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A Practical Space Program

As the originator of the Echo communication satellite, and one credited by Arthur Clarke with being the father of satellite communication, I want to be practical about space. My sense of the practical is this:

Our space program should do chiefly those things which the users of space will not do, and do better. The users of space are the communications satellite people, those who need information for navigation, the military surveillance and command and control people, the earth resources people, the weather people. These communities and the supporting aerospace industries are advancing the technologies and effectiveness of their specialties rapidly. NASA must in some measure support such endeavors, but it should also pioneer in areas that others will not enter.

These areas include planetary and other deep-space exploration. This calls for new modes of propulsion such as solar sailing, and for more sophisticated communication and control, data processing and information extraction, including autonomous planetary survey vehicles ("Mars Rover"). The Space Shuttle is a pioneering step toward the lifting and reentry of large loads. Perhaps it will lead to large structures in space, though early profitable use of such structures seems questionable. Perhaps it will lead to very rapid intercontinental travel. The shuttle should be regarded as a beginning, not an end.

NASA should and must give a more-or-less routine type of support to certain government and private agencies. But, the construction and guidance of satellites for many established purposes has become an autonomous art which advances rapidly without further pushing.

Above all, NASA should be supported in the creation and demonstration of truly novel technologies and goals which would not he pursued without adequate government support, and on which we can build a future, intellectual and practical.

J. R. Pierce

Professor of Engineering

California Institute of Technology

Neil Ruzic & Co.

consultants to NASA

developers of "Island for Science"

January 10, 1978

The Honorable Olin E. Teague
Committee on Science & Technology
U.S. House of Representatives

Suite 2321 Rayburn House Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman;

Here is my paper as you requested, along with an "Opinion Poll" taken on the subject of my I.D.E.A. among the 100,000 readers of Industrial Research. You may want to publish the results of the poll after the article.



Neil P. Ruzic


(219) 874-5139. P.O. 527, Beverly Shores, Ind. 46301

An IDEA for an

International Decade of Energy Alternatives

by Neil P. Ruzic, National Space Institute

MAN's need for energy is expanding so fast that alarming environmental, social, and economic dislocations are being created. Despite attempts at conservation, the most rational forecasts indicate that the United States will--and should--consume more energy between now and the end of the century than it has in its entire history. And while we will almost double our annual consumption, the worldwide demand will almost triple. If you express world energy consumption in electrical terms, assuming all energy is converted into electricity on the basis of one quadrillion British Thermal Units equaling one hundred billion kilowatt hours, you can compare where we stand today and where we are likely to be by the year 2000, barring world nuclear war or other planetary catastrophe. stand today at a world consumption level of twenty-eight trillion


The author is a consultant to NASA and

a director of the National Space Institute.



kilowatt hours a year; by 2000 it will grow to the electrical equivalent of seventy trillion kilowatt hours. The United States annually consumes some eight trillion kilowatt hours today and will devour fifteen trillion by century's end, decreasing from thirty-two per cent to twenty-one per cent as the rest of the world tends to catch up in affluence. While these increases may be debatable for the U.S., the desire of people throughout the world for a better standard of living doubtless will force an increase in world energy consumption of somewhere near the magnitude estimated.

Many scientists and engineers, especially those of us involved with the space program, believe it is wasteful to maintain a vast but increasingly unused space technology while at the same time suffering a worldwide energy shortage, without employing the first to solve the second. We also believe that the demand for energy will be sufficiently enormous that only coal, nuclear, or solar energy at an off-planet location can fill the need for future generations. Building solar power satellites to supplant a significant portion of dwindling petroleum supplies is by no means an easy job. In the final analysis, after all the feasibility studies are done and pilot satellites launched, it may prove less economical than nuclear energy. On the other hand, power sats may well solve the world's energy problem for all time--or at least until fusion power is possible-with an inexhaustible, pollution-free, highly flexible, and ultimately cheap energy source. As an international peace-time program of unprecedented magnitude and utility, powersats also may contribute materially to world peace, or at least to a strengthened Western world.

How are we to know which road will lead to energy freedom?

One way is to begin an International Decade of Energy Alternatives
By devoting the entire decade of the 1980s to international




planning, research, and phasing of the various energy alternatives, we can multiply the chances of achieving energy abundance. Any plan with the potential of assuring world economic growth and altering the status quo toward peace deserves the intensive debate, international scope, and cost-sharing inherent in the concept of ten years focused on energy alternatives.

We have had "international decades" before, for geophysics first and now for ocean exploration. These programs were designed to acquire scientific and technological information as an underpinning for resource utilization on a global scale. The emphasis during the International Decade of Energy Alternatives, however, will be on achievement of devices and proved systems rather than mere acquisition of information. (The "International Decade of Energy Achievement" is an alternate acronym.) There is another difference too. Without in any way denigrating the value of geophysical or ocean resources, a decade of alternative energy achievement is of much greater immediacy and world importance. To evaluate this particular approach to a highly complex set of problems, it is necessary to ask what are the energy alternatives to petroleum shortages and how can the IDEA strengthen the selection, internationalization, and implementation of the best of them.

The first alternative is whether to place the major emphasis on conservation, as President Carter would have us do, or on continued growth, as most industrialists want. While it is true that the United States consumes about thirty-two per cent of the world's energy, we also produce thirty-one per cent of the world's goods and services, and so the notion that we waste more than other countries is untrue proportionately. There should be little argument that growth of energy, if achievable

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