Category Archives: The High Frontier

Joe Haldeman essay: Peace From On High

Giant Space Settlements?  Why?

Science Fiction Grandmaster Joe Haldeman, creator of so many classics including The Hemingway Hoax, Camouflage, All My Sins Remembered and, of course, The Forever War series and Forever Peace series, has graciously given The Space Studies Institute permission to re-release his Non-Fiction essay “Peace From On High.”

This work, previously only available in the fall 1980 edition of the Baen/Pournelle Destinies book series, looks at the concepts of SSI Founder Gerard K. O’Neill from a different angle than most any other that we have seen over the years.

The Space Studies Institute is very proud to bring this insightful essay back to the public and we are sure that you will find it truly fascinating.

“Peace From On High,” from multiple Hugo, Nebula, Rhysling and Locus award winner Joe Haldeman. Now available to you, for free, from The Space Studies Institute.

Get the pdf, read the pdf.  Click here: JoeHaldeman_PeaceOnHigh_ssi

Got here on your phone and can’t read pdfs?  Click here for the online reading text page.

Small World

Around Sand Hill Road you see lots of odd books under people’s arms. It’s an unusual location with the SLAC on one side of the street and the rows of 1980s styled venture capital offices on the other; while both sides are technically tech, the workers of the area tend to have very different ideas of their customer’s needs and for their own personal goals.

Last week at a little table outside the local’s bakery I saw a person with a coffee and copy of the book Doomsday Has Been Cancelled, and I couldn’t figure out which side of Sand Hill he came from. So, what the heck, this complete stranger said to him: ‘that’s a tough thing to believe these days’ and he said ‘it was tough back when it was written too.’ I had a minute so I asked him what the book was about and he said ‘some things that might be actually possible, technically anyway, if people wanted them.’ And he went on, talking about how the word Crisis isn’t exactly used today to fit its original meaning, and he spoke of options in the book and in some others he had been reading lately.

And then he said ‘have you ever considered how important energy is to (and he emphasized this word) Everything?’ He asked me, kind of shyly, just that side of sheepishly, in the way many things that are personally important to people seem to be brought up these days, if I had ever considered that the fuels we use for everything in every minute of every single day are just batteries for a small amount of photons that made it to the Earth millions of years ago? And then, looking around like to see if someone else was watching us, he asked ‘what if we didn’t have to wait millions of years to charge the batteries and what if we could not get stuck with all of the used up batteries from watches to Teslas filling up landfills and eventually leaking into drinking water supplies?’

Now I looked around for the candid camera. But I took the chance… ‘Like Solar Power from satellites?’

The look on his face. He wasn’t alone in knowing about this strange idea. And so he said that he had started looking into it after someone years back had sent him a link to a youtube video. Was funny that admitting “youtube” visibly put him on edge, that’s of course the place where lots of crazy stupid ideas are floating. But as he described this particular video, I opened my phone and put in the google “Youtube SSI High Frontier Concept Overview” and I handed him my screen. He said ‘that’s the one! how did you get to that?’

Small world.

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: