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Dr. Taylor Dark, Tuesday, 11-5-13 November 6, 2013

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Dr. Taylor Dark, Tuesday, 11-5-13


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Guest:  Dr. Taylor Dark.   Topics:  Space advocacy per his chapter “Reclaiming The Future: Space Advocacy And The Idea Of Progress.”  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.

We welcomed Dr. Taylor Dark to the program to discuss his chapter on space advocacy, “Reclaiming The Future: Space Advocacy And The Idea Of Progress.” Dr. Dark’s chapter appeared in a NASA book around 2007, The Societal Impact of Spaceflight.  The .pdf version is a free download at http://history.nasa.gov/sp4801-part1.pdf.  You can read Dr. Dark’s chapter at www.taylordark.com/NASA%20Chapter.pdf.  For more information about our guest, please visit his website, www.taylordark.com. I urge you to read Dr. Dark’s chapter before listening to this program.  During the first segment of our 2 hour 1 minute discussion, Dr. Dark told us about his space advocacy background given that he started the first high school L5 organization when he was around 14 years old.  From there, we talked about aspects of space advocacy and specific personalities such as Dr. Zubrin and Taylor’s early fascination with O’Neill colonies.  He then described his shift to a different view of advocacy during his undergraduate college days.  Taylor went into detail about advocacy being connected to the idea of progress for humanity and listed three major space advocacy claims: (1) No limits on growth or human capacity; (2) All good things go together meaning elements of progress are linked together & are reinforcing; (3) Innate Directionality meaning progress is always probable.  He discussed these claims on air but he goes into them in detail in his chapter.  The utopian or messianic view of some advocates was discussed.  Dr. Dark also pointed out that space advocacy was not the only outlet for science, progress for humanity, etc.  Next, he talked about the frontier idea which he said was a weak argument.  He cited many national experiences that had had no frontier and have done well with their space program.  A listener asked our guest for his three top space arguments which were space exploration for more understanding of the universe, planetary defense of potential NEO hits, & commercial activity that was really profitable.  John called in to talk about the need for low cost space access and RLVs which would in turn cause space advocates to engage in lots of potentially profitable ventures. 

In our second segment, Doug called to talk about the probable costs of the O’Neill vision including the lunar base, SSP, & the habitat.  He suggested space tourism was a potential scalable profitable venture and he talked about space and lunar settlement.  Doug also talked about propellant in Earth orbit and satellites from LEO to GEO.  I spoke with Doug about project financing and how commercial or public sector project viability is analyzed which was different from what Doug talked about.  Taylor suggested that advocates don’t typically engage in something like project financing, instead opting for solutions that fit their advocacy agenda.  Taylor talked about the challenges of many advocacy claims including HE3 and fusion and the need for large space settlements.  As we were ending the discussion, Taylor was asked about the possible impact of microbial life being discovered, past or present, or ET.  We also talked about advocacy for inspiration & education and the impact of the Chinese program on advocacy and civil/commercial space. 

Please post comments/questions on The Space Show blog above. Dr. Dark can be reached through his website.


1. Kelly Starks - November 9, 2013

Very big agree Dr. Taylor Dirks points.

Personally I’ve run into the most amazing and adamant clinging to beliefs with no foundation in reality.

· I’ve had space advocates who – even knowing I was at that time a engineer writing specs for the Orion capsules life support and cooling systems – said (in rather insulting to obscene terms) that I didn’t know what I was talking about in regard to Orion not being capable of doing the half year flights to asteroids, or fly multiple flights, etc.

· I’ve had folks dismiss the simple arithmetic showing their assumption that it’s the costs driven by the rocket equation that drives (or impacts) launch costs. So only exotic futuristic launch technology can lower cost to orbit.

· Advocate have utter disbelief that not everyone is horrified we haven’t set foot on Mars yet.

· Are certain NASA has developed vast amounts of critical technology for the modern world.

· And of course are openly derisive of professionals in the field who contradict their assumptions. (The catty and contemptuous reaction to Burt Rutan’s [developer of Virgins Space Ship 1 & 2] comments was an excellent case in point.)

Having little willingness to even look at reality, space advocates really can’t help as advocates, since they can’t comprehend the world non advocates live in. They can’t speak to the needs and desires of non-advocates. So if anything they convince non advocates space is a bad thing to invest more in.

