Los Angeles, CA, October 15, 2005
When we helped to form the Space Exploration Alliance it was with great excitement that at last the various citizen and constituency groups for space were coming together to support the opening of space to humanity.
Our enthusiasm was centered on our shared belief that the president’s policy announced for NASA in early 2004 was an exciting and bold vision that could be used to transform and energize our national space efforts – producing, after some 30 years of stagnation and dead ends, a new goal-oriented direction for our space agency – which would “extend a human presence across our solar system.” (President Bush, January 14, 2004)
In other words, we signed on with SEA to support a decisive change in our national space program that would create a new way of doing things in space for America and result in the establishment of humanity beyond the Earth. We did not sign on to support what the SEA has become, a cheerleader for any and all NASA policies, with no though to the wisdom and effectiveness of these policies.
NASA Administrator Griffin himself has said that the goal of our human space efforts is to expand civilization into the frontier of space. Griffin has even been willing to tell the Washington Post that the real goal is the permanent human settlement of space – that humans must become a multi-planet species. Therefore, the SEA’s unwillingness to say what even Mike Griffin is willing to say shows a lack of conviction, maybe even a lack of guts, to assert what we all know to be true.
Furthermore, the Foundation does not believe that the current plans being put forth by the agency will meet this challenge – we believe they are both unsustainable and unaffordable. The story will come out over time that NASA cannot fit this program in their budget, and later the program will be hit by the inevitable large delays and huge cost overruns. The SEA is not willing to advocate solutions to these obvious problems to create a sustainable and affordable approach.
The Foundation should not need to state the obvious – but we will. Being citizens of the richest and most powerful democracy on this planet, we are all aware of the system that has made this nation great – free enterprise. Yet the SEA repeatedly missed opportunities to support and promote ideas for inserting innovative private sector approaches into NASA’s plans, even though Mike Griffin has not only suggested he is open to such ideas, but is promoting them himself and asking for help. Instead, the SEA has reverted to blind cheerleading for whatever approaches NASA has put forward – as tied to the old ways as such approaches may be, as short-sighted as they may be, and as doomed to fail in the quest to open the frontier as they are. In the end, this blindness, if it does not kill the program in its infancy, will result in an inevitable repeat of the dead end of Apollo – which would be a betrayal to future generations.
Therefore, we must sadly depart this organization. We cannot be part of a fan club for a status quo that has failed so miserably time after time in our nation’s quest for space, resulting in hundreds-of-billions of wasted taxpayer dollars. Rather, we join with other organizations and groups that are willing to support and promote a national space agenda that actually delivers on the president’s vision, by enrolling not only the government, but also the private sector and the people themselves in a magnificent quest to open the frontier. A few government employees walking on the Moon in 2018 is not enough, and does not justify the investment of over $100 Billion. Our goal is for tens, then hundreds, then thousands of free citizens to lead the world outwards beyond the Earth, not just as visitors, but also as citizens of the solar system, our new and extended home. Mike Griffin has said his goal is the permanent settlement of space – and we intend to call him on it, support him in achieving it, and to give him our ideas on how to succeed.
We urge the SEA to reconsider its positions and to make it a top SEA priority to insert more free enterprise and non-traditional approaches in NASA’s plans as the key to “sustainability” and “affordability,” which will be the key to the success of the Vision for Space Exploration. And we look forward to working with the individual organizations of the SEA on issues where we can find common ground in the future.
Ad Astra per Ardua!
Chairman of the Board, Space Frontier Foundation