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responsibility is seen as not being a great burden on NASA.
While we agree that NASA's technical and administrative
capabilities in the area of operating experimental and scientific satellites are formidable, we question whether NASA possesses the necessary marketing and service develop
ment capabilities to best ensure the overall success of an
The discussion contained in the reports focuses
primarily on the technical and administrative qualifications
necessary to operate the space segment of an ERIS.
technical and administrative qualifications also exist within the private sector, but the private sector possesses a further
qualification which we believe is of critical importance to
the success of ERIS and which NASA does not possess.
believe the private sector would contributo a capability
not only to operate a system, but also to better assess
actual user requirements, develop services to meet needs, and incorporate sensing systems which satisfy those needs.
This is a much more sophisticated and complex subject than
is generally recognized and we believe the successful imple
mentation of an ERIS will require substantial efforts in
Private sector capabilities, which focus on
market demands, tailoring of services, development of new services and operational economies are best suited to perform
The assignment of responsibility suggested for
the data handling segment assumes that such responsibility
should be "centralized" and that it should be performed
by the Department of Interior's EROS Center.
While it is
recognized that other Government departments and agencies should be able to access the satellites directly and obtain
raw data, apparently no such similar opportunity would be
provided to private sector interests.
In other words, the
EROS Center will be the sole channel through which most of
the world other than the U. S. Government will obtain data.
Since ERIS may incorporate data sources other than the
center will increase significantly.
We question whether
this is the most efficient manner in which to ensure that
data products and services are delivered to users in a
timely manner and in a format in which they desire.
Rather than assuming that efficiencies will result
from the Government being the sole source of raw data and
basic data products, we believe alternative concepts should
at least be considered. Given the existing capabilities in the private sector to provide data processing and distribution services, a more desirable policy would appear to be
to provide greater encouragement to private entities to
market the products of the system, and to develop and offer
new and imovative services rather than precluding the offering by private entities of earth resources services
to end users.
Should the system be put on a "pay as you go" basis and what should the pricing policy be?
We agree that valuable ERIS data should not be
given away and that it is not being given away at the present
However, relative to the costs of the Landsat
programs, it is almost being given away. Recognizing that someone must always "pay the piper," we believe an overall
objective should be to transfer the cost burden of ERIS
from the taxpayer to the user at the earliest practical time. However, since the Government is a major user of
data, the taxpayer would always bear some portion of the total system cost even if operational responsibility for an ERIS is transferred to the private sector.
Contrary to the statement in the report, we believe
it premature to conclude that the possibility does not exist
in the near term to recover an investment in ERIS.
such statement is true if only Landsat type systems are
considered and only revenues from non-governmental sources
However, more economical systems than
Landsat can be envisioned and since the Government is a
major user of data, the value of such data to the Government
also must be taken into account.
Thus, by using more cost
effective technology which also satisfies the requirements
of a larger user community, by designing low-cost systems,
by selling services to the Government, and by aggressive
market development, we believe that a private sector ERIS
with a reasonable assurance of an adequate return on invest
ment can be achieved.
THE LAST EMPIRE ?
Carleton S. Coon.
As Harry Stine is fond of quoting from one of my books, increases in the use of energy drawn from outside the human body automatically produce corresponding increases in the complexity of human institutions manufacturing, commercial, political, religious, and associational, as
This growth also tends to homogenize the
ways of life of the peoples of the world, brewing trouble.
If space platforms to mine the moon and asteroids succeed, we will put ourselves in a position like those of Cyrus, Alexander, Augustus, and other emperors of the an
Have we the will or the means to accept such power?
If our space factories are to succeed. our first requirements are a rigid selection of personnel and utter discipline.
Can we, with our polyglot and polychrome society, hit
Let us not forget, men are more vital than
the machines they fabricate.
If this new age shall come to pass, let us not step
into it as if it were a Children's Crusade,