Category Archives: Conference

Gee Whiz Society

A small group got together at the Dutch Goose in Menlo Park, the burger joint where Gerard K. O’Neill would share lunches with the construction workers and physicists who were working together building the Stanford Linear Accelerator – “The SLAC” – just a short walk away on Sand Hill Road. (And also share breakfasts and dinners too, according to SSI Co-Founder Tasha O’Neill)

At this lunch someone asked where the phrase about SSI not being a “Gee Whiz Society” came from.

We can tell you that there are many recordings in the Space Studies Institute archives; a number of them are not correct for general public release and many of them were recorded by O’Neill personally – he seemed to always carry that little micro cassette recorder that the President of Panasonic gave him as a gift. Throughout those recordings that phrase popped up.

We think that we can tell you at this point that one time in a private meeting with accountants it was pointedly raised that there was ‘too much’ money going out to hardware projects, when some of it, they thought, might be better used for “advocacy.” O’Neill’s response to this was: “Hardware projects ARE what we do” and “Find the money for them.” And in the listening you can hear plainly that: That… Was… That.

In any case there is a place where you can see the “Gee Whiz” being used to a full audience. Unfortunately, we do not have the recording of it, but if you have ever heard the man’s voice maybe on one of the SSI YouTube or Soundcloud Channel releases, we think you can hear it in your head while reading along.

For context, this was one of the last times GKON addressed the full membership, and it is very likely that he knew it would be. That is important to keep in mind. He was, as always, careful with his words *BUT* there is no doubt that in this address, he was speaking with true reason. We can hear that even in the typed words and we hope that you can too.

“As you know, SSI is a low profile operation. That’s by design. We are not a “Gee Whiz” society – we’re trying to do serious, worthwhile, permanent things which are going to be valuable and bring us out into space.”

“They link fundamentally and make dependent the future of the United States space program on a science program. I say that speaking as a scientist. There is nothing more self-serving, there is nothing more conservative, than the scientific establishment. The scientific establishment takes as a high priority the justification of more science, more grants, more funds, more graduate students, and so on, doing basically the same things.”

“To be fair, some of NASA’s worst blunders, the Shuttle and the Space Station, have nothing to do with science. I think we are seeing a fossilization that has occurred in NASA for many years. As long as NASA always looks to the scientific community to justify NASA’s existence, we will always have a very timid though possibly still expensive, space program. It will not tie into the needs of the ordinary person in this country.”

“It will not tie into the needs of the ordinary person in this country.”

“It will not tie into the needs of the ordinary person in this country.”

“It will not tie into the needs of the ordinary person in this country.”

Oh, sorry, I seem to have accidentally typed that same line repeatedly. My bad.

We hope you will read it to the end, it is only three short pages.

And remember that it was a speech, meant to be heard in through the air, so it’s one of those things that really works best when read out loud.

Here is the link: http://ssi.org/a-free-pdf-from-ssi/

SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise Video Collection

Professional organizations release conference videos for folks who couldn’t make the trips themselves, but professional viewers have to remember that there is a human downside to having a bunch of sessions dropped all together on the internet.

Many of us have trained a neural path habit into our brains by years of streaming video; Funny cat antics have trained us to expect laughs every 15 seconds and Netflix binging of entire seasons of The Office in a weekend have trained us to think it’s okay leave something on in the background while we do other stuff around the room.

Watching professional conference videos in those habitual ways doesn’t give a real payoff, because the reason for the recording was different… but those streaming habits are so very hard to break.

As you watch the SSI 50 conference recordings, and any professional conference recording, it’s best for you to approach the watching in the same way that you take on a university online class. Set the time, and watch for the points. The professor may start meandering, some other student might ask a tangential question that gets things out of focus (a camera may go out of focus!) but you know that something in that 2 hours may be on the test. And, more importantly, something that you see – that it seems no one else in the audience had spotted – may turn out to be the unique core of your post doc or professional trade career.

There are 11 videos, 12 hours and 46 minutes of produced content, in the SSI 50 YouTube Playlist (plus the “Working Today” PSA). Take the time for them. Make the time for getting the most out of them, For Yourself.

