About Us, PERMANENT History and Personnel
PERMANENT was founded in 1985 by Mark Evan Prado, a physicist in the Washington, D.C., region, who at the time was working for the Pentagon in advanced planning in the space program. That's me. Actually, the acronym name came up in my mind a little before then, and I had been involved in space resources for years before, back into my university years, but it was the systematic computerization and publishing of material under the PERMANENT logo which was the landmark time in my mind.
PERMANENT was a personally self-driven unpaid endeavor from home during my free time. I developed a custom computerized database of technical publications relevant to PERMANENT, as well as an online electronic bulletin board system, for the purpose of introducing others to the concepts of mining the Moon and asteroids near Earth for large scale space industrialization and permanent human colonization. This first started going online in the mid-1980s via a dial-in BBS (long before internet became trendy).
I have always been much more a reader of original technical publications than a person who relies on mainstream media and popular skim books. Today, popular websites and information sources are important, but my emphasis is still on technical publications because there is so much which is missed, and also many stories on the web are overly optimistic and at times of poor analysis and accuracy. Though I'm a technical person, I have always felt a need to write for laymen and the general public in a basic and most understandable style, to convey the values which I thought are most important, and in a balanced and objective way, not too promotional or one-sided.
A few years of working in the Washington, D.C., region gave me much more in depth direct experience in coming to understand the nature of government, and that space resources should not be pursued by governments but should be done multinationally, and most rapidly by the private sector at a much lower cost.
I resigned my fulltime space job and became an I.T. and internet pioneer to network private researchers, long before internet became trendy. Due to demand, substantial income came from various pioneering projects in I.T. project management across countries.
In 1994, I traveled in association with USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) to Bangkok, Thailand, where the Asia Regional Office is headquartered. Although that association ended in 1995, and though I have traveled to nearly every country in Asia, I currently still reside in Bangkok, albeit an outer suburb.
From 1995 until 1998, I took a break (from the constant interruptions and distractions of Washington D.C.) to focus on PERMANENT research, develop the PERMANENT website, and write the PERMANENT book. It was hoped that the website and the book would reach a global audience and at least one philanthropic investor would come in from somewhere. I gambled on this, instead of returning to the US and developing an internet based business of my own. That proved to be the wrong gamble. No investor came forth.
For income, I consulted with many engineering and construction multinationals (mainly Australian and British) in Thailand building highrises and factories starting in 1995, mainly in I.T. for project management, setting up engineering workstations for design and analysis, and various other things, including troubleshooting electrical systems in factories and other places... which was all very good experience for an eventual PERMANENT engineering project between multiple contractors in the future.
The 1997 Asia Economic Crash, which started in Thailand due to massive overbuilding and supply, put an end to most of that, so I had more time on my hands and lived largely off of savings. After publishing the PERMANENT book in 1998, I continued to develop the website into 1999 until finally the money ran out, despite fundraising efforts (including mailing books to potential philanthropic investors).
The lack of any philanthropic investor coming forward after all that investment in time, money, and opportunity loss otherwise, was the "dot com" bust for PERMANENT.
I went back to work and developed a real estate business, based on my experience with property developers during my engineering and construction consulting years. You can see this business today at kkBkk.com (Knock Knock BangKoK, being that Bangkok is known in slang by its airport code BKK, so K K BKK). This is what funds PERMANENT. The company is now Prado Property Co., Ltd., a real estate brokerage.
Sam Fraser became the volunteer artist for PERMANENT in 1998, and in 2001 flew to Thailand from his native New Zealand to help out Mark with PERMANENT.
We got a good year of work in before PERMANENT ground to a crawl by 2002 due to running out of money. We also realized that for all the time we spend trying to raise money, begging potential donors, it's quicker to just make the ourselves which is more guaranteed to yield results.
We also decided to take some time out to try to get a good business going which we could use to fund PERMANENT. Mark quit consulting and Sam and Mark started their own company with employees and all. From scratch, practically no money to start with. But Mark and Sam succeeded, at least as regards financial survival and business growth, though not in becoming a very rich company.
Mark and Sam teamed up with a Thai partner to create the company Export Quality Services Co., Ltd., aka "EQ", which started off as a quality offshore outsourcing company, though it took a few turns, e.g., for awhile a main source of income was from Mark providing services to expats coming to Thailand to start a business, including company registration and setup, work permit, office setup, accounting, language translation, cultural counseling, contacts, etc., ... and finding a place to live, which was provided by our new real estate brokerage (which underwent an overhaul and rebranding a few years later into kkBkk.com / Prado Property).
Sam still ran the language translation part of the business, but when the 2006 military coup happened and there was upheaval in the laws and regulations, there was a big dropoff in expats coming to Thailand to set up a business and Mark switched his focus to the real estate brokerage almost fulltime, instead of splitting between the two businesses. Expats keep coming to Thailand no matter what, nothing stops them -- not a military coup, not massive street protests, not a tsunami, not a recession ... they still keep coming. And want a nice home. So the real estate brokerage went on.
The two companies are co-located at the same address in central Bangkok, but Mark gave away all his shares in EQ to Sam who became its Director, while Mark is Director of Prado Property.
PERMANENT started picking up again in 2009, on and off, though we committed to some projects.
We created a new nonprofit organization in 2009, the Permanent Space Development Foundation, Inc., thanks to volunteer Charles A. Williams who is a government government officer, a Revenue Auditor in the Finance and Administration Cabinet of the Kentucky Department of Revenue. We refer to this company by its acronym PSDF.
I started to put the website into a custom Content Management System (CMS), which a German friend (Mario) had created the foundation of and I had been improving (and learning PHP and MySQL programming...), and with the occasional help of other programmers (Jimmy and Jack) who we hired for other programming things. The website up to that point had been manually edited without any CMS, which was way too inefficient to manage. Now it is very quick and easy to expand and modify, and with a lot more features such as citing references, tracking external links, and other things. This is custom software for PERMANENT, which we named TreeCMS.
This CMS was also used to create the GAIN Extinction website at GAINextinction.com and various others, such as Mark's ThailandGuru.com (ported over to the CMS), though they were created with an earlier version. It's funny but the innovations to TreeCMS tend to be motivated by features for PERMANENT, not other sites.
In 2011, the old PERMANENT website was ported over to the CMS, and relaunched publicly in 2012. The PERMANENT website was ported much later than other websites because the PERMANENT website required a lot more customization of our TreeCMS to accommodate PERMANENT's particular needs. The other sites were like alpha and beta runs.
We had a documents library database -- hundreds of technical publications on PERMANENT technologies -- which had gone offline. Actually, it was public in 1998, with over 500 documents, on an IBM Lotus Notes server in Australia, but the techie volunteer (Jonathan Ricketson) moved to the UK and on to other things, and as we all know, IBM Lotus Notes faded into obscurity, while MySQL arose.
In 2010-2011, we ported the Notes database into MySQL as best we could with limited time and resources, and developed a PHP front end, using hired programmers (Jimmy and Jack). We have been adding a lot of documents to it. We started to make this available publicly in mid-2012.
While we were at it, we created a new PHP/MySQL structure for our People and Organizations database, for which we hired another programmer (Azad) to create.
Azad also created our custom EZ Project Management software for our commercial companies in Thailand, and which we plan to apply to PERMANENT. (EZ is slang for "easy" in this context, so we can just refer to the system as EZ.)
PERMANENT continues to be a big motivator for Mark to improve his I.T. skills, just as it was over 25 years before, but Mark would really prefer to be the writer, curator, designer, manager, and quality assurance guy, not the in the trenches programmer ... Mark currently tweaks and further develops all of the above PHP/MySQL software on his own in the absence of a fulltime programmer.
