A series of back and forth comments on a recent posting of mine ("Space Race 2.0? Hardly.") made me realise that, having reached our 1-year anniversary here at the Space Cynics...
Happy Birthday to Us
Happy Birthday to Us
Happy Birthday dear Space Cynics
Happy Birthday to Us...
Anyways: as I was saying, it being our one year anniversary, perhaps it's time for a quick primer for those who haven't been with us from the beginning (and can't be bothered to actually read the archives - you know who you are) and a refresher for those who simply have lost the plot as to what we Cynics actually believe and hold dear.
So, without further ado, here you go.
Development of outer space (this solar system, the galaxy, whatever) WILL likely happen some day by humanity. I say likely because we have to first win that race against self destruction that we seem so hell bent upon. Assuming that humanity manages to get past our adolesence, then developing the "final frontier" is inevitable.
That doesn't mean it will happen in our lifetimes.
The likelihood of lunar bases of any meaning, asteroid mining, L5 colonies, or any of that High Frontier gobbledegook (that's the scientific term) happening in the next 20-30 years is so vanishingly small even the Hubble Space Telescope can't see it. So get over it.
The same goes for massive space solar power satellites, an observatory on the far side of the moon, a meaningful Mars mission, etc.
The missing link, painfully bad analogies of the New World notwithstanding, is Cheap, Reliable, Reusable Access to Space (or, CRRATS). Without the ability to get things off Terra Firma easily and regularly, the markets (commercial ones, not just selling to NASA or the DoD) won't develop. WHEN it happens, however, it will be like any other new market where the cost of entry has dropped considerably - more applications, more entrants, inevitable successes and failures, etc.
Dennis Wingo, for instance, had a great concept with SkyCorp - build satellite components on the ground, assemble the satellite in orbit, so that it costs less and has a better reliability (no need for the fully assembled version to suffer the extremes of the launch regime when you can send it up in pieces...). Unfortunately, without an industry configured around such a model, and no way to regularly get those pieces into orbit, assemble them at a station, etc., we're stuck with the "Big Dumb Booster"(TM) approach.
Fanciful concepts of massive stations at GEO, or even a Space Elevator, ignore the reality that we can barely manage to assemble a station in LEO, which is tiny by comparison, and yet hugely expensive (and yes, many of the ISS costs were a waste, and there is virtually no amortisation of the NRE, but even still it is a ridiculously expensive way to go about things, building a station with overpriced launches).
We are cynical by experience, not because we are ill-informed. Combined we have decades of experience in a wide range of space-related businesses - so give us a little credit. That being said, to those of you who tune in from around the world to read our missives, thank you. It's nice to know we are being read, even if we are but a small, often drowned out by the kool-aid crowd, voice in the wilderness.
Which brings up another point - this "us vs. them" mantra that gets touted every now and then about how we need to develop space to make sure that the core values of the US - "democracy and freedom" (or insert whatever jingoistic babble floats your boat) - is what takes root in space, instead of the evil commies or terrorists or whatever.
Get over it.
If anything, the lack of collaboration on the ground amongst the peoples of the Earth bodes ill for the future of humanity in space, at least in an organised fashion. If we can't figure out how to play nice on the ground, it'd be hard to see how we'll last long in space. And we'd better figure that out, because the "we need a space colony to preserve humanity in case a big asteroid wipes out the planet" kool-aid group needs to realise that some sad little outpost on the moon or, worse, in orbit doesn't stand a snowball's chance in hell of maintaining the Homo Sapien line if Earth is wiped out. At least for the next 100 years.
And that, my friends, is all that matters.
Because we (the current generation of adults in America, anyways) has shown it has no real concern for our own grandchildren and the world (and DEBT) we are leaving to them, so why should we be concerned with the world 100+ years from now?
Sure, in a touchy-feely leave no impact kind of way this is important - but be sure that you recognise that the vast majority of humanity will continue to do what they do because the laws of inertia and conservation work on a human level as they do in the realm of physics. Wishing otherwise won't change that - and planning your business model around it is just the height of stupidity.