Space Exploration in a Time of Social Turmoil

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The contrast was jarring. In one browser window, two NASA astronauts were making their way to the International Space Station (ISS) after the first orbital launch of a crew from U.S. soil in nearly 9 years.

In another window, scenes of chaos played out as protests over the death of George Floyd after his arrest by Minneapolis police erupted into violent clashes across the country.

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Well, This is Interesting….

Artist's conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)
Artist’s conception of a Bigelow lunar habitat. (Credit: Bigelow Aerospace)

I really don’t know what to make of this story about NASA cooperating with Bigelow Aerospace to put a habitat on the moon:

Business deals don’t get much bigger than this one. Have you ever read a contract that gives a governmental green light to a program to “place a base on the surface of the moon?” Ever see an agreement signed by the U.S. government that declares a specific goal “to extend and sustain human activities across the solar system?” Me, either.

Yet that is essence of an adventurous deal already reached between NASA and Las Vegas space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow. An official announcement is still a few days away and will likely happen during a news conference at NASA headquarters. In the meantime, I have a draft copy of what could be an historic contract, one that reads like a Kubrick screenplay or an Arthur C. Clarke story. It is flat-out otherworldly….

NASA has picked Bigelow Aerospace to be a linchpin of this new strategy. The agreement will formalize a series of strategic goals and timetables for the next Space Race. Bigelow’s company would become a clearinghouse of sorts. Its first assignment: to identify which other companies would be most valuable for NASA’s long-range goals, including permanent bases on other celestial bodies, the exploration of the most distant parts of our solar system, and commercial projects that could stimulate the U.S. economy. This is a marriage of American know-how, practical business goals and good, old-fashioned adventure.

The agreement seems rather unusual. Maybe it would be a study done by Bigelow under a Space Act Agreement. And it’s odd that the writer would have a draft copy of a legal agreement that has yet to be signed. It’s possible, but it strikes me as unlikely.











Experts to Debate Our Future Destinations in Space in Sunnyvale on Friday

Asteroid Ida

The question of where humanity should go next in space will be the topic of a round table on Friday, Oct. 29 at the Sheraton Sunnyvale Hotel.

“Moon, Mars, Asteroids: Where to Go First for Resources?” will bring together some of the world’s top experts to debate our next step in the settlement of space. The round table, sponsored by the Space Studies Institute, will be held from 7:00 to 10 p.m., including a post-debate reception. Admission is free to registered conference attendees and the general public.

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Jack Schmitt on Lunar Water: Don’t Make Reservations for the Moon Just Yet

moon_wires

Apollo 17 moon walker Harrison “Jack” Schmitt was in Vienna addressing the Austrian Academy of Sciences on Wednesday, saying that many challenges remain despite NASA’s discovery of water on the moon. The Chinese Xinhua news agency reports:

However, he pointed out that that was not enough to promote the establishment of lunar manned station. In his view, the key issue about water on the moon was not its scarcity but rather how to use it.

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Space Review Looks at Augustine, RLVs and Saddam Hussein

augustine_logo

The Space Review features the following articles this week:

  • Jeff Foust reports on the reaction to the Augustine Commission report and how the report is the next step, but not the last step, in crafting a new space policy.
  • Taylor Dinerman sees some encouraging signs that big companies and the government are taking a renewed interest in reusable launch vehicles.
  • Sam Dinkin looks at how further improvements in morbidity can make space settlement imminent.
  • Dwayne Day looks at Saddam Hussein’s effort to develop a space program.











NASA Official Touts One-Way Trips to Space

phoenixheatshield1

Space exploration volunteers wanted (The catch? It’s a one-way ticket)
The Guardian

The next generation of astronauts may hurtle through the cosmos for years or decades on a mission to explore distant planets and stars – and never return.

A senior Nasa official has told the Guardian that the world’s space agencies, or the commercial firms that may eventually succeed them, could issue one-way tickets to space, with the travellers accepting that they would not come back.

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Save the World By Leaving It….

Averting Armageddon via asteroid
Commentary – Douglas MacKinnon
Baltimore Sun

Make no mistake: We had no clue that 2009 DD45 was out there or that it was basically on a years-in-the-making possible collision course with our planet. None. While this close shave raises many questions, two immediate ones come to mind.

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No Lunar Colonies? No Pan Am Rocketplanes? No S***

Over at The Space Review this week, there are some interesting pieces on why, 50 years after NASA was created, there are no colonies at the moon, Mars or L-5. In addition to Nader Elhefnawy’s essay on overpopulation and space exploration (see separate post, below), there are three other articles loosely grouped around this common theme.

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