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Space Advocacy Organizations (SAOs)

The purpose of space advocacy organizations (SAOs) has been to promote space development among the public and the government. Some of them also deal with the private sector now, in various ways, and particular ones are instrumental in promoting commercialization of space and privatization of programs started by NASA. There has been a strong swing over the past 20 years away from lobbying only for NASA programs and relying on NASA, and towards the promotion of private sector interests and limiting of government encroachment. Some SAOs have been instrumental in making sure government programs do not compete with potential private sector initiatives, and that NASA does not subsidize any one particular competitor's efforts.

The biggest success of SAOs, in my opinion, has been keeping their subscribers informed of events in the space program and private sector space efforts. Their magazines are well worth subscribing to. Efforts to influence legislation have been assisted by the advent of the internet which allows them to keep their members updated with events as they happen, and to quickly reach people willing to write a letter or e-mail to their political representatives.

The leading space advocacy organizations today are the following two US-based SAOs:

The National Space Society (NSS) at: http://www.nss.org

The Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) at: http://www.space-frontier.org

One of the focuses of these organizations which should benefit PERMANENT is their advocacy of private property rights in space, particularly of the moon and asteroids. Another is efforts to bring about cheap access to space (CATS) by promoting the interests of commercial launch companies and limiting encroachment by government, e.g., by promoting fair competition whereby old launch contractors stop getting subsidized and instead must compete based on their actual costs, and not subsidizing launch system R&D which would become the secret of a particular contractor.

Regarding the promotion of asteroidal and lunar materials utilization, it is very disappointing that SAOs have a weak track record over the past 25 years. To the best of my knowledge, there haven't really been many people, much less organizations, that have tried to promote commercial utilization of lunar and asteroidal materials, e.g., basic government research and development to help reduce the startup costs for private industry, or elements of infrastructure specifically for this purpose, or even mention of commercial utilization of space resources as a goal from the pulpit. There have been pushes for a lunar base, but those have generally been within the context of a steppingstone for manned Mars exploration and colonization, dependent upon government grants, and not for commercial development of space resources. Hopefully, this will change. Some of the leadership of SAOs have become familiar with the commercial efforts discussed in chapter 8 this book and are helping promote those interests as best they can.

No SAO has successfully gotten through to a U.S. President or his inner advisors to date, to the best of my knowledge, as regards the potential for commercial lunar and asteroidal materials utilization. Successes among congresspeople or their assistants have generally been few. The various leadership and advisory groups, e.g., the National Commission on Space, did not address commercial space resources utilization for useful products and services, but mainly a manned moon base as a steppingstone to manned exploration of Mars. The SAOs had their inputs to those groups, but chose to promote other items in the space program. That was back in the 1980s. The leadership of SAOs has changed since that time, and hopefully they will show that their agenda has improved.

Within the NASA and Dept. of Defense space communities, SAOs have historically played a very minor role in promoting the concepts of lunar and asteroidal materials utilization compared to professional researchers in the field and business contractors. However, some of the people behind projects related to asteroidal and lunar materials utilization have become welcome participants into the above two organizations, NSS and SFF.

Historical successes such as the Clementine probe (Department of Defense) discovering ice at the lunar poles and the discoveries of near-Earth asteroids have been entirely due to the professional community, not with the help of the SAOs. When you look at the professional literature on lunar and asteroidal materials utilization, the vast majority of it has been funded by pushes from private researchers and small professional organizations, not by top-down political SAOs, and it has remained a very small item in NASA's budget, the vast majority of it coming from one particular NASA office which is funded due to the legacy of Apollo.

One trend that absolutely needs to be changed is promotion of a lunar base as a government science mission or a steppingstone to a manned mission to Mars, totally on the government dole. A permanent, manned lunar base has been promoted for many years, but rarely is it presented as a potential commercial venture with much specificity, but instead as one item in a much larger space program with will benefit people on Earth in a vague, general, and long-term way and after other items in the space program are successfully funded first. Little progress is made in supporting the development of technologies and infrastructure which would be beneficial to space resources utilization, or promotion of the concepts of commercial utilization of asteroidal and lunar materials for making products and services to sell to Earth consumers. We must stop relying on the pure scientists, and start finding the investors. A SAO can work in the purely private sector, too.

It is important to keep in mind that many space science professionals in the space community are outright against the manned space program, because sending humans into space is very expensive as compared to science missions that send only robotic unmanned probes. In competition for limited NASA funds, many in the scientific community feel that the manned space program is the main reason they are not getting funding for many science proposals. It is not uncommon to find opponents of a well funded manned space program to be very influential in the efforts of some SAOs. Many scientists do not appreciate how much space resources utilization will assist science, e.g., with space-based telescopes of larger size, larger numbers, and enhanced services. Some may think only of the budget over the next few years rather than the long term.

I encourage my readers who are members of SAOs to raise these issues with the leadership of your SAO(s), find out which ones are truly favorable to promoting commercial utilization of asteroidal and lunar resources, find out what they are doing along these lines, and find out what you can do to help in promoting these concepts.

There is no single "critical path" that we must find and follow. There are many fronts of space development. You will need to choose which one you wish to apply your time and energies towards.






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