Thursday, July 16, 2009

Apollo - An Alternative Way to Promote Space Development

WHEREAS: The development of space is the best way to help to secure the long-term survival of the human species and its descendants.

WHEREAS: Value consists of relationships between states of affairs and desires.

WHEREAS: Moral value consists of relationships between malleable desires and other desires.

WHEREAS: A great many and strong human desires are tied up in the long-term survival of the human race, from those who simply have a desire that the human species survive, to those who see their own immortality in the survival of the human species, to those who care for the well-being of their children, grandchildren, and so on into the indefinite future.

WHEREAS: A desire to see to the long-term survival of the human race is clearly a desire that would tend to fulfill other desires, so is a desire that people generally have many and strong reason to promote (whether they know it or not).

WHEREAS: A desire to see to the development of space is a way of realizing a state that would fulfill this desire to help to secure the long-term survival of the human species.

WHEREAS: The development of space is a public good, where those who would finance it cannot prevent its enjoyment by those people who would not pay for it, since it cannot deny "survival of the human species" to those who will not pay, will tend to be under-funded to a great degree in the free market.

WHERAS: NASA, as it currently operates, is not so much an instrument for carrying out the development of space as it is an instrument for transferring money from the taxpayers as a whole into the pockets of companies and facilities that reside in the home districts of certain legislators.

WHEREAS: Owing to the fact that NASA is not really about space exploration, its space development projects are constantly and massively behind schedule and over budget.

WHEREAS: The same can be expected of any future space project such as the current plan to build a base on the moon.

WHEREAS: Promoting the long-term survival of the human species is better served by a system that does more with less money than by a system that does less with more money.

WHEREAS: NASA has no ability to exploit other potential sources of revenue such as the commercial value of space property or the commercial value of a space project itself as a form of entertainment for those who would be interested in such a project.

WHEREAS: This inability to exploit other potential sources of revenue means a drain on resources that would otherwise be available to the project of space development.

WHEREAS: NASA is operating under an aversion to the potential loss of human life by those participating in the development of space that is wholly at odds with the nature of this project as one that is inherently risky and one in which such losses need to be taken in stride.

WHEREAS: There is a sufficiently large number of qualified or qualifiable individuals whose desires are such that the quality of their own lives is enhanced, rather than diminished, by an opportunity to participate in a project such as this in spite of (and even because of) the risks that it provides no real-world benefit, and in fact poses a real-world cost, to have such a high concern for the potential loss of life.

WHEREAS: Contests are a proven way of getting a diverse set of teams working towards a particular objective (building the fastest car with the most skilled, flying around the world in a balloon) while it only pays money out to those who are the most successful and wastes no money on those who fail.

WHEREAS: NASA, in spending taxpayer money, should only give its money to those who are successful at accomplishing particular ends, and should not pay for failure, except when there is no way that the government can get private entities to suffer the risk of failure.

WHEREAS: There is a surplus of companies and potential teams willing to risk failure for a chance to participate in a space project, if only they could get financing for those projects.

WHEREAS: The promise of a potential NASA cash award for success would be an important consideration for private investors to contribute money to those teams whose projects show the greater likelihood of success at a lower cost.

WHEREAS: These private teams would have the liberty to acquire corporate sponsorships and tap into sources of revenue that NASA has no ability to tap into in order to better fund their projects without taxpayer expense.

WHEREAS: Competitions such as sporting events have historically proven to have the potential to attract outside revenue.

THEREFORE: For my second birthday wish, I wish to see NASA's project to return to the moon halted and the money offered up instead as a set of prizes for private companies successful at reaching certain space-development milestones. And may the better teams win.


dbonfitto said...

I'm just going to throw this out there as a possible future outcome:

Mike said...

Alonzo, shouldn't we consider offering that money instead towards those that would develop sustainable methods of energy production and resource management? Our current space vessel is in need of an overhaul, and we will likely not be able to move to Mars or the Moon in any significant way before life support goes critical here on Earth.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

First, rather than "instead" I would say "In addition to." The method I describe here can be applied to other problems as well, and for some of the same reasons. Just as some of NASA's budget can be offered to fund the types of prizes I write about here, some of the budgets for the Department of Energy and Department of Health can be re-allocated as well.

Second, I consider space to be the best long-term resources for energy and materials. There is a lot of energy flowing about in space and space-based solar power stations can harvest that energy around the clock. I have also mentioned that, while the Earth requires 2000 km^3 of material to create 1 km^2 of surface area. A space station requires 0.002 km^3 of material for 1 km^2 of surface area. So, the material from the asteroid belts can create 30,000 earth-equivalent of surface area.

Third, we do not know how much time we have before lose the bet we continue to make by having all of our genetic eggs in one planetary basket. If some long-period commet has Earth in its sites we cannot apply for an extension until we have dealt with some of these other problems.

Anonymous said...

An interesting podcast that is all about promoting the space industry.

and of course, the Planetary Society, founded by Carl Sagan and 2 other scientists.

This blog entry reminded me of these sources.

Mike said...

I could support development in harvesting solar energy from space- that is plausible, although storage, transport, and distribution to earth would provide a challenge.

I could also support what seems to be a Noah's ark argument- that we need to preserve humans and other life off this planet in case the worst happens sooner than we think. And so we would develop a space colony in case that happens.

I am still not convinced for serious habitation and relocation as there are so many interdependent mechanisms on our planet that sustain billions of lives and shield us from harm, that to recreate them to meet the most basic needs seems a tall order for even a few thousand people. I would assume the moon or mars are our only near possibilities for habitation. But for how many people, and at what cost per person?

I still see a justification for diverting resources for space development for energy and resource management on Earth. My fear is that the benefits of additional space development will take too long and too much to realize, for the benefit of too few.