Category Archives: Links

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:

Quickie: Jeff Bezos on The High Frontier

SSI Senior Associate Dr. Justin Karl sends all Associates this heads up:

It was a race, SAs Bob and Sharon Brodbeck sent that link at nearly the same time.

And SA John Jossy  (did you hear him with Gary on the Space Show last week?), emailed about this one:

We put it on the newly re-started SSI Facebook page… do you connect to the SSI Facebook page?

It’s at:

SSI Supermodels (part 1)


With summer coming to an end and vacations over it’s time to find things close to home to keep the kids (or grandkids) occupied. How about an O’Neill Colony that’s easy to put together and makes The Vision a physical reality that you can see from all angles … on a desktop scale?

Long ago SSI paid thousands of dollars and waited months for a rather large Bernal Sphere model to take to conferences, alas that model was lost to the past (and as I hear tell, it was a pain to move from place to place) but right now for just about the cost of a video game your family can have an O’Neill Cylinder that you can put on any shelf  or take with you to meetings.

This model from the Wave company in Japan was created for fans of the Anime series Mobile Suit Gundam 00 (which has no relation to the annoying song, “MSG” is a multi-season series set in a future where SSI Colonies and Solar Power Satellites – and giant mechs – are part of normal life).

This is a near-perfect Island for engineers and budding engineers to display.  Plus, it’s really easy to put together. Technically, it just snaps together so careful fingers and a fingernail file to gently smooth the little nubs down is all you need.

Here’re a few images to hopefully get you interested:

1) The box. See, it’s an O’Neill.

Wave company Space Settlement O'Neill Colony model box
Wave company Space Settlement O’Neill Colony model box


2) The cool special booklet showing details of the “real thing” It’s in Japanese, but pretty obvious.

Neat booklet on colony details
Neat booklet on colony details

Booklet second image

3) After carefuly removing the parts from the marked pieces frames (they are all numbered to make it easy), you just apply the stickers that show the interior valleys and snap them to the end caps.

The Colony Valleys
The Colony Valleys are nice stickers


3 take 2) Oops, the instructions say to snap the three windows in first, that helps the valley parts sit better between the windows.

Colony model windows
Best to put the windows in first


4) After carefully applying the mirror stickers, just snap the mirrors to the end cap. (Do be careful applying the mirror stickers, on my first one I didn’t slow down and line the sticker up perfectly then tried to peel the sticker off to re-set it and so I’ve got a crumple that won’t smooth out. Taking a bit more care on the other two worked better)

Adding the mirrors
Adding the mirrors


5) Slide the end cap covers over the end caps and the mirrors lock into place, meaning no glue is required and all of a sudden the model is very secure.

Now  just slide in the metal bar, slip that into the base, then pop on the agriculture ring and the service module and… voila!


Now, when I was trying to get the ag-ring pieces separated from the pieces frame I accidentally broke part of the ring (you might notice it sagging a bit at the top near the support strut).  So I drove over to the local Michael’s Crafts store to get a tube of model glue to fix it.

That trip not only fixed the break but also gave a fun story – and some interesting research:

While I was at the model section of the store there was a young man about 13 or 14 going through the paints and he asked me what I was working on. I told him it was a space colony which made him give me a quizzical look… so I said “the Space Colony from Mobile Suit Gundham” and he said “Ooh, nice!” I think that’s an interesting piece of information for folks who may be looking for a common-ground way of starting a discussion of The High Frontier concepts with younger generations.

But back to the model, I mentioned to the kid that I was lousy with a paint brush and asked if he had an easy tip to help me bring out the embossed detail on the model. His advice was to buy a small bottle of dark grey or black Testors model paint and a few cheap brushes, dip a brush into the paint then wipe it off on a paper towel so that almost no mark is left on the towel then brush the model with this “dry brush.”

I think I left too much of the paint on the brush … but still, it seemed to be a great tip!


The Wave Space Settlements O’Neill Colony model is available from sellers on eBay and Amazon. I’ve found the Amazon sellers tend to have a much better price, I paid all of 35 dollars including shipping from Japan and  I see them going for 60 on eBay.

Here’s a link to one of the Amazon listings (there are a few, actually) the seller I bought from was Toy Shop Japan Hobbyone, and I bought a second one for a gift from seller Makimono – both of them came in about a week, no problems at all.