There have been numerous volunteers who have come and gone, contributing their knowledge and skills for awhile. If we mention one, then we would need to mention many others, and where would we draw the line ... So that should become another article for later. Only Mark and Sam have stuck to it for a long time intensively.
Our modest office today with a nice panoramic view in central Bangkok:
This covers the history of PERMANENT and its main personnel.
We are currently working on organizational plans in order to do fundraising as well as recruit reliable volunteers. It is clear enough to us that we need donations in order to be able to focus on PERMANENT fulltime and rise up to the next level. The more money we raise, the more people we can hire, and the more gets done.
Over the decades, I have never promoted PERMANENT as just a cool and exciting thing to do, and I've never tried to appeal to that crowd. While I think that's important, the purpose and focus of PERMANENT has been space industrialization to benefit Earth, and space colonization to ensure the survival of our own particular species, utilizing resources of the Moon and asteroids near Earth.
There's a lot more to the history of PERMANENT than the above, but I tried to keep it brief and most relevant above. There are many good people and organizations who I met along the way who were very important, and I wish I could mention them all, but this would become a history book, so I'll stick to the roots and main ones for this short article. I guess other people have come into this field in similar ways, and I'm always happy to help people, from students to old CEOs trying to catch up with space.
Having grown up in a natural environment as a kid, some of the things of dear interest to me were nature, the universe, science, and the environment. In the 1970s, as a university student at the University of Arkansas in my home state, I first wanted to work in the alternative energy sector to help preserve the environment. I studied mechanical engineering with an emphasis on energy. At first, I was a proponent of nuclear power to reduce carbon dioxide and acid rain, but that sector was tanking due to safety and nuclear waste disposal concerns (which I disagreed with, relatively speaking, but what can you do ...).
During this time, I researched alternative energy in the library. Most of my education seemed to be extracurricular -- things I got no credit for, and didn't ask for -- roaming the library pursuing details on things I was interested in. Among other things, I had come across Solar Power Satellites (SPS) which had high profile government funding it at the time. (Some of the oldest material on PERMANENT is on SPS.) SPS was rejected due to Earth launch costs, but I did notice the alternative of making them from lunar materials, and looked at some post-Apollo lunar bases and materials utilization studies which were interesting. At the time, it was less than 10 years since Apollo ended.
Due to my favorite courses being physics, and the broader capabilities that gave me, I changed my major from engineering to physics.
At one point, I discovered the orbital space colony designs of Dr. Gerard K. O'Neill, thanks to a kind and proactive graduate student in the physics department having such material in his own personal library, though he moved away shortly thereafter. That in turn led me to an organization founded by Dr. O'Neill, the Space Studies Institute (SSI) in Princeton, New Jersey, and their work. Dr. O'Neill at one point gave a presentation in Tulsa, whereby I drove there and was impressed with this well composed person, his experience and plan to try to use the private sector to use lunar resources profitably by making things to sell, a so-called "bootstrapping" scenario. Dr. O'Neill was also a strong proponent of solar power satellites from lunar material to help Earth environmentally. Eventually, I even helped out with a technical study analyzing alternative power sources for their electromagnetic lunar launcher (mass driver) for which they had been building prototypes in laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). I did the pulsed power paper study while still in Arkansas, though I visited a defense contractor in Texas which had built prototype electromagnetic guns which accelerated projectiles to speeds of kilometers/second (and stopping them was also a significant part of their project). (I was not just writing some paper for school credit, and I did not ask for nor got any credit for it. I did only serious pursuits.)
I had a general concern about the military industrial complex and biological weapons at the time, but not in detail, though it was a motivation for continuing my general pursuit of space colonization. I also thought that if we developed space resources, it may reduce the military mentality of competing over limited resources on Earth. However, the environmental and energy concerns were my strongest. If we could develop solar power satellites, and also move industry to space, that would be best for life on Earth.
