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Your invitation to contribute my thoughts about future space programs to the Science and Technology Committee is greatly appreciated. It is a complicated subject, and my thoughts have evolved somewhat since answering a similar request of the Subcommittee on Science and Applications in July of 1975. The general subject will merit continuing dialogue into the indefinite future. will summarize my viewpoints at this point in time, and sincerely hope that they will be of use to you and your committee. My thoughts, although stimulated by many conversations throughout the years with colleagues in all parts of our space program, represent my own conclusions. In particular, they should not be interpreted in any way as an official Lockheed Missiles and Space Company position.
My comments 2 years ago were organized around three regions of space
I do not plan to address the familiar missions which have been given such constant attention by many people in our business. The unmanned Landsats, Seasats, Comsats, etc., have obviously high utility and are worthwhile endeavors for the human race. Pioneers, Vikings, Voyagers, etc., are doing the same good job in planetary exploration. This discussion will concentrate, rather, on future program possibilities which may not be so familiar.
THE PRIME CRITERIA
The prime criteria for future space programs should remain what it has always
The potential contribution of space activities to our society is enormous.
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fact that this one planet is all that the human race will ever have. This is obviously fallacious. We can have the whole solar system in the readily forseeable future. Placing the entire solar system at the disposal of the human race should now be our unifying space goal.
THE SOLAR SYSTEM
The solar system contains a source of energy and a manufacturing environment in the near vicinity of earth which form a basis for a whole new industrial complex which can remove the pollution of current industry from the planet. Probably more importantly in the long run, it can also produce a wide variety of new products which simply cannot be reproduced on the surface of a 1 g planet with an atmosphere. Further away, first at the moon, and then at the other planets, their moons and the asteroid belt, are vast quantities of resources which can be made available for our use.
We should recognize that we live in a solar system which can be extremely beneficial to supplying the physical needs of the human race. It can, I believe, also supply the spiritual uplift which seems to have been missing recently from the human race. Two scorpions forever sealed in a bottle is no way to live and is not our perpetual doom. We have the means to smash the bottle. We should become creatures not just of earth, but of the solar system.
The advantage of using the goal of solar system utilization to solidify our space program thinking is that it provides a quasi-permanent basis for performing trade-offs of immediate program objectives. Our unmanned probes already reach throughout the solar system. They are too slow, but we have the knowledge to make transportation systems of high capacity which could handle our needs throughout the system. Reaching even the nearest of the other stars, however, presents awesome technological challenges which we cannot presently solve. We can lay hands on the entire solar system surrounding our star. We can only reach for the other stars with telescopes.
Some of the trade-offs are stimulating. habitats because of population pressures. Perhaps, instead, we should start space industrialization operations and let the habitants grow routinely as an adjunct. Space habitants, as I pointed out in 1975, are about 10 million times more effective, weightwise, than a planet the size of Earth as a living area for humans.
Some want to colonize L-5 with man-made
Although as a spaceship supporting the human race, Earth is an inferior system design, this is because of its huge mass, and that mass means resources. If we choose to get resources from other planets, we may decide to inhabit them, and transform them with planetary engineering. In the process, we should learn enough to make at least Venus, Mars and Earth all beautiful human habitats. The only way to compare the relative desirability of artificial habitats with planetary engineering is in a total solar system context. can only make such program choices rationally if we have an overall goal which is not likely to change. The goal of placing the solar system at mankind's disposal has the promise both of being a stable objective of
centuries duration, and at the same time providing a basis for selection among immediate program objectives.
Progress has been made in the direction of utilizing space for the benefit of all mankind. Even so, the space program still frequently acts as if all mankind consists only of fighter pilots, scientists, and perhaps a few scientific technicians. These are the special interest groups which have been created by the first two decades of manned space flight. It is still my contention, as it was in 1975, that the Shuttle should never go into orbit with an empty seat. The Shuttle is being designed with room for six passengers as well as a crew of four. The general view is that passengers will only be carried as needed, and that all will be either scientists or technicians which may be required to run the experiments. The Shuttle should never fly with these extra seats empty, however, except in those rare occasions when it carries the maximum weight of payload aboard. The weight of six extra people is miniscule compared to the total weight being carried to orbit.
The sooner that all segments of the human race are able to fly in space, the sooner they will start to use it to solve their problems. Means should be found to fill the empty seats with technicians from all industry, with people involved in our mental well-being (philosophers, artists and the like), with news media, with budget analysts, and even Congressmen. Everyone deserves a first hand look at space so that it can become truly for the benefit of all mankind and not simply for those groups considered appropriate by the current space bureaucracy.
