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This is a great post and point that brings up the question: What software is needed in space that can have a long lead time but would be valuable across platform/company?
[It would be great to hear a bunch of suggestions and wild ideas, then maybe we can pull something together]
Here’s a couple I’d like to see open source:
1. Solar System Model/Navigation/Traffic Control – Even if it started out as a modeling tool. Something along the lines of Celestia (link). Is this a project you have worked with? Can it be expanded? Improved? What does it look like from a settlement point of view?
2. Modeling/Management Tools for Space Stations. Solve this problem: Logistics of a space station. Crew and cargo take up different resources and impact the function of a space station differently. What would the software look like to manage a distribution center (people and stuff) in space?
Other ideas? Does anyone have experience with these projects and how they are doing at NASA? http://code.nasa.gov/project/
The video uses the ‘how much did you get for what you paid for’ approach, which is probably the simplest idea. Total Program/# of times goal achieved. The Apollo Program includes all the cost of R&D, test launches etc. At the time almost everything was new, for lunar missions in a settlement strategy many of the pieces are used for other parts of the strategy making comparing ‘programs’ challenging.
Apollo didn’t start actually going to cis-lunar space until Apollo 8, while Apollo 2 & 3 designations were left empty. So there were 5 test flights in LEO, 3 test flights in cis-lunar space and 7 missions to the lunar surface with one abort [citation][citation].
Settlement allows for each of these testing steps to be part of a larger strategy instead of a serial string on the way to the Lunar surface. Rockets are tested delivering supplies to LEO, other technologies are tested transferring supplies to L-1 and lunar landing technologies are tested robotically landing useful supplies on the surface and preparing for ground crew.
Comparing the two programs isn’t easy. Looking at the Apollo Program in hindsight we can see all the failures and successes of a mission, while we don’t know the success rate of future missions. The Apollo Program goals were also very different from settlement as they had a mission of finite span. The settlement strategy would be to create the infrastructure for a sustainable human presence at LEO, L-1 and the Lunar Surface while also, and because of, fulfilling the mission of exploration. This infrastructure, commercial utility and further technology development would lead to future trips to the lunar surface that are even cheaper than the tax payer buying two for $2.7B.
Is there a better way to compare the two programs than successful landings?
To my knowledge the most successful space related crowd funding project to date was the Planetary Resources Kickstarter ARKYD telescope (link). This earned ~$1.5M with about 18000 backers and hopes to launch in a few years.
Many of the pieces of the sustainable settlement strategy are loosely in the $100s of millions. However, I think it would be very interesting to find those pieces of the project that are close to millions and 10s of millions that people could invest in. The benefits would be beyond the financial support as you would have a more invested public and higher profile as well.
One positive of the settlement strategy is that it leaves behind multiple use infrastructure that should reduce the risk and cost of follow on missions. Crowdfunding and other aggregate funding sources would buy a lot more in a future that had regular launches and easier access to useable space and transportation on orbit. Both these impacts would make crowdfunding for likely and tractable.
Finally, the JOBS Act has the potential to open up crowd investing (link), which leads to another whole set of possibilities.
What technologies or demonstrations do people think would be appropriate for crowdfunding campaigns? How does the infrastructure necessary for approaching space with settlement in mind create opportunity and multiplication of effort for these (presumably) smaller projects?