This is the 90th Birthday week of Space Studies Institute’s founder Gerard K. O’Neill and over on the Space Studies Institute Facebook Page we’ve been posting some snippets from Gerry’s Opening Remarks at the 10th SSI-Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing.
It was O’Neill’s last time together with the whole SSI membership, scientists and engineers and this short conference opener was, as they say, “A Doozy.” There is nothing unclear or fluffy in the Professor’s words.
Acquiring copies of the complete collection of SSI Conference Proceedings is an expensive task for individuals, mostly these books are part of private research libraries, so there’s a chance that many even in the SSI family haven’t yet seen all of the details of the real work that can make The High Frontier Concept a reality. We’re working on ways to make the volumes more accessible, but for right now we’d like to share with you this one small but very important chapter… The full text of those Gerard K. O’Neill Opening Remarks.
If you’ve been reading the quotes on the Facebook page and want more in context, or if you just stopped by here and are open for a very good read, it’s all yours on a free PDF from SSI. I’ve read it myself and it clocks in at less than 6 minutes… but it packs quite a punch.
90 times Earth has moved around the sun since Gerard O’Neill was born, 40 times since he and Tasha started SSI to work on making a better future for Human Beings. How many more times does the planet have to run in circles before we take it upon ourselves to pitch in and help its people truly get somewhere?
In 1987 Space Studies Institute Senior Associates Peter Diamandis, Todd Hawley and Bob Richards founded The International Space University. The ISU was envisioned to start as a floating yearly program bringing together the brightest and most Space-passionate students from around the world for a multidicipinary lab and lecture series based on the format of the SSI Space Manufacturing Conferences. It accomplished that goal and then some.
The first ISU, a nine week session held in 1988 at MIT, was bannered The International Lunar Intiative Design Project. According to Todd Hawley’s ASCE Space88 presentation, the ILI ISU hosted ‘over a hundred graduate students from a dozen countries (including The Soviet Union and China, which at the time was a very big deal), plus 12 faculty directors, 16 faculty advisors and many visiting lecturers.’
The Space Studies Institute’s direct official focus at that first session was Space Manufacturing and Resources in relation to the Lunar topic. SSI members including Dr. O’Neill, Gordon Woodcock, Peter Glaser, Bill Brown, Buzz Aldrin, Charlie Walker and Andrew Cutler were on hand for that specific set of discussions and others. 
Would you like to sit in on one of the sessions? After you get a bit of background, hit full-screen on a new video from the Space Studies Institute YouTube Channel.
This video is the 1988 ISU Solar Power Satellite Roundtable, recorded during its transmission by Northeastern University. The question-and-answer hour puts you in the room with Dr. Peter Glaser (Arthur D. Little, Inc., the inventor of Solar Power Satellites), Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill (Princeton University physicist, co-founder and first President of The Space Studies Institute), William Brown (head of Raytheon Magnetron tube department, inventor of the Amplitron Cross Field Amplifier, first to show long distance wireless power beaming) and Makoto Nagatomo (Institute of Space and Aeronautical Science, Tokyo [now JAXA]).
This is a meeting of the Masters… And…
It is not a museum piece of a future that humans have lost.
It is a valuable piece of research material on a set of technologies that study after study, decade after decade, conclude to be viable and important to no less than the fate of this planet.
Now, that last statement may sound off-putting and even rather ‘lunie’, but let’s remember the facts. Big things are not automatically silly things. Big, game-changing things are often hard to do and difficult for the uninitiated to quickly grasp from a handful of soundbites, but they are often found to be worth time and investment by people who take it upon themselves to learn about them.
SPS is one of the core reasons for all of those pretty giant space colony pictures that are linked so closely to SSI.
Folks sometimes get sidetracked by the upside-down view of houses in paintings and movies like Interstellar, they walk out of theaters thinking that large habitats are all about escapist fantasy. But The High Frontier Concept is not some Hollywood global evacuation story. And it definitely is not about creating useless ‘Matt Damon Elysiums’ for elites to look down on billions of poor souls condemned to a used-up planet’s surface.
The High Frontier Concept is about using the virtually unlimited and currently unconsidered Resources and Energy of Space to help all people have the option of better lives wherever they choose to live.
