National Students’ Space Policy Proposal 2006

By SpaceRef Editor
July 26, 2006
Filed under
National Students’ Space Policy Proposal 2006

Dear Space Development Supporter,

On behalf of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, I am proud to announce our first ever National Students’ Space Policy Proposal. This document was created to inspire senators, representatives, companies and space enthusiasts to consider the future generation’s views and opinions on space development when supporting and implementing policy. Undergraduate students in a variety of fields from universities across the globe shared their opinions on current space advancement issues with me in order to create this manuscript. Please read this incredible collaboration and reply with regards as to how this has affected you and suggestions for us. Thank you for listening to tomorrow’s space leaders. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

With much appreciation,

Elizabeth A. Bozek, Director of Chapter Affairs, SEDS USA

737 N. Ottawa Avenue Park Ridge, IL 60068

National Students’ Space Policy Proposal 2006

Compiled and Written by Elizabeth A. Bozek SEDS National Director of Chapter Affairs

The SEDS Space Policy Proposal

Issue I: American Space Activities Lack Sufficient Public Awareness and Support

More important than any of the technological challenges facing space exploration, the biggest issue facing the space industry today is public awareness. However, large scale public support is necessary for any sustained national space exploration initiative. Thus, it is vital that the importance of space exploration is understood by the public. Most citizens support minimal space research and exploration, but are not willing to increase their support beyond current levels. We believe that this is because they do not see how space applications can benefit them directly. The public has forgotten the excitement and possibilities of furthering space advancement (untapped solid resource reservoirs, alternative energy means, potential property rights, and other discoveries that can not yet be foreseen). Another subsidiary problem is the public’s confusion over how the space industry fits into industry as a whole. The space industry needs to be seen as an alternate means of the transportation industry, treated more similarly to an airline industry, but not regulated to a subsection of the FAA.

Students can follow SEDS’ lead and serve as binding agents between the different professional and governmental groups that tend to have different agendas. Student groups can bring these other organizations to a middle ground where they can focus their energies and efforts on a few common goals. The space industry has indeed grown since the Apollo days; in fact, the industry is trying to solve every problem, simultaneously. This severely stretches the limited soft support there is for space. As students, we can address the issue by trying to improve the public’s image of space exploration through presentations and outreach programs. We can speak to children about the excitement of space to generate interest in science and math. We can emphasize the fact that through the private sector, space travel is becoming more widespread and accessible. A new age of space travel is dawning, one in which the average person will be able to go into space and experience what was reserved for a few specially trained individuals. Students need to present the concept of continued space exploration to the public as a transportation development program which is very similar to previous advances in suborbital flight. Like SEDS members, students everywhere can help increase public support for space by working for the space industry and creating a new highly competitive job market, employing space services in the future through entrepreneurship, and by voting and lobbying accordingly. We must remind the public how valuable the space industry is and how many common household products (food products, CD’s, textiles etc.) came as space development technologies.

Issue II: Where we would like to see the space industry headed in the future

The space industry is headed towards privatization, where smaller companies begin to create more demand for spaceflight than just the government. The Apollo generation was promised commercial spaceflight in their lifetimes. The government failed to come through, so we must take it into our hands to complete that promise. Yet, the Federal government is too bureaucratic to pass the necessary legislation through Congress in a reasonable time. The fate of our long term goals now rests with the private industry.

Students like us hope that NASA will indeed be headed back to the Moon and Mars, as the “Vision for Exploration” states. However, we think it will encounter difficulties with the change in administration and the shifts in Congress. It will be hard to sustain a program of that size over several Presidential administrations, and other unforeseen national expenditures that are bound to arise. On the other side of the spectrum is the private industry. Companies such as Virgin Galactic will soon be carrying passengers into space. This has the potential to evolve into a viable commercial space tourism market, including orbital flights, space hotels and a host of other new applications. Some companies even offer the hope of privately funded, economical transportation to Mars.

Competitions such as the X-Prize reinvigorate the space age by providing recognition and prestige to technologically advanced nations and organizations. Funding this revolution will require innovative marketing concepts. The most lucrative area will be advertising. As private companies show that increased understanding of space and the universe will benefit life in every aspect, more and more people will want to become involved.

