Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SPACE MOVEMENT - WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

The National Space Society (NSS) is talking about building a "space movement." The organization is heavily funded by weapons corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Honeywell, Northrup Grumman, Aerojet and others. About support from these corporate giants NSS says, "By supporting NSS, these companies have shown their commitment to strong citizen involvement in our nation's space program."

And just what do these aerospace corporations want in return for funding this "grassroots space movement?" They are asking NSS to lobby for massive federal expenditures to move the arms race into space, to fund the space technology infrastructure to put mining colonies on the moon and Mars, and to support the development of space-based solar power technology that would put centralized solar production in corporate hands rather than development of decentralized solar technologies on homes and businesses back here on Mother Earth.

As one NSS leader puts it, citizen involvement in space drives power at the Congressional "negotiating table for funding."

Because of the growing budget deficit in the U.S., the weapons industry worries that space technology funding will take a hit. They are now moving to preempt that problem.

With heavy funding from the industry the NSS is undertaking a "five year Strategic Plan" and "building a stronger Space Movement is a key component of that plan."

NSS says, "Recently, the space community has become concerned about the relatively low level of support for space among America's youth....In order to strengthen the Movement, additional emphasis will be placed on chapter development and grassroots organization. We will not only appeal to people via intellectual argument, but also to their emotions through the use of space art and other media."

The aerospace industry understands how things work. If you want to control the discussion and change public perception, then you must create the grassroots thunder. NSS confirms this by saying, "The media, the public, politicians, and historians all view something to be of greater importance when it is a movement as compared to when it is not."

And since there is not presently a "pro-space movement" the industry has decided to create one.

There is much money to be made if the public can be convinced that we should spend our dwindling tax dollars on space technology. The Mars Society says that the Earth is a rotting, dying, stinking planet and that we must move our civilization to Mars and that Congress must appropriate funds to "terraform" Mars. And what does terraform mean? It means turning the dusty dry red planet into a replica of the Earth - alive and green and habitable. Just imagine how much that would cost? Imagine the profits for the aerospace corporations to be given such a mission.

Space technology development is very expensive. Just one illustration - the International Space Station was originally supposed to cost the public $10 billion, but the price tag has grown to over $100 billion and it is not yet finished. By the time the space station is completed it will be an outdated technology and on we will go to the next round. Already the aerospace industry is working on the successor programs to the space shuttle and the space station. But in order to get these massive projects funded it must create a citizens base - a movement.

Some years ago I attended a pro-space development conference at Cape Canaveral in Florida. I went to a workshop on Mars where the speaker was the head of the tourist facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Why him, what did he know about Mars? His message was simple - unless we get the kids, who will be taxpayers in 20 years, to support these space missions to the moon and Mars, we are sunk. So, he said, we are doing a complete renovation of the space center tourist facility on a Mars theme and increasing our efforts to bring school children into the space center.

On the other side we have the Global Network organizing international opposition to these plans for "everything space". We understand that we can't have social progress in the U.S. and pay for "everything space" at the same time. We are also hearing from our GN affiliated groups in Sweden, England, France, South Korea, Italy, Australia, Japan, India, and other nations that their countries are being dragged into the space technology game because the U.S. needs allies to help fund this very expensive new direction. The challenge becomes global as we try to hang onto our national resources to protect life for the future generations right here on planet Earth.

Yes indeed, we do need a space movement. It's just a matter of which kind we need. And the real question each of us must answer is "which side are you on?"

2 Comments:

Anonymous Jason said...

For those reading this post, there's a great rebuttal at http://www.opednews.com/articles/SPACE-MOVEMENT--WHICH-SID-by-Bruce-K-Gagnon-080910-499.html

9/12/08, 3:45 PM  
Blogger Al Globus said...

The facts are a bit different, and Mr. Gagnon is misleading you, probably deliberately.

