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briefing at our 1977 NASA-Ames study.

THIRD SLIDE Ames demonstration

The tests were entirely successful, and the model accelerated a one pound load from zero to 85 miles per hour over a six-foot length. A mass-driver reaction engine could be carried into orbit in sections, by the Shuttle, to an orbital workbench of a kind already studied by NASA-Johnson Space Center:

FOURTH SLIDE Orbital workbench

The reaction engine could be assembled as shown next:

FIFTH SLIDE new painting of MD tug in LEO

It could lift over 700 tons of accumulated shuttle payloads to lunar orbit, using powdered external tanks from the shuttle to provide the push. Unless we use them those tanks will otherwise be allowed to burn up in the atmosphere over the Indian ocean, an unpardonable waste.

Less than two years' worth of shuttle payloads, lifted to lunar orbit by the mass-driver, would give us all the equipment needed for a lunar base, and all the propellant to soft-land it on the lunar surface

SIXTH SLIDE lunar base

A second mass-driver would be part of that equipment. Located on the lunar surface, it could bring out 30,000 tons/year of lunar materials to a precise point in space; that is, twenty times as much tonnage as the shuttle could lift.

One year more of equipment lift would give us the capability of chemical processing of those lunar materials in space

SEVENTH SLIDE pilot plant in space

We don't need large-size space-colonies as a precondition for that industrial activity; studies show that comfortable apartments can be built within the shuttle external tanks, for use both in space and on the lunar surface: EIGHTH SLIDE shuttle tank apartment

It appears that within a time of seven years from first liftoff, in a traffic model of 60 shuttle flights per year

NINTH SLIDE shuttle traffic model

we could bootstrap our way to a productivity in space of more than two hundred thousand tons per year of finished products, from about three times that quantity of raw materials

TENTH SLIDE productivity rise.

If those products were the components of solar power stations, to be sold to all those countries that need energy, their value would be over twenty billion dollars per year in hard-currency earnings. That should mean a lot to our country, that had a deficit just this past November of over three billion dollars in balance-of-payments.

Because of the shuttle and our headstart in space technology, the United States is now in a better position than any other nation to seize this opportunity and profit by it, while still benefiting other nations. But no opportunity waits forever, and the chance we now have can be lost within a few years. The Russians didn't seriously compete with Apollo, but quietly they've now gone far ahead of us in studying the maintenance of a work force in space for long periods of time. They've completed tests lasting over a year, in which groups of three people grew wheat and other grains in a closed environment, baked their own bread, and lived comfortably. In the Salyut space station, food plants have already been grown, and several of the life-support systems have already been operated successfully in closed-cycle form. What we're still arguing about, they're already doing.

That isn't our only competition. Japan has averaged a 10% annual economic growth rate for decades, and markets its products aggresively and successfully here in America. As a result, by 1990 Japan's standard of living is calculated to surpass our own. It may be no accident that of the many translations of my book, The High Frontier, the first to be completed and published is the Japanese edition.

If I may give some good news, The High Frontier recently won the Phi Beta Kappa award as the best science book of 1977. I don't think it's because I'm another Ernest Hemingway, but rather that the basic idea is a powerful one.

We need not fear that these concepts are of no interest to the general public. Just during a few weeks there are for example the excellent Associated Press article announcing the House Concurrent Resolution, a New York Times magazine article to be published next Sunday, a NOVA educational television one hour special to be shown on February 2nd, three BBC Television specials, and dozens of other articles and interviews.

We have accomplished a great deal so far on a tiny amount of funding. If the whole NASA budget is represented by a stack of books two feet high our share corresponds to only a single sheet of paper. In the uncertain first months of the new administration, even that small share has been reduced; fortunately, private donations to the Space Studies Institute in Princeton have allowed us to push ahead vigorously even in the absence of funding from the executive branch.

It is premature to talk of exact schedules and exact plans. During these next three years we need most of all a strong effort on working models, benchtop pilot-plants, and critical-path analysis. I recommend that Congress entrust that effort to the guidance of the Universities Space Research Association, a group of 55 universities with headquarters in Houston, Texas. In parallel, we need an unbiased, objective, independent analysis of what the High Frontier program could do for this country, in jobs, economic growth, and the preservation of the environment. The Office of Technology Assessment is well able to carry out such an analysis.

With this intensive effort, by 1980 we should be in a position to decide whether to reach for the High Frontier, or whether to remain forever limited by the resources of our planet. That reach would then require an Apollo-scale program of engineering and science, but if it is as successful as the Apollo project was, by the late 1980's the first lift of equipment could begin, and productive payback could occur by the 1990's. We can only know for sure that if we close off that option, there is no alternative but the bleak, authoritarian future of the steady-state society.

Bibliography for Congressional Testimony

The High Frontier


both paperback and Japanese editions

Prospects for Growth-- Changing Expectations for the Future, ed. Kenneth D. Wilson, Praeger Publishers, N. Y. 1977, article: "Space: The New Energy Frontier" by Gerard K. O'Neill.

Space-Based Manufacturing from Nonterrestrial Materials, Progress in
Aeronautics and Astronautics, AIAA, N. Y., 1977.

Space Manufacturing Facilities / Space Colonies (1974 and 1975 Princeton conferences), AIAA, N. Y., 1977.