In the near, future, we see space tourism as the best direction for private sector. Tourism is a means of introducing new technology into a society by having those that can afford it (at first) pay for it. As more become involved, prices will eventually go down, leading to a viable market that all could participate in. Eventually this could lead to permanent settlement and a huge, new transportation industry. This will eventually help humanity become a multi-planet species.

Issue III: Space activities can have positive impacts on other important national issues

Environmental problems can be solved or at least helped with continued space development. Our sun is the most obvious and powerful means by which to harness energy. With a few more years of steady funding, satellite technology would be able to light and power entire cities. With little waste and a huge source, this is the best solution for our world amidst a natural fuel crisis. Solidification of space policy, and perhaps some leniency in restrictions on the private space industry will help promote the commercialization and development of space technologies that will benefit the environment. On the very large scale, space exploration might be our most important endeavor; it might be the only way to preserve the human species. Legislators need to recognize that space is an untapped resource for life. There is immense industrial and commercial value in space. Space exploration is risky, but to be a leader, America must be willing to take risks.

Issue IV: Human advancement in space can be used to help the international community

The advances of space exploration are interconnected with almost every aspect of our modern world. For example, space offers an essentially unlimited set of natural resources and raw materials. No longer will we need to strip our planet’s ecosystem to find useful minerals, for instance, when they can be found in copious quantities on near Earth asteroids. Earth cannot forever support a species that is growing exponentially. Humans can, and need to find resources outside of the Earth and eventually move out into space colonies that can support our ever growing numbers. As we colonize the solar system, commerce will turn from the global market to the interplanetary market, trading minerals and rare elements from other planets and asteroids. The ultimate protection of the environment can also be accomplished through space exploration. The ability to deflect a large incoming asteroid is essential to the survival of the Earth’s biosphere. Based on statistical asteroid research, we are due for another large asteroid hitting the Earth soon. Long-term survival of the human species depends on having human colonies distributed throughout the solar system. Secondary to the above arguments is the fact that any advancements in technology due to space exploration can and will be applied to other uses on Earth. This has been proven by history.

We have only to look back to Apollo to see what a huge impact space exploration can provide to the world. Exploration inspired children to pursue advanced careers, and the United States awarded the most PhDs to U.S. citizens it ever has when those inspired children completed their schooling. The world is now the direct beneficiary of our academic capabilities, as universities had to substantially increase their capacity to support the influx of “Apollo-PhDs.” After the rates of U.S citizens earning PhDs dropped off, universities had no choice but to pull in large numbers of students from abroad just to maintain economic sustainability.

Human advancement in space took a part of the aviation industry and spawned a whole new enterprise with the development of space hardware. This new industry has since found many commercial opportunities in communication and defense. Earth observation satellites provide sufficiently detailed data to show our impact on the environment and how new policies and improve or degrade the situation.

A repeat of Apollo is not the correct solution for today. The political situation was very different back then and the funding levels per capita spent on the space program at that time are not sustainable today. What we need is a space program that we can truly be proud of, inspiring the next generation and exciting the current generation. Such a program should produce the benefits this country saw after Apollo. Then, once the United States is no longer tied to its own inertia, other countries will continue to expand and improve their own programs to reap similar benefits.

Expansion into new territories has, historically, almost always been accomplished by a flow of benefits back to the homeland of those expanding. Inspiration and motivation resulting in such accomplishments is what will sustain the exploratory program. For example, space colonization could mitigate the negative effects of global overpopulation. Economic growth and technological advancement are both accelerated by new, challenging arenas for commercial competition. For example, the search for cheap propulsion could assist in the search for a new, clean and cheap energy source to use on Earth. If, however, moving into space fails to stop our slow destruction of Earth, at least it will give us a place to live once we make earth uninhabitable. Space travel would greatly help alleviate this problem. Solar panels in orbit are far more effective than those on Earth. The power generated there can be sent back to Earth or space colonies, and, after enough have been launched, would be enough to power the entire planet without any pollution or harmful byproducts.

