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responsibility is seen as not being a great burden on NASA. lity
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 development 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. Such 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. We believe the private sector would contribute 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 implementation of an ERIS will require substantial efforts in these areas. Private sector capabilities, which focus on market demands, tailoring of services, development of new services and operational economies are best suited to perform such functions.
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 Landsat class of satellites, the function of the EROS 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 innovative 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 time. However, relative to the costs of the Landsat
programs, it is almost being given away.
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 investment 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 with unions. 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 ancient world.
Have we the will or the means to accept such power?
Will rival nations let us do this without a fight?
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 the mark? 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.
Doulton & Doon