Category Archives: SSI Alumni

Stephen Hawking should roundtable with Mike Combs

Last night after the family was asleep I started checking on the mailing list for the upcoming SSI Update, our special private Newsletter for SSI Associates. Robin Snelson had just sent nearly a hundred new addresses and before the merge I took a moment to appreciate the people on the long-term list. My eyes were caught by the name Mike Combs.

Mike has been a great Advocate and organizer and writer on The High Frontier for many, many years. Robin told me that he was one of the earliest HF Webmasters and many Space professionals know him from his legendary Space Settlement site (the original 1996-2014 pages are now hosted as a reference on the National Space Society servers at http://www.nss.org/settlement/MikeCombs/ ). He continues to run the SSI Yahoo group and when we started assembling the SSI Newsletter Archive Mike was the first to offer his personal copies of issues that we hadn’t yet found. He’s just a great, dedicated High Frontier person. A true shining star.

Anyway, I finished merging the names and fired up the new SSI Facebook page to check that all was well… and I saw Mike had given the page a “Like.” A happy sight to end a day.

Woke up this morning and flipped open the Google news to see the report that Stephen Hawking has given us all a deadline to get our butts beyond the limits of this Earth. The issues are listed like a tolling bell and the end-all goal is stated by the author of the article without hesitation: we have to find “Another Planet” that will make everything wonderful again for the chosen ones.

So, let’s see. There’s a problem, a whole host of problems, caused by the limitations of squeezing the last drops out of a limiting planetary surface and the answer is… to pass through billions of miles of limitless resources and limitless raw energy and quick like scared little bunnies scuttle back down to hope for the best on yet another limiting planetary surface.

Don’t they say that continuing to make the same mistakes while expecting a different result is a sign of insanity?

What’s this got to do with Mike? “Planetary Chauvinism.”

In The High Frontier book and in many other writings and presentations, Gerard K. O’Neill brought up that term, usually with the anecdote of a conversation with Isaac Asimov:

“We are so used to living on a planetary surface that it is a wrench for us even to consider continuing our normal human activities in another location. If, however, the human race has now reached the technical capability to carry on some of its industrial activities in space, we should indulge in the mental exercise of “comparative planetology.” We should ask, critically and with appeal to the numbers, whether the best site for a growing, advancing industrial society is Earth, the Moon, Mars, some other planet, or somewhere else entirely. Surprisingly, the answer will be inescapable: The best site is “somewhere else entirely.”

In a roundtable TV interview, Isaac Asimov and I were asked why science fiction writers have, almost without exception, failed to point us toward that development. Dr. Asimov’s reply was a phrase he has now become fond of using: “Planetary Chauvinism.””

-Gerard K. O’Neill, The High Frontier, Chapter 3: The Planetary Hangup
copyright space studies institute

I sent Bing looking for the original reference and came across this short Wikipedia entry that says that Ike recalled hearing it from Sagan. That entry ends with the line: “The counter-argument is that all the benefits of a planet can be achieved in space, usually by an O’Neill Cylinder type structure.” And looking an inch down to the source we see a link to Mike Combs’ “Somewhere Else Entirely”.

Read Mike’s piece. Click the link and read it right now. And if it’s been a while since you sat down with the details in The High Frontier, get your copy off of the shelf or go over and pay that whopping 7 bucks to get it on your Kindle. Refresh your memory on the finer points and talk it up. People are discussing this stuff – Your Stuff – right now.   And they’re ready to listen to you.

There are NO LIMITS to Growth. The limits are only in the views that we humans have accepted to be truths, but that are truly only rote and easy habit. There are a far wider range of solutions that can pay all of the bills that we’ve stacked up and give every human being a new surplus.

We call those better, smarter, more profitable long-term options that we have the technology and ability to start building right now: “The High Frontier.”

The All Time Classic: Gerard K. O'Neill's The High Frontier
The All Time Classic: Gerard K. O’Neill’s The High Frontier

Thanks Mike!

New SSI Classic Videos

Last week I sent former SSI Vice President and forever Emeritus Board Member Gregg Maryniak a heads up that we were ready to start putting his 1992 SSI presentation to the AIAA up on the Space Studies Institute YouTube Channel and he wrote back inviting me to call for a chat. We spoke for about an hour of several things that I’m trying to work into future SSI posts but for right now I want you to know that Gregg is happy and well, Singularity University is happy and well, and Gregg hopes that you will enjoy the video.

I know that you will enjoy it.. it is an amazing video and very easy to see why the AIAA named Gregg a Distinguished Fellow for this presentation.

The entire original tape runs two hours, right now we have the first half ready for viewing and the second half will be coming along within a few days.

This is an SSI Classic: Space Studies Institute Executive Director Gregg Maryniak presents SSI’s The Harvest of Space at the AIAA Ventura-Pacific meeting in Oxnard, California April 22nd, 1992.