Human advancement in space is important for itself though, and not just for the spin-offs it provides. Historically, any human expansion has resulted in an increase in wealth and living standards. Human experience living in space will also teach us how to live on Earth: how to recycle more efficiently, and how to correct our own environmental damage. International cooperation in space exploration can serve as a powerful symbol for cooperation in the current globalized market, helping to stabilize trade and increase good relations. In going to space, businesses will need to manufacture and build stations themselves, as well as the other aspects of living. This will increase trade between these companies because it is more efficient for one company to mass produce one product than everyone starting from square one and fending for themselves. This will also strengthen our international and multinational commitments. Collaboration between business ventures will become more essential than ever.

The development of space will allow us to gain many more resources and raw materials, and it will allow humans to spread while not exceeding the carrying capacity of our planet. Space development will also allow for much faster travel even between locations on the surface of the Earth, and it will enhance technology in general since developing products for the extremes of space leads to innovations in normal human life.

Issue V: How students of SEDS will incorporate the space industry into their future careers

“I will join the business of space tourism.”

“I would like to go to space and be able to live there as well as create an international community.”

“My ideal job is a systems engineer at NASA. As such, I’d like a lean and capable space industry willing to try new things without a huge premium. I’d like to see launch costs reduced and launch rates increased so that we can truly conduct experimental test flights and missions without worrying about the cost of failure as we push the envelope.”

“I will be attending law school, and there are a number of ways I can see myself using that to help the advancement of space development. I want to spend most of the first decade of my career working on space policy, preferably in the private sector. I am considering working internationally, perhaps helping to organize coalitions of companies and organizations from various countries, with the ultimate goal of creating a global space industry. Eventually, I would like to help in the legal difficulties that early space colonists are likely to face.”

“I plan to continue the efforts of Burt Rutan with SpaceShipOne and develop cheaper methods of getting people and payloads into space.”

“I will be designing vehicles for beyond-Earth orbit.”

“I will lead it.”

“Ad Astra” Contributors:

Elizabeth A. Bozek
Aerospace Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Ryan Caron
Aerospace Engineering
Worchester Polytechnic Institute

Stephanie Jones
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

William McGuire
Aerospace Engineering
North Carolina State University

Ryan McLinko
Aerospace Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Christina McQuirk
Aerospace Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Joshua V. Nelson
Astronomy and Physics
University of Arizona

Winn Phillips
University of Florida

Todd Romberger
Aerospace Engineering
University of Central Florida

Jerry Stanley
Aerospace Engineering
Texas A&M University

Matthew Starr
Aerospace Engineering
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rishi Kant Upadhyay
Vellore Institute of Technology

SEDS: An Overview

SEDS (Students for the Exploration and Development of Space) is an independent, student-based organization which promotes the exploration and development of space. SEDS pursues this mission by educating people about the benefits of space, by supporting a network of interested students, by providing an opportunity for members to develop their leadership skills, and inspiring people through our involvement in space-related projects. SEDS believes in a space-faring civilization and that focusing the enthusiasm of young people is the key to our future in space.

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space was founded in 1980 at MIT and Princeton and consists of an international group of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students from a diverse range of educational backgrounds who are working together to promote the exploration and development of space. SEDS is a chapter based organization with chapters throughout the United States (SEDS-USA) as well as international chapters in Canada, the United Kingdom, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Each chapter is fairly independent and coordinates activities and projects in its own area.

SEDS members are interested in doing as much as they can to promote space exploration and development. The first step in this continual process is learning. SEDS provides an excellent environment in which to obtain access to many sources of information including speakers, tours, films, discussion groups and daily NASA updates. Astronomical observing trips and tours of local space facilities also play a significant role in the life of many SEDS members.

SEDS members take knowledge they have gained and use it to influence the future of the space program. Students at several chapters have played major roles in organizing large conferences and have established important contacts with members of the space community. Others have helped increase public awareness of the benefits of space exploration by offering presentations to local primary and secondary schools as well as universities. Chapters promote technological literacy by coordinating their activities through on-line computer networks. Finally, being actively involved in SEDS can put students in touch with many members of the space, technology, and education community and will allow them to develop the network and experience necessary to take leadership roles in the future of the space industry.

Please see www.seds.org for a complete portrait of SEDS.

SpaceRef staff editor.