The complete list of SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise video recordings is now assembled for researchers at the SSI.org content page:

http://ssi.org/ssi-50-researcher-collection/

SSI 50: Reevaluating SSPS and Considering Other Revenue Potentials

About three quarters the way through the final panel session of the final day of SSI 50, two attendees quickly ducked out of the Allen auditorium to refresh their coffees. As the door eased closed behind them I heard the one man’s exasperated words, “Sheeesh! Robots, AI, Military! Where’s the Humans?!”

For the rest of the talk and during the long drive home, I have to say that I felt the same emotions as that man about this session.

However.

In putting together the video, going through the angles second by second, rewinding and replaying over and over, the words of the other person in that overheard exchange started coming back to me. Just before the door had shut and over the din of the museum public visitors, she had said to him, “No, there was a nugget in…”

Nugget.

A good word for a session on the quest for the gold that will make Space a place worth living.

 

The final session of SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise gathering held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle September 9th and 10th, 2019 is about the ways to pay and to make it pay.

The original High Frontier platform, envisioned during the peak of the American energy crisis of the 1970’s, put Dr. Peter Glaser’s invention of Space Solar Power Satellites as the primary revenue source for LaGrange area communities.

In the end, short of a miracle substance, SSPS will be the way an advancing civilization powers its survival. Eventually it will be obvious to everyone that digging up and pumping out the remains of ancient solar energy from the ground is silly when you can get to the unlimited pure, live source in just 8 minutes.

But will that happen in a time that we all live to see? Will it be required for our “O’Neill Colonies” to be built? And even if SSPS goes live in a very big way, didn’t we learn from Enron that putting all of your stock into just one bucket, energy or otherwise, can be a dangerous idea?

After a short intro, Dr. John Mankins, Founder of Artemis Innovation and undisputed living expert on SSPS gives us a status report and his view of the relatability that SSPS now has to Space Settlement. This portion, with occasional refocusing to the topic, runs about 50 minutes.

Then, the whole panel of Dr. Mankins, Eva-Jane Lark, VP of BMO Nesbitt Burns, and Dr. Philip Metzger, Planetary Scientist of the Florida Space Institute of the University of Central Florida, join together to discuss other revenue options.  Don’t expect a big finish ending with a single slide showing “The Ultimate Product!”, this remains the toughest nut to crack.

Most of the SSI membership is comprised of Engineers and Scientists, and while Gerry O’Neill was both of those, he was also a businessman.  It’s our turn now. TANSTAAFL.

SSI 50: Bioneering

“Life originated in the sea and developed in it slowly for hundreds of millions of years, while the land surfaces of the ancient earth remained utterly lifeless. The primitive, soft-bodied sea creatures, many of them hardly more dense than the water itself, were utterly unable to colonize it. The gleaming surface above their heads was a deadly, impassible boundary. They had developed in water, and without water all around them they could not live.”
-Jonathan Norton Leonard
Flight Into Space: Facts, Fancies and Philosophy
Chapter 11: The Hostile Environment
1953

“Space doesn’t give a d**n about ideology, it’s always trying to kill you”
-Jim Logan
SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise
September 10th, 2019

 

This next SSI 50 Panel recording, “Bioneering,” may have parts that will ruffle some viewers but knowing the real issues and working to create fixes is the price of admission to into O’Neillian Islands and other off-Earth locations.

After a brief overview, session Host Dr. Jim Logan, cofounder of the Space Enterprise Institute and former NASA Flight Surgeon on Gene Kranz’s Mission Control Team, welcomes Dr. John Charles of Space Center Houston for a major dose of radiation and other killers.

Next, Morgan Irons of the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Founder of Deep Space Ecology, LLC gives a conference highlight: a Space-based Agriculture, Soil and Quasi-Closed  Technologies presentation to help us plan for moving into sustainable Habitats instead of sterile metal boxes.

Joe Carroll, President of Tether Applications Inc., brings reduced gravity issues, that all too often go un-mentioned even by professionals, right up to the forefront, and then Dr. Logan takes the podium again for a – sobering – view from his decades of work beyond the front line of Space.

This one is a doozy. “Bioneering,” the second panel of day two of SSI 50: The Space Settlement Enterprise. Recorded September 10th, 2019 at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

If during some parts of this video you start feeling a bit ill, I offer the sentence that Jonathan Norton Leonard wrote right after the quote at the top of this post: “But life tries everything over and over until something works.”

And Jim Logan’s upbeat, motivational sentence?  Let’s get to work on those fixes so maybe in a future session he will have one.