I was a student on a very tight budget, but a major expenditure was ordering research reports on lunar materials utilization which I couldn't get in my library in Arkansas. To this day, while many people depend on their news sources from the popular media, I still prefer to read the root technical research reports as my main sources. The popular media still misses volumes ... And actually, over my career to this date, I have found that root sources and getting my own direct experiences often puts me at odds with the perceptions and/or agendas of many others.
I decided at the time that I wanted to move to the Washington, D.C., region, so I took a job offer at the US Patent Office as a Patent Examiner, which was great for learning about patents in the academy there and then analyzing and judging a lot of applications, but I didn't want to be just reviewing others' work, I wanted to be out there creating things myself. I learned important things about patents, but I'm not an enthusiast about a lot of patents and a lot of the legal system. I will skip a long philosophical discussion and just say that sometimes I think a patent is appropriate to support R&D people, especially against pure copycats, and moreso to defend one's own work against somebody else patenting it and then trying to throw lawsuits at you, but the patent process can often be abused in a legal or greedy way and limit progress. Anyway, I stayed in that job just long enough to complete the main part of the academy and get some experience, then resigned and moved on.
From there I switched to a analyst job for a Pentagon think tank in advanced planning in space development for the defense industry, which was very good experience, especially for a young guy like me getting exposed to very high level people and decision making processes.
It was at that time when I ramped up PERMANENT on the side, privately, but there's a history behind that.
I was not a general space advocate, and space did not motivate me more relative to other scientific and engineering interests, except for these two particular things: space industrialization to preserve Earth, and space colonization to ensure survival of our particular species. For example, I was far more interested in Earth and environmental concerns than I was in probes to other planets or defense applications. However, a job in the space program was better than most other jobs.
Countless other people were interested in space because it was "cool" and exciting for various reasons, or because they wanted to imagine themselves in space or imagine fantastic things, the many other things. That's okay for them, but it was a minor interest of mine, and I was more interested in other non-space things. However, my main two interests by far were the two humanistic ones above. So, when I mixed with "space enthusiasts", our shared interests were actually quite limited. I was very focused on lunar and asteroidal resources, and not interested in most of the rest.
I had issues with some other people and large "establishment" advocacy organizations, especially the more political ones, not the technical ones. Notably, I had been voted to be the President of the D.C. chapter of the L-5 Society, but beyond our local chapter, the organization's top administrators were going against the wishes of many of their chapters and members, especially about losing the L-5 name and L-5 focus by being absorbed into a larger general space advocacy organization with a different agenda, and the national people I spoke with obviously didn't like my representing that opinion, so they simply dissed me, too, like they dissed many others. I don't want to name names here. There was history written by others on the web ...
I don't like personal conflicts, I try to stay diplomatic, and I try to focus on the good things in other imperfect people (like myself), unless of course they attack me and it becomes necessary to "explain" some things... So many things I kept to myself back then, still keep to myself, and some I will always keep to myself. I try to "roll with the punches", move on to more fruitful people and organizations, and learn from the experience. Suffice it to say that I learned a whole lot about people and politics in Washington, D.C., level circles. (Based on some personal attitudes I sensed and "who does he think he is" comments behind my back which I heard from others, some people seemed to think I might be an internal competitor jockeying for some position or rank within, but I was not, I was a newcomer who preferred to be technically specialized and work within the system, not a political hack like I started to suspect of some of them.)
I had good and friendly relations with some of the small organizations who were very cooperative, whereby I was happy to help them, though had their own agendas, and they were happy to try to help me. I liked meeting a lot of truly humanistic people in the Washington, D.C., area.
I had good direct relationships with many other researchers and engineers, most of whom likewise steered clear of the politics as best they could, but the politics and public affairs is nonetheless important to deal with in this world in order to forward progress on a large scale.
It was during this time that I decided to create PERMANENT where I could get my statements out and could use my databases to network with other professional people and organizations directly, instead of trying to go thru the "establishment". A CEO in the field plus some of the people in the small advocacy organizations encouraged me to start PERMANENT on my own.
