-sustaining.

Space Tourism, Contests

Space Contests &
More about Lance

If you are not worth many millions of dollars, it would seem impossible for you to grab a ride to space like Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth did.

A common proposal to allow regular folk to go to space is to create a lottery. Previously, we mentioned here the SpaceLotto program.

Now the Space Lottery contest has appeared.

This program offers a chance to win a ride on a sub-orbital vehicle when it becomes available.

Each $10 purchase of a Space book - "custom-printed journal packed with articles, breaking news, and collectable trading cards about space", comes with an Internet entry card on which you select numbers for a drawing. The first drawing will be in July 2002.

If a suitable vehicle doesn't become available by 2006, an equivalent prize will be rewarded. Contest restricted to those over 18. For more info on the rules, see the Terms and Conditions.


A space trip for Lance Bass, of the boy group Nsync, was discussed in the previous issue. The deadline for buying a ticket for the next Soyuz flight for October was reportedly closing fast.

Alan Boyle (MSNBC Cosmic Log) reports that a television network sent "the Russians a substantial 'nonrefundable deposit' to keep" alive his chances to go in the fall.

He has begun training while Destiny Productionsí David Krieff continues his attempt to get full funding from a consortium of advertisers and the TV network.

N'Sync's Bass dreams of going to space station - CTV - June.26.02

Check Basstronautical for updates on his flight status.

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