Talk about a session that packs it all in. Space Solar Power at 12:52, Bill Brown and the powerbeaming demo at 18:45 (far as I know, this is the only way you can now see that original Brown-voiced reel), Why don’t we have all this at 29:00, The Moon as a supermarket at 32:00, Mass Drivers at 35:00 and, as the announcers say “so much more!” :-).

I’ll let you know with a post on the SSI Facebook page when we have part two ready for watching. Spoiler: Along with even more of the historical SSI core, part two has a geologically historic moment as you’ll be seeing how the Joshua Tree Earthquake could sway the buildings of Southern California but not sway this Chicagoan from his focus :-).

That’s not the only video we hope you’ll make time to watch.

Several months ago long-time SSI Senior Associate Robert Sugg sent us a huge stack of SSI documents and files that we are scanning for research use and among them was a video that his father recorded over the air… of Carl Sagan addressing the Emerging Issues Forum in 1990.

Sagan and O’Neill had different ideas about the uses for Space (Jim Muncy has a great anecdote telling his view of both men in the May 1992 Newsletter), I’ve even heard The O’Neill/Sagan relationship described as ‘The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones – with the wrong guy wearing a Beatles haircut’ But in the end, this video shows that there were common concerns for the future of Earth underneath the differing opinions of the role Human Beings should play in Space.

We added this interesting video as the first in a new video playlist called “SSI Associate Videos”, plus you can get to it directly by clicking this link.

And there’s another video that you really have to see, it’s been on the SSI YouTube Channel for a while but its viewing count tells me that I’ve not done enough to point it out. YouTube pros say that people today have very short attention spans and long is bad… but this 59 minute video is great and it is worth your time.  It’s Jo Franklin’s wrap up episode of her documentary series “The Great Space Race”, titled “The Next Civilization”.

Yesterday morning I put it on while I was making my coffee and the next thing I knew I was four cups in and still sitting at the table watching instead of mowing my poor lawn. Yes, there are hindsight issues, we always think the future is closer than it turns out to be. Yes, there are some dated visuals… but the interview segments with SSI’s (and NASA’s) Thomas Paine plus Gerard K. O’Neill, Freeman Dyson and many others on all sides of the question of Humanity Beyond Earth are simply timeless. This debate, alas, continues in much the same way right now and knowing the feelings of the brightest minds from all generations is good knowledge to have.

For a long time the Great Space Race series was a top seller at the NASM and if you don’t want to pay the high prices for used on ebay I believe that you can get copies of the complete set or individual episodes by dropping a note to Seacastlefilms AT gmail.com .

We won’t be able to make this video available for free for much longer, Ms. Franklin would really like to produce an updated addition to The Great Space Race series and allowed us to show episode 4 for a limited time to help that cause. I think a production with her experience behind it would be truly excellent… I wish I could think of a good idea for how she might jump-start such a project.

If you have YouTube on your smart TV or Roko why not play it on the big screen for the whole family.  YouTube on a small screen is fine for little things, but Space is big and a real PBS production like The Next Civilization deserves a real viewing experience.

SSI Senior Associate Joe Strout presents The High Frontier Simulation “Game”

High Frontier Simulation Design Mode screen shot
High Frontier Simulation Design Mode screen shot

SSI Senior Associate Joe Strout has been working very hard on the High Frontier simulation project for quite some time and following the successful Kickstarter campaign the project has been coming along in solid steps.

Joe just sent us all a couple of screen shots and this information:

“DesignMode [shown above] is probably the better one; it shows off some of the parameters that will be of interest to SSI members, and is a more colorful image.  But the MainAsteroidBelt image {see the bottom of this page] is a recent one showing off a feature coming in the *next* release, which is building a colony in orbit around an asteroid.  Unfortunately it’s a bit dark (hey, the main belt is quite far from the Sun!).”

While there are many recent video games set off-Earth, some even extremely popular (Halo, Doom, Borderlands, Destiny and the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda jump immediately to mind) they mostly use the locations simply as backgrounds and the core is the shoot-em-up action – this isn’t a slight against them, mine is a gaming family and I play all of those and more.  Other games do offer creative complexity and thoughtful exploration (Such as No Man Sky or Star Citizen – Star Citizen is Ed O’Neill’s passion, btw) but still, it’s not like you are getting the chance to play out the details of O’Neill’s concepts.

Strout’s High Frontier is different.

We hope you’ll head over to his site to check out those details, it’s got a pretty easy url ;-) : http://highfrontier.com

Here’s a  YouTube video from Joe’s – Absolutely Excellent – 2015 TedX talk about the project and “The Vision”:

And here’s a link to a recent story about the whole project: http://www.nextbigfuture.com/2016/11/tedx-talk-making-case-for-orbital-space.html

Nice work Joe,  SSI is proud to have you as a Senior Associate and glad to see you putting your heart into the challenge from our founder:

“Make something… Make The High Frontier” – Gerard K. O’Neill

High Frontier Simulation Asteroid location
High Frontier Simulation Asteroid location