The following is quoted directly from my 1975 letter to the Subcommittee:
Substantial progress has been made in the past 2 years. It is gratifying
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to note the large commercial and public response to the sale of "getaway" payloads by NASA on the Space Shuttle. These small payloads are specifically designed to be economical enough that industry and even private individuals can afford them. In an unexpectedly large response which mirrors the depth of the public interest in space, 171 have been reserved thus far. Unfortunately, this appears to have resulted in another first bureaucratic censorship in space. NASA will only permit "an experiment in research and development and provided it's in good taste." This policy is not compatible with the free enterprise system. We do not question either the mission or the taste of persons who wish to buy airplane tickets. If they have the price, they are sold a ticket. NASA does not question the good taste of those who give them tax dollars. We must open up space for all mankind, not just those currently deemed appropriate by a government research and development oriented agency. By the standards of free enterprise, the actions of the space bureaucracy in this case are in extremely bad taste.
SOLAR SYSTEM TECHNOLOGY
The Shuttle provides the beginning of solar system transportation even though, by itself, it is limited to low earth orbit. We should stimulate improvements to the Shuttle as soon as our knowledge permits. One advantage of a reusable vehicle is that one can become very familiar with it after many uses, and learn to use it more efficiently. The same is true of expendable equipment, but the effect is greater with re-use. Shuttle operations should be continually improved, until the launch costs al turn-around times approximate those of transport airplanes. This is a reasonable goal, but it will take a while.
If we are to really open up the solar system, however, we need better space propulsion. Propulsion is, indeed, the most truly fundamental underlying technique in any space program. At this point in time, curiously enough, advanced propulsion research in the American space program is totally stagnant.
There are ways to create a very effective solar system operation making extensive use of the Shuttle. It is possible, for instance, to use gaseous core nuclear engines to power super-tugs taken to space by the Shuttle. This would extend the Shuttle capability throughout the solar system with transportation costs only modestly beyond Shuttle orbital transportation costs. Newer ideas involving the generating of power in space and its transmission by high-energy lasers to tugs, either for use in electrical propulsion systems or for direct heating of propellants, also show theoretical promise. The Shuttle plus super-tugs are the keys to an early solar system capability. Any promising ideas should be strongly pursued. The generation of power in space is a prime requisite. The proposed 25 KW power module for the Shuttle, as an example, greatly increases Shuttle utility in a very cost effective way. Power will also be needed in space for industrial processes and possibly for transmission to other satellites. The basic need for power stations in space is very clear. Whether one should
go on to a large number of massive power stations transmitting energy back down to earth is, in my opinion, not as clear.
Very advanced structures, including large scale use of the new composite materials, should also become a major feature of our space transportation systems in the future. Although not as fundamental as good propulsion, we are in a position to make major gains with new structures which would be well worth the investment. Both propulsion and structures directly impact the economics of taking things both to and from space and moving around in space and are major factors in the economics of the entire space industrialization phenomena. We should do the best possible.
THE STELLAR UNIVERSE
Beyond the solar system there are stars, galaxies, quasars, neutron stars, black holes ... a whole universe. We explore it by means of the information it sends us by electromagnetic radiation rather than by traveling to it as we have done on this planet. We have a variety of highly sophisticated techniques for examining the universe, from large radio telescopes to large optical space telescopes. It is an exploration which has fascinated mankind for thousands of years and has profoundly affected his life. It will continue forever.
It is paradoxical that the human species has been using the stellar universe for his benefit long before he even dreamed of flying. Historical records show that the motions of the fixed and "wandering" stars have long been used to control human endeavors for determining the most appropriate times of the year for planting and harvesting and for navigating first by latitude and later longitude. With the advent of Galileo's telescope and the increased precision it allowed, the stars provided a satisfactory means for navigating the entire world. The wandering stars provided Newton with the basic data needed for his crucial theory of gravitation. The constancy of the light of the stars and later the anomalous perihelion shift of mercury led to the formulation and partial verification of the special theory of relativity. Black holes, collapsing galaxies, neutron stars, star formation, interstellar and intergalactic dust all contain information about physical processes that once understood will be every bit as revolutionary to future human development as has stellar information of the past. Continued astronomical research of these objects and related phenomena is essential to the continued progress of all branches of physics.
NASA has been orbiting increasingly larger and complex telescopes and cosmic detectors since its formation. Larger telescopes allow us to see farther and with better resolution. In space these instruments are free of the perturbations, distortions and filtering occasioned by the earth's atmosphere. Continued development of the collectors, images, spectrometers and detectors of stellar radiations at all wavelengths is necessary for further progress in this field.