I'm not a gregarious person who hypes or oversells things and tries to appeal to peoples' emotions about outer space, but instead try to appeal to reason and humanistic values and personal commitments. I was not a patient person, I had a sense of urgency and time efficiency, and wanted real action and progress on a daily basis.
PERMANENT got me into BBSes and I.T. in the mid to late 1980s, and I eventually quit my job which was running me into the ground with its 8 to 5 routine. I had been very tired because I would come home from work and continue working on PERMANENT until very late.
It's quite a transition. I had a lot of very bright and good workmates in a stable routine, but I was lured by the rapidly evolving I.T. and computerization sector which had a lot more applications than working for a government contractor.
As a general private I.T. consultant, I could manage my time, schedule, and energy better, and juggle work on PERMANENT, but not on a rigid 8-5 routine for paid work. Information Technology and especially human networking applications were something I woke up to more energetically every day, and could also work on late at night and on weekends. My specialization eventually became private networks for pay, though I always ran free public services, including an early internet service provider for email and other things before the world wide web took off. In my US Agency for International Development (USAID) consulting work, I was dealing with some countries with no or almost no local data communications infrastructure.
Working for yourself or your own company is more than a "fulltime" job, but I had a lot more energy and self-determination, and could choose what to work on vs. what was not of such relative interest.
Before the world wide web took off, due to my international communications network consulting, I got a chance to travel to Asia, and that may have been the biggest mistake of my life, leaving the US just before the internet took off, so I didn't really make any fortune off the internet. Where I went, there was no internet, so my services were in high demand for private networking, but I kind've got left behind as regards the US internet.
Version 1 of the PERMANENT website was created on a Windows 3.11 laptop using 8.3 filenames. (I did get the one word domain permanent.com but at the time I disdained domain name squatters so didn't get rich brokering other domain names, either.)
Along the way, I got ripped off by some greedy business partners who had some of my legacy business in the D.C. area, soon after I had arrived in Asia, and who took what existing business they could (all I knew the company had at the time had come in thru me) all to themselves instead of developing our business plan further as I had planned internationally, so I learned a big life lesson there, too. I won't name names, but I will say publicly shame on them, the kind of people they are and life they led. Their greed, shortsightedness, and of course unfairness.
I really, really had my fill of many of the Washington, D.C., mentalities, though also a deeper appreciation of the good people who could rise above it. Just wish more of the good people had been willing to go into business, though we also need allies in government, too. I just didn't have the patience for government work.
(Some of the good people I knew, both in government contracting and general advocacy, have since risen very high in NASA, and I believe they've been very instrumental in the success of Elon Musk by supporting commercial launchers, and the advocacy of lunar resources utilization. I was also very happy to see Jeff Bezos successful at Amazon and found Blue Origin in 2000, one of the Princeton O'Neill followers, though he has been disappointing more recently. Some of the politically greedy people of yesteryears I simply cannot find anymore. Good to see how things unfolded.)
From 1995 onwards, I've been working with the purely private sector, and frankly, that has been my preference. It also has the good, the bad, and the careless, but there is a refreshing creativity and dynamism, and I've met some of the best people in the purely private sector realm. In government, you have no choice but to deal with the people above you in the pyramid. In the private sector, you can always switch pyramids and do entire paradigm shifts.
This is just a short history, and at this point the story continues near the top of this page.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that I have spent a huge amount of my life far outside the Ivory Tower and the space advocacy echo chambers and groupthink circles, for better or for worse. I have seen a whole lot of the good, the bad, and the careless in this big world, especially in some of my work and activities which I'd rather not go into publicly, so this experience has given me a fairly good understanding of what individuals and groups of our species are capable of (again, the good, the bad, and the careless) and the practical challenges we face. I live simply and economically, whereby the most important thing to me is my time for working on humanistic things. My time in space resources has been very time efficient and focused mainly on technical literature and analysis in the context of what are the practical next steps to get us there.
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