Moonandback.com recently conducted a two-part interview with SSI President Gary Hudson on the Great Enterprise Initiative. Gary talks about plans for G-Lab, an orbiting variable gravity facility that would conduct crucial research essential to humanity’s expansion into space.
SSI now has a great opportunity to make additional important contributions to the technologies needed for space settlement.
Our Great Enterprise Initiative will be expensive and require years to accomplish. This work is necessary for us to plan the breakout into space. And your support now is more important than ever.
In the past, SSI has made incredibly good use of the funds donated by its Senior Associates, donors and members. Recall that SSI funded Spacewatch, which discovered the large population of near Earth asteroids that Planetary Resources now proposes to mine for useful materials. SSI designed Lunar Prospector that found water at the lunar poles. SSI has made significant advances in the science of closed environment life-support systems. SSI performed the first separation of lunar materials and developed processes to get engineering materials from the Moon.
SSI’s Great Enterprise Initiative consists of two ground-breaking programs. G-Lab is an orbital free-flyer laboratory where scientists will be able to investigate the long-term effects of partial gravity on humans and other vertebrates. G-Lab will co-orbit with the International Space Station, trailing about 10 km aft of the orbiting laboratory. E-Lab will be a ground-based facility dedicated to developing a full-scale, closed-loop environmental control system for use on long-term space habitats.
Raising sufficient capital is essential to move the G-Lab and E-Lab projects forward so that we have the means to support human life in space and so we know where we may feasibly settle.
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SSI President Gary Hudson’s appearance on The Space Show has now been archived for listening online. Gary talked with host David Livingston about SSI’s G-Lab program, which aims to put a variable gravity facility in low Earth orbit where research vital to the settlement of space would be conducted.
To listen to the show, click here.
On May 22, 2012, Space Exploration Technologies, Inc., (SpaceX) launched the first commercial mission to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. SSI is pleased to offer our congratulations to both SpaceX and NASA.
As we applaud the accomplishments of the past week, it is useful to reflect upon the long road that brought us to this point. While science fiction writers portrayed commercial spaceflight as early as the 1940s, the first serious proposals for commercial launch were made in the 1960s. Since then, perhaps two to three dozen entrepreneurs, investors and visionaries have attempted to achieve the goal. As usual with most pioneers, they were too early, acting with inadequate resources, and attempting to achieve their visions in the teeth of fierce opposition from entrenched interests in both government and among what has been described as “Old Space” firms. Recently, a colleague described most of us who participated in these efforts as “throwing ourselves on the barbed wire” in order to let those behind in the next wave complete the attack.
While a colorful observation, it no way diminishes the achievement that SpaceX and its partners have accomplished. The average age of the nearly 2000 people employed by SpaceX is about 30. This means half of those people weren’t even alive when the first New Space firms were formed in the early 1980s. In spite of the shortcomings of those early attempts, it is heartening to see that the enthusiasm for commercial spaceflight remains undiminished, and a new generation appears more than prepared to accept the challenges of the future.
Why make such a big deal out of commercial spaceflight? It is because true permanent human space settlement depends on the profit motive for its sustainability. Long ago many of us realized that permanent space settlement depends on a viable economic underpinning as much as on a host of technological advancements. Gerry O’Neill recognized this when he focused on space solar power as an economic rationale for having large numbers of humans settle free space.
It has taken a bit longer for the community as a whole to accept the notion that settlement will be dependent upon private initiative and enterprise more than on lobbying and NASA funding. SpaceX’s success over the last week – no matter how future missions may turn out – is a great step towards providing the means and the motivation we all need to achieve our ends. The fact that so-called Old Space firms are now entering the marketplace is proof of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s maxim: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Nevertheless, the long struggle to privatize access to space, so vital to SSI’s interests, is frankly just beginning. I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s remarks about another battle, “… this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Once again, congratulations to SpaceX.