One factor in particular I notice is the serious lack of understanding of economics. For example explaining that the technology allows launch costs of tens of dollars per pound, but the fixed overhead and upfront investment costs add tens of thousands of dollars a pound over such small number of launches; and you’ll get a blank look and anger insistence that if you can build such a craft do it,and you’d take over the market with tens of dollars a pound to orbit.

Excellent show — may the Dr be protected by the horde of enraged NewSpacers with pitch forks and torches surly coming for him. 😉

2. idiom - November 7, 2013

This was an excellent interview. The chapter after Dr. Dark’s was also very interesting and possibly more controversial.

As a rule, if it makes sense to do, we wouldn’t need the government to do it. The government is there for things that don’t make sense.

3. Joe from Houston - November 6, 2013

Being a space advocate for doomed ideas is the prevalent situation that we consistently fall into. As one idea fails another fills its place. This cycle is repeated as long as people advocate new ideas to replace old ideas. Only 1 or 2% of these ideas ever become a viable business case. The ultimate cost is paid by those left standing such as taxpayers or stock holders when the music shuts off. If you threw one hundred darts at a dartboard while blindfolded, you would likely get only one bull’s eye if you were extremely lucky.
1. Asteroid strikes are rare as rare gets. Most people are incapable of comprehending how rare it really is. They are very capable, however, in becoming fearful when their government officials consistently resort to and rely on fear mongering to get their way for the sake of progress and growth. That is where and how the real world operates. People or voters, in general, keep those, who promise to protect them, in office without the slightest inclination towards funding asteroid deflection campaigns. No matter what level of scientific credentials one accumulates, one cannot realistically assume they can secure asteroid deflection funding from a government full of pork sustaining advocates.
2. Collisions that produce orbital debris are overblown in pure hype. The classic example of building fear among the masses is a simple artist’s rendering that depicts the Earth surrounded by threatening satellites as seen from 100,000 miles out in space. The drawing shows bright yellow dots (pixels on a picture) representing man-made objects orbiting Earth at various orbits. It looks like a beehive surrounded by angry bees. The fine print on the artist’s rendering that no one really pays attention to is “Objects appear larger than they actually are”. This is the famous quote in the movie, “Jurassic Park” that made the producer very rich. If you drew the objects to their actual size compared to Earth, you could only see them through a pair of binoculars looking into a microscope.
3. Sending a privileged few people to other planets is a future possibility; however, the other two things you get from space are more likely to generate commerce and economic growth on a grander scale sooner than later. They are:
a. Pretty pictures from space, and,
A rock from space can be bought on the Internet with no questions asked for $15/g or $425/oz or $6,802/lb. People have to spend time and money searching, collecting, and marketing rocks from space to make it worth their time and effort. To date, no rocks from space collected while in space have ever been sold to the public. They are instead placed in displays at space museums all over the world.
Returning a 10,000 lbs. rock from space could result in a $70M payoff at $15/g at a minimum. It is likely to result in magnitudes more if marketed like Kickstarter. You buy a rock from space before you get it in the mail. This amount of money, by the way, is the cost of India’s Mars Probe http://www.space.com/23464-india-launches-mars-orbiter-mission.html
The problem to solve to establish a business case for this type of profit producing space venture is finding 10,000 lbs. rocks in space close enough to robotically retrieve. Solution: Launch lots of low-cost asteroid spotting telescopes in low Earth orbit that piggy back on commercial satellites such as the Iridium Next satellites. http://www.iridium.com/about/iridiumnext.aspx
The fact is you can see smaller objects in space when you are in space as opposed to sitting on top of a mountain. That logic works because there are more telescopes on top of mountains than there are at sea level. There currently are no small asteroid spotting telescopes in low Earth orbit. If there were, we would be inundated with small asteroid spottings. Simply put, if you have 20 telescopes in low Earth orbit, all looking at the same place in inertial space, you could realistically compare the images to instantly discover the small objects in the field of view and produce an asteroid ephemeris file that describes its orbit and proximity to Earth. Once a database of these small asteroids exists that can be obtained no other Earth-bound way, you plan a mission to coincide with the in-space retrieval of the one that costs the least amount of orbital energy.
Join me and become a space advocate for commercial space companies willing to front the money to return rocks from space and sell them to the open market. In all likelihood, just like the ingenious business case that created space tourism for commercial profit, it is likely to quickly transform into a long term government funded program to keep rocks from space from falling directly into the public’s hands. This becomes a viable business case when these small asteroids actually get spotted by on-orbit spotting telescopes.

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