About Us, PERMANENT History and Personnel
PERMANENT was founded in 1985 by Mark Evan Prado, a physicist in the Washington, D.C., region working for the Pentagon in advanced planning in the space program.
On the side, Mark developed a custom computerized database of technical publications relevant to PERMANENT, as well as an 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 1985 via a dial-in BBS (long before internet became trendy).
(Some of this material goes back to before 1985. However, Mark didn't start computerizing until 1985.)
A few years later, having come to understand the nature of government from direct experience, 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, Mark resigned his 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, Mark 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 he has traveled to nearly every country in Asia, he currently resides in Bangkok, albeit a suburb.
From 1995 until 1998, Mark 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. Mark gambled on this, instead of returning to the US and developing an internet based business of his own. That proved to be the wrong gamble. No investor came forth.
Mark also 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 Mark had more time on his hands and lived largely off of savings. After publishing the PERMANENT book in 1998, Mark 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.
Mark went back to work and developed a real estate business, based on his experience with property developers during his 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.
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).
Sam still runs 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 applied for 501(c)3 status and eventually received it. We refer to this company by its acronym PSDF.
Mark started to put the website into a custom Content Management System (CMS), which a German friend (Mario) had created and Mark had been improving (and learning PHP and MySQL programming...), and with the occasional help of other programmers (Jimmy and Jack) who we hired. 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, 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.
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.
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 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 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 over 10 years intensively. For Sam, it's going on 15 years now, for Mark it's 29 years of intensive PERMANENT work.
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.