Ted Cruz is Right About Space Piracy

On May 14, Texas Senator Ted Cruz made the mistake of using “space” and “pirates” in the same sentence, and the Twittersphere pounced. At first, media coverage of the story focused on Cruz’s supposed humiliation on Twitter. Then the story moved to Cruz’s criticism of Twitter highlighting his detractors on its platform, but not his responses. And then the makers and shapers of public opinion, from the lowliest tweeter to the top news anchors, found something else to pounce on. Just another week in 2019 America.

But the story should have focused on the substance of Cruz’s remarks. Here’s what Senator Cruz actually said:

“Since the ancient Greeks first put to sea, nations have recognized the necessity of naval forces and maintaining a superior capability to protect waterborne travel and commerce from bad actors. Pirates threaten the open seas, and the same is possible in space. In this same way, I believe we too must now recognize the necessity of a space force to defend the nation, and to protect space commerce and civil space exploration.”

It’s about time there was more public dialog about the security challenges presented by new space technologies. The rapidity with which these technologies have advanced over the past 30-40 years rivals that of chip technology, where capacity has doubled roughly ever two years. For example, in 1981, the ultra-modern reusable Space Shuttle brought the price to launch a kilogram into space down to $85,000. This enabled a global communications revolution […] Read More

America’s High Frontier

On May 25, 1961, in a speech before Congress, President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of sending an American to the moon and back before the end of the decade. Eight years, one month, and twenty-five days later, on July 20, 1969, American astronaut Neal Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface, joined a few moments later by Buzz Aldrin.

To fully appreciate how much the Americans accomplished in just over eight years, consider the situation in mid-1961. On April 12th, the Russians had embarrassed the U.S. by blasting cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space. And while American astronaut Alan Shepard followed Gagarin into space a few weeks later on May 5th, his mission was only a 15 minute suborbital flight. Gagarin’s flight lasted 108 minutes and completed a full orbit around the planet. We were way behind.

Moreover, compared to what eventually became the Apollo lunar spacecraft, these early forays into space were extremely primitive. Basically the entire Mercury program, designed to achieve spaceflight in low earth orbit while keeping an astronaut on board, consisted of putting an aerodynamic pressure vessel atop a souped-up intercontinental ballistic missile. By contrast, the many modules and maneuvers required to safely deliver three astronauts to the moon and back, was orders of magnitude more complex. Yet America made all that progress in just over eight years.

Back in 1969, if you told anyone that nobody would return to the moon for another fifty years, they would have laughed. The […] Read More

The Spice Islands of Interplanetary Space

Back in July 2009, in a post “Industrialize the Solar System,” I laid out the economic “case for space:”

(1) Space development will catalyze economic development in general, which always enables higher environmental consciousness and greater resources to address environmental challenges.

(2) Living in space requires recycling technologies for water and air that are many times more demanding than on earth, and these technologies will have applications that will improve water and emission treatment technologies on earth.

(3) Zero gravity manufacturing and manufacturing off the planet can eventually allow us to do potentially hazardous work in space where there is no danger to the earth’s ecosystem.

(4) There are benefits in terms of earth observation and ecosystem management that we have only begun to realize through a presence in space.

(5) We may build satellite solar power stations and beam the energy they produce back to earth.

(6) We can access minerals on the Moon, Mars, other terrestrial moons, and the asteroids that eventually can take pressure off resources on earth.

To this sixth point, a fascinating comment recently surfaced on a post by Walter Russell Mead entitled “Top Green Admits ‘We are Lost‘,” where the writer quantified the amount of minerals likely to be recoverable in a relatively small (1 km diameter) asteroid. Here is an excerpt:

“A 1 km metallic asteroid (90th percentile iridium richness), mined at a rate of 1 million cubic meters per year, […] Read More

Industrialize the Solar System

On this 40th anniversary of the first manned mission to the surface of the Moon, it is perhaps not so far fetched to venture a suggestion such as this. And after all, if, as conventional wisdom has it, it is within our power to micromanage the earth’s climate by shutting down our industrial combustion, going back to the moon and beyond isn’t far fetched at all.

I remember that summer afternoon in 1969 quite well. A memorable part of my childhood had been spent assembling plastic scale models of spacecraft – I must have built nearly all of them, from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo, and the astronauts were my heroes. As we followed the progress of Apollo 11 from Earth to Moon, I could name every module, describe every maneuver. To this day I remember Neil Armstrong’s voice, crackling with static, stating “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” If anyone had told me this would be the farthest we would venture as a species for the next 50 years, I would have thought they were crazy.

The relevance of space industrialization and settlement today is greater than ever, although you would never know from listening to our politicians or our media pundits, or even our NASA administrators. The most visible face of NASA these days is James Hanson, who is a fanatical coal-bashing global warming activist with little if any apparent interest in seeing humans ever travel beyond this planet.

Last year I was fortunate […] Read More