Howdy everyone! Thing’s are certainly perking up for Spring, even with regards to our Moon, so I decided to throw together another Carnival of the Moon.
Recently, The Moon Society sent out a request to its members eliciting support for a book donation project to create a Lunar Resource Library in India. Moon interest is rather strong in India, and they’re the #6 visitor to Out of the Cradle, ahead of France but behind Australia and Germany. They have active chapters of The Moon Society and SEDS, and even have a Moon Miner’s Manifesto India Quarterly edition.
But they realize that the internet isn’t everything, and they’re looking to put together a physical library of reference books that can be used to develop Moon knowledge in India. Like a more focused version of the library at the Lunar & Planetary Institute down in Houston. My own personal collection overlaps that collection to some extent, but LPI has titles that I don’t have, though I do have a lot of stuff that they don’t have. The online Lunar Library (LL) catalogues almost the entirety of that collection (well over 2,000 items), and I have delusions of putting it to good use at a local university for a Lunar studies program before eventually bequeathing it to International Space University (ISU) for their eventual Lunar campus.
So India needs Moon books! It’s still kind of a nebulous project, because the organization, composed entirely of volunteers, needs to figure out things like aggregating the collection, clearing customs, and shipping it there. I’ve got a few dups in the LL that I’m going to forward. If you have an interest in this project, head on over to The Moon Society website and drop them a line.
Back here in the States, if you’re a student who wants to present research at a conference, but are coming up short of funds, LPI reminds us that the deadline for this year’s Gerald A. Soffen Memorial Fund 2010 Travel Grants (2x$500!) is coming up on April 15th. If you’re looking for other opportunities coming up, there are still a few left in the Scholarships for Space Studies article I posted back in November, including the Moon Art contest which also has an April 15 deadline for submissions.
If Moon art gives you a hankering for modern Moon stories, there are a variety of choices. Recently, Dr. Philip Harris donated the copyrights to both his original Moon settlement fiction story “Launch Out” as well as his brand new sequel, “Lunar Pioneers” to The Moon Society. “Lunar Pioneers” is currently exclusively to be found only in the Lunar Library. That’s right, folks, the entire text is available for free courtesy of the author, The Moon Society, and the Lunar Library. With the Moon settlement getting established, the young and restless start looking further beyond…
Another free source of modern Moon (and high frontier) fiction is the quarterly on-line magazine “Moonbeams“, which features short stories and is always looking for fresh submissions. Perfect for a portable electronic reading tablet. Still, if you’re an old-fashioned paper guy like I am, and you’re looking for some Moon stories for younger folks then you should stop by the Summer Space Reading Camp.
Over at The Once & Future Moon blog, Dr. Spudis articulates his belief that NASA has lost its way to the Moon under the new plans for how NASA is going to approach space. I don’t necessarily agree with his arguments, as I ask myself what is the destination of the U.S. Geological Survey? What is The Goal of the the Department of Energy? I don’t buy into the insistence that NASA needs to have a particular Goal or destination right at this moment.
I look at things like larger macroeconomic factors and how they interplay to look at what’s going to happen at NASA for it to keep or increase its relevance to generating value for the U.S. economy. The Old Guard is moving on, and reality is having to adapt to the fact that younger generations don’t necessarily do things the same way just because that’s the way it was done. I see the Apollo-architecture redux (throw everything away along the way) that was Ares I/V as an example of how this applies.
I saw it from a different perspective than most of the space-interested, though it was information that was available to those undertaking space outreach activities. NSS of North Texas periodically receives boxes of handout pamphlets relating to various NASA activities. These cover a variety of topics from ISS to Return to the Moon. We had numerous handouts for the Ares rockets, but people never took them, though the other topics rapidly disappeared. This left us lugging around large amounts of Ares handouts from event to event that folks in general just weren’t interested in.
This jibes with NASA’s own research from a couple of years ago, where they hired a communications consultant to help them figure out why NASA didn’t have more support in the general populace. One tidbit hidden in the results was that only about 14% of folks saw NASA as a rocket launching organization. This in spite of the fact that right now NASA is best known for the Space Shuttle.
So it’s time for NASA to stop trying to provide the National Space Transportation System (their own words), and instead help the U.S.’s industrial sector provide the solutions. That is a key way to grow the U.S. economy. This also taps into the demographic fact that those of Generation X have gone entrepreneurial at a rate twice that of the preceding generation, but current economic factors are driving an even stronger entrepreneurial urge in the succeeding generation. So we’re seeing a confluence of meta-factors that actually favors the new direction that NASA is going to have to undertake to make sure that the U.S. space industry grows ever stronger in contributing to GDP.