Yes, The High Frontier Concept is also about turning a profit, a profit to be re-invested in other profitable Space-Based manufacturing projects.
We think this SPS Roundtable is fascinating – and enjoyable – on many levels, and we hope you can make the time to listen closely to the entire video.
So why is SPS not happening? With all the NASA and Department of Energy and Boeing (and, and, and) studies concluding that it is a clear winner, why has it not left the gate? The knee-jerk rote answer (that some say is designed to simply stop more questions) is: “Launch Costs.” Truthfully though, the on-going problems, even post-Elon, of costs to lift masses from Earth are another handled aspect of the High Frontier Concept. We’ll be addressing that aspect with new pages over time, but if you listen closely to the video and poke around ssi.org a bit you just might be able to figure it out for yourself.
[find out more about the current thinking and work being done to bring Solar Power down to Earth by reading SSI Senior Advisor Dr. John Mankins’ book “The Case for Space Solar Power.” To order, click the link on the “SSI Bookshelf” Amazon widget at the upper right of ssi.org pages.]
It is common at conferences and meetings to hear folks casually mention that, unlike other established entities, The Space Studies Institute is not a political organization.
That isn’t exactly the full truth.
A key difference between SSI and some of the other Space related organizations is that we are not a lobbying group, but as Robert Heinlein wrote in Podkayne of Mars: “Politics is just a name for the way we get things done… without fighting.”
Because The Space Studies Institute was founded to be an active participant in the getting of things done the workings of politics always have been acknowledged, occassionally have been acted upon quietly, and sometimes have been taken on openly as parts of the whole of our activities.
Back in 1991, Gerard K. O’Neill found it important to speak openly and very clearly about a governmental situation related to the Humanization of Space. That speech was printed in the proceedings of the 10th SSI/AIAA Space Manufacturing Conference at Princeton (Space Manufacturing volume 8, Energy and Materials from Space) and because its *Point* is just as relevant right at this moment in time as it was when it was written, we wanted to offer it to you.
Here’s the thing though, because of another current project we already had the equipment set up and so decided to present this in a form that you can take with you and “read” while accomplishing other things in your busy life. Please use the link below to download an mp3 audio file of this short O’Neill speech for playing on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
This is NOT the voice of Professor O’Neill. I truly wish that it was, but we don’t have a recording of his presentation so we did our best with a “reading.” It is our hope that the read does justice to the message and that those who knew Gerry personally take no offense to any parts where the voicing strays from his unique style. I plead guilty to being deeply affected by the message, and the way that I spoke it comes from the heart with sincere respect.
Click here for mp3 audio file (19mb). To avoid your browser being helpful and playing the file directly, Windows users can right-click and Mac users can control-click this link to choose a “Save As…” download option.
Help us reach our goal of raising $42,000 to provide the Woodward Lab at CalState Fullerton the new instrumentation, computers and power supplies that Emeritus Professor Jim Woodward and his colleague Professor Heidi Fearn need to continue their research on Mach Effect propulsion! Please donate (tax deductible) using the button below.
SSI has always prided itself on focusing our resources on projects that work to provide technologies that further the cause of space settlement and permanent life off Earth. We’ve announced two efforts, the G-Lab and the E-Lab, to provide technologies required for understanding the amount of gravitational force and practical closed life-support systems required for long-term or permanent human habitation in space.
To these projects we have added the Exotic Propulsion Initiative, to explore exotic propulsion opportunities at the very borderlands of physics.
Much public and press excitement has been generated by the DARPA-funded “100 Year Starship” effort, and work on warp drive theory and concepts at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
While no one can predict if or when these technologies might become practical, we can say for certain that not funding basic research will consign any breakthroughs to the realm of science fiction forever.
Accordingly, SSI has established our Exotic Propulsion Initiative to take bold new risks that are unlikely to find conventional funding. Donations to the project will be first used to extend and replicate Professor Woodward’s provocative research findings at his lab at CalState Fullerton, and as resources permit, to open new avenues of exploration into advanced propulsion with other scientists.
Professor Woodward has donated major royalties from his book to SSI in order to jump-start this project’s funding. We are grateful for his donation and are very pleased to be able to offer an opportunity to all interested parties to extend and increase his gift.