The National Space Society (NSS) has a vision: people living and working in thriving communities beyond the Earth, and the use of the vast resources of space for the dramatic betterment of humanity. Bruce K. Gagnon is not only wrong about the NSS, in many ways, he has been corrected before and doesn't seem to learn. His facts were corrected in a response a his previous article, but he continues to repeat them. The first time is a mistake, which everyone makes. The second time is a lie.

First, Mr. Gagnon claims that the NSS is 'heavily funded' by 'weapons corporations.' In fact, NSS in 2007 received just 5.3% of it's funding from aerospace companies (some of whom also produce weapons). The vast majority of NSS funding comes from grass roots members. If he put the actual number, 5.3%, next to his 'heavily funded' it would make it more accurate and obviously silly.

Second, Mr. Gagnon claims that the NSS supports space solar power (SSP) to the exclusion of ground solar. This is half true, we do support SSP. However, as a space organization, NSS has no position on ground solar -- although I personally support it 100%. Mr. Gagnon surely knows that ground solar is something we can, and should, do now, whereas SSP will need at least 10 years before producing substantial power (1). The obvious approach to renewable energy is to develop ground solar for near and medium term whilst conducting SSP development for long term. Even once SSP is available, it obviously makes sense to have rooftop solar collectors, although it might make sense the free up the large tracks of land needed for centralized ground solar plants.

Third, the NSS has no position on arms in space. Indeed, the NSS avoids taking positions on military space. In any case, this author is adamantly opposed to weapons in space. Mr. Gagnon knows, or should know this. He appears to be deliberately misleading you.

Fourth, Mr. Gagnon claims that '.. since there is not presently a "pro-space movement" the industry has decided to create one.' This is completely false, as Mr. Gagnon should know. The National Space Institute, created in 1974, and L5 Society, created in 1975, merged to form NSS in 1987 which presently has about 12,000 members. The NSS is a true grass roots organization created by space advocates and enthusiasts. Along with the other society members of our Space Exploration Alliance, the current grassroots pro-space movement is about 100,000 members strong. If you want to become part of the space movement yourself, please visit www.nss.org/membership.

Mr. Gagnon correctly notes that the NSS is interested in lunar and martian mining, which this author, for one, believes to be far more environmentally sound than mining on Earth. Mr. Gagnon is perhaps not aware, but should be, that SSP could supply vast quantities of extremely clean, reliable power; thereby making oil drilling, coal mining and energy wars obsolete. There is a great deal of potential common ground between advocates along Mr. Gagnon's lines and organizations like the NSS. It's easier to work these areas in an atmosphere of mutual respect. It doesn't help to repeat things you know, or should know, are untrue.

Mr. Gagnon also repeats the big lie of excessive space funding. NASA receives about $17 billion per year, in a $2,000 billion budget -- considerably less than 1%. If NASA's budget were eliminated completely and turned over to any of the truly big government costs: defense, social security, medicare, or debt payments it would barely make a dent. Mr. Gagnon either knows this and is misleading you, or doesn't know it and should learn the facts to avoid misleading people..

The NSS is one of the few places that both staunch liberals like myself and conservatives of all stripes can work towards common goals of enormous benefit to the country and the world. The grassroots pro-space movement grew up alongside the environmental movement, and NSS and other space advocacy organizations share many of the same ideals. In our "Statement of Philosophy", we identify "Survival of Earth’s Biosphere" as one of the top reasons for expanding human civilization into space, and state "one of the goals and benefits of space development and settlement is to restore and enhance the biosphere of the planet Earth."

Why don't we do that?

Al Globus
Chairman
NSS Space Settlement Advocacy Committee

NOTES:

(1) The NSS does note that in the very long term SSP has environmental benefits that may actually improve on ground solar's environmental footprint. Specifically, if SSP satellites are built from lunar materials all that work will take place thousands of miles from Earth with zero terrestrial environmental damage. Materials for ground solar must, of course, be mined and processed on Earth. However, this energy option is probably at least 15-20 years in the future. Ground solar is now.

1/24/09, 1:08 AM  

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