I don’t think you necessarily need a destination to work on aerospike engines for rockets. I do think you need work on custom alloys and foamed metal-ceramics that can likely only be produced in microgravity. I don’t think you need The Goal to work on things like orbital fuel depots scattered around cislunar space, or a Universal Docking Node that will allow for greater modular customization of orbital facilities, or a universal interface for the Atlas/Delta/Falcon/Ariane/Other 20mt class launchers. Let the market sort out what are the best crew vehicles to ride on top. Because I want mine with rich Corinthian leather seats.
Once you have infrastructure elements like orbital LEO facilities (at 51, 40, 28, and 0 inclinations, for example) and fuel depots on orbit, we can start thinking about vehicles that only travel in space and don’t necessarily need to lug around a heat shield for Earth return. Ditch the heat shield and beef up the radiation shielding. Modularity allows for things like a Bigelow module or two and a Progress module to set up shop at EML-1, or do free returns around the Moon for brief near-Moon visits. Once you have a facility at EML-1 and a ferry back and forth to LEO, then you have access to the entire Moon, and you can have a vehicle designed just for near-Moon operations. Once you’re on the Moon the first thing is to start getting oxygen, both to breathe, and to ship up to cislunar space so that shipments from Earth can be more valuable stuff instead.
Where NASA goes next is going to have a huge affect on where the U.S. space industry ends up. If it picks a goal, then we will end up with an optimized engineering architecture that ignores unnecessary (to that goal) technologies that may otherwise prove invaluable in developing cislunar space. We’ll end up with deadlines that get passed, and increased expenses from indulgent cost-plus contractors because NASA guys keep changing the specs.
Or, we can go with a more entrepreneurial approach where a variety of technologies are moved up the TRL ladder to help optimize how the U.S. approaches space development by letting the market determine the best approach.
Why the Old Guard can’t understand the kids today, courtesy of xkcd:
If you don’t think there is a generational shift that NASA is facing, I offer up a couple of slides courtesy of a presentation from the California Space Education & Workforce Institute. The first is an age distribution that is from calendar year end 2004 at the latest, so picture everything shifted to the right. I’m in the bracket (then 35-39, now 40-45) where you have the three lines intersecting, though an above average representation in the talent pool.
This second shows the age distribution of the aerospace workforce in general. I was trying to break into the field in the 2002-2003 timeframe, a time when that sector shed about 1/7th of its jobs (1/5th in the case of my demographic; I’m in the light blue bracket).
Any surprise that I went back into banking?
Like most folks, the closest I’m likely to ever get to space is to buy a piece of someone else’s adventure. Which can have its appeal. Heritage Auction Galleries is going to be holding a ‘Space Exploration Auction‘ on April 21st here in Dallas. Looking through the catalog I can see several items that would be interesting to add to the Lunar Library, I just wish more people would buy Moon books through the Amazon links so that I could have an acquisition budget for historical artifacts.
Why would Lunar Library LLC want to acquire historical artifacts? Why to share, of course. An example is the art show I’m putting together for this year’s Moon Day event at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. I just got the go ahead to start putting together the pieces of the event, and since this is a non-decadal anniversary year I’m going to have to work extra harder to get to my goal of 1,000 attendees. I’ve finally accumulated enough Moon-related art and posters that I can actually put together the equivalent of a small gallery showing. The Lunar Quadrant Maps take up a fair amount of real estate now that they’re framed, but a perusal of the Cultura Lunaris section of the Lunar Library shows a lot of other goodies (Lunar Adventures, The Ultimate Sandbox, One Small Step, Asteroid Mine, Probe, Lunar Base, Plinius Cemetary, and more). I’m in the process of getting some of them framed over the next several months, and then the museum wants to exhibit them for 6-8 weeks.
The actual Moon Day event is on July 18th. Lots of planning to due for that one, and like last year I’m going to be posting about my planning efforts to help serve as a road map for those masochistic enough to to try to put together a space event with no budget in their own communities.
So what is the Egg Moon? It was one of the nicknames for the Full Moon in April back in Colonial days, an appellation that the Algonquins also used. The April Moon was more commonly known as the Planter’s Moon, reflecting the return of the fertility phase of the annual cycle. That’s why I’m looking forward, confident that the entrepreneurial phase we’re entering into in the human spaceflight sector offers fertile opportunity to accelerate the day when we’re transforming the grayfields of the Moon.