Oh, my bad, you always use the Amazon Smile Program to make your purchases benefit The Space Studies Institute, so use this link for Amazon Smile:

By the way, if you came to this post after googling for Sports Illustrated Supermodels, I do apologize ;-).   And if you’re wondering why this post is titled “part 1″… come back in a day or so to get the instructions for a make-it-yourself working SSI Mass Driver. Yes, I’m serious. This is one that might spur your kids to consider a really cool Science Fair project this year!

New Shepard and Shepherding to The High Frontier

Yesterday morning Blue Origin’s New Shepard performed yet another excellent test flight. This time landing both launcher and crew capsule safely in the Texas desert even with one of the three capsule chutes intentionally not deployed.

This is historic news and the Blue Origin team deserves a standing ovation.

While that feat and its exciting videos receive the lion’s share of media attention, it is just as exciting to keep up on Mr. Bezos’ goals beyond the launcher – or rather, for the launcher and it’s progeny:  Space Manufacturing.

Many SSI Associates have been following the growing hints and announcements from Mr. Bezos concerning the O’Neill/SSI Space Manufacturing end-game, and to see that side of the story starting to break through to the mass media is very encouraging.

It is also a time for careful and considered action.

As the discussion of Space Manufacturing continues to make popular culture news, there will always be some folks (or a lot) who haven’t yet done their own due dilligence on Space Manufacturing and so have not yet begun to see the actual potentials. Thanks to the internet making it easy for anyone to make instant comments and forum posts on any news item, negative opinions can seem to outweigh positives as regular folks see for their first times the individual events but haven’t yet invested the required personal time to let the big picture develop itself in their minds. Frankly, there is a very good chance that most casual readers and internet opinion writers never will see the big picture at all because some other shiny news headline will come along and distract them away, and also because “Space is Big” and things related to beyond-Earth concepts aren’t as simple to fully grasp as reports of what the starlett du jour is wearing to a club that night ;-).

This is not a fault, this is normal human action. If it weren’t the case then the interviews and articles in magazines from People to Science,  Look to Time,  Penthouse to OMNI to Physics Today to National Geographic and the hundreds of newspapers and all of the radio and television reports and documentaries from the 1970s, 80s and 90’s would have given us all here today low cost energy to spare, thousands of amazing jobs, a better educated world population and more than a few beautiful Islands in Space.

When we all see the reports and the occassional off-target opinions and are tempted to do our own replies to try to help ‘set the record straight’ we should remain aware of our own human drives and emotions and try not to get caught in any weeds of complexity with folks new to these big, important ideas. The Space Age is older than most of us and obvious to many in our own ranks but it’s still very new to the majority of people outside of our spheres of associates. Think back to your own days before you “got it” and consider how getting to that point may have been enhanced by someone listening very well to your objections first and thoughtfully guiding from a common ground.

Remember how The High Frontier book was written by a world renowned Nuclear Physicist but it was completely understandable and easily digestible by just about everyone.  O’Neill had the gift of being able to make the complex fit together and make sense without ‘dumbing down’.  It’s a talent that for most of us takes practice but it is learnable and it is required if the big goals are ever to be realized.  Hard-core engineering details need working on and getting people passionate about that required minutia can be easier after the general message of how it all helps people here on Earth is crystal clear.

The High Frontier and its core of Space Manufacturing is personal to many of us but it is also far, far bigger than any one of us. Let’s look to these new opportunities where brand new people are being exposed to the spark and try to find ways to gently fan that passing interest into the same fact-fueled flame that burns within our membership. Ignore the trolls and posts that are obviously being made just to start arguments, look for specific points and address them with clear respect given to their authors, point to, give a gift of The High Frontier Kindle Edition.  The net is being widely cast right now, in it among the many are the few who may have what it takes to make a big difference for everyone.  It’s every SSI Member and Associate’s responsibility to look for them and support their growth.

With your help online and face to face more good people can find their way to The High Frontier.

Some links about the Blue Origin flight:

Blue Origin YouTube of Sunday’s test

Business Insider

SSI Associate Doug Messier’s Parabolic Arc

Space News

AP via KOMO news Seattle

Some links about Mr. Bezos’ interest in the O’Neillian Space Manufacturing, SPS and other High Frontier concepts:

Washington Post (which he owns) April 2016

Popular Science June 2016

recode conference with video June 2016

CNBC June 2016 March 2016

How Stuff Works June 2016