Space Manufacturing Facilities 2 / Space Colonies, ed. Jerry Grey, Proceedings of the Third Princeton/AIAA Conference, AIAA, N. Y., 1977.


Dr. O'NEILL. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to present these views. I am here to report to you on progress that has been made on a unique opportunity that many of us conclude we now have to benefit this country and the world, and finally to point to a very big job still to be done. At the start I want to thank the several congressional committees that have recognized the significance of this work from the start; and the hundreds of scientists and engineers in Government, the universities and industry that have brought the paper study phase to a most successful conclusion; and the private citizens' groups, of which Mrs. Hubbard's is an outstanding example, that have supported this work from its first public discussion.

Humanity is now faced with urgent problems that far transcend in scope and timescale the duration of one American presidency. How to solve growing shortages of energy, how to reverse the present worldwide sink toward poverty, hunger, and military confrontation over diminishing resources. There are two alternative approaches:

One is to accept the inevitability of catastrophe, and do nothing except to monitor global resources, slow the pace of decline by conservation, and be ready to accept the harsh limits on human freedoms that an eventual global steady-state will impose. That is the counsel of the "limits-to-growth" apologists. It was expressed well in the article "After the Deluge, the Covenant" in Saturday ReviewWorld. That article imagines as a good solution a history of these next decades in which 65 million people die by starvation, many millions more die in nuclear wars, and ultimately nations such as our own surrender sovereignty to a worldwide authority with control over all our nuclear weapons and power to equalize world food supplies by shipping American food abroad with or without consent. Let me emphasize that I share with many people a belief that a reduction of population growth rates is a good thing. The fact is, though, that the only peaceful way that reduction has ever come about is by individual free choice, in an affluent, well-educated society. No one who calls himself human could regard as an acceptable alternative the enforced death of millions of children by famine.

The second approach to the global problems is, I believe, far more in keeping with our American tradition. That is to use all the science and engineering knowledge we now have in a vigorous, immediate attack on these urgent problems, in a way that will leave us the individual freedoms we have fought for during the past 200 years. And in the course of that solution, to preserve and protect the fragile biosphere of our Earth.

The fatalism of the limits-to-growth alternative is reasonable only if one ignores all the resources beyond our atmosphere, resources thousands of times greater than we could ever obtain from our beleaguered Earth. As expressed very beautifully in the language of House Concurrent Resolution 451:

This tiny Earth is not humanity's prison, is not a closed and dwindling resource, but is in fact only part of a vast system rich in opportunities, a “high frontier" which irresistibly beckons and challenges the American genius.

My own background is in pure science, in the search for scientific truth such as the measurement of the size of the electron. Yet I believe

that efforts of pure science, with no practical application for many decades, must be accompanied by the immediate application of science wherever possible to humanity's urgent problems.

I'm reporting on an apparent solution to the limits-to-growth-problem, based on fundamental facts of science that will never change: First, that while we search desperately for new energy resources here on Earth, a few thousand miles above our heads there streams by constantly night and day, a flood of high-intensity solar energy far greater than we could ever need.

Second, that already we know of materials resources, for large-scale industrial activities in space, thousands of times greater than we could ever obtain from the Earth without despoiling it completely. We spent, in today's dollars, $50 billion on the Apollo project. As a result we know that the lunar surface is one-third metals, usable for manufactured products, one-fifth silicon, ideal for solar cells and electronics, and more than 40 percent oxygen, essential in life support. I say we should use that knowledge, not throw it away or ignore it.

Already we know that there are special groups of asteroids, with orbits close to the Earth, that are rich not only in the minerals found on the Moon but also in the organic-chemistry elements needed for a complete industrial economy.

Last of three basic scientific facts, we know that the cost in energy to transport materials from the lunar surface into free space, where it can be used by a totally solar-powered industry, is less than onetwentieth as large as the energy cost to transport similar materials up from the Earth.

It makes sense to put at least a small fraction of our total national effort, perhaps one part in ten thousand of our Federal budget, into exploring over the next several years how we can use these basic scientific facts to break through the limits to growth and solve the urgent worldwide problems.

In addition to the eternal truths of science, there are facts of current events, that must be heeded in any practical program.

First, the Shuttle is the only vehicle system that will be operational for at least the next decade, and that can give us a toe-hold on the high frontier. If used efficiently, as an airline uses its aircraft, the Shuttle could transport a litle less than 2,000 tons of equipment per year into orbit.

Second, events are changing much too rapidly for us to foresee now just which industrial products in space will be the first to benefit from nonterestrial materials. Right now the idea of satellite solar power stations, in synchronous orbit where the sun always shines, beams down low-density microwave energy for conversion to ordinary electricity on Earth, looks like an ideal candidate. The need is great, and the demand can be estimated as a worldwide market of over $200 billion by the turn of the century. Clearly the use of materials already at the top of Earth's gravitational mountain could reduce transport costs by a large factor, as well as avoiding environmental impact questions that would be raised by the alternative of launching rockets through the atmosphere from Earth, with a total traffic that would be 2,000 times larger in tons per year than the shuttle traffic.

But it may be that by the time the high frontier is opened the satellite power concept will have hit engineering or environmental blocks, or during its development some other energy technology will have

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