ASI W9700473r1.0

Moon Miners' Manifesto

#92 February 1996

Section the Artemis Data Book


IN FOCUS: SFF's "Alpha Town" proposal hits all the right notes

[ASI Editorial note: In this article, Peter describes a proposal from the Space Frontier Foundation, which is not affiliated with Artemis Society International. Also, we acknowledge that the International Space Station is not, and never was, named "Alpha." ]

After having for years opposed both the Space Station Freedom program and the successor International Space Station Program, the Space Frontier Foundation has found a better alternative than "if you can't beat them, join them." "If you can't beat them, get them to join you!" better sums up SFF's recent (11/10/'95) "Alpha Town" proposal.

By this plan, Alpha would become the kernel of the first economically self sustaining town in orbit. "Alpha Town [sic] encompasses the concept of the station as the financial and institutional hub of a business park." As described by SSS Senior Advisor Tom Rogers, the important actions called for are:

  1. Handing over the operation of the US portion of the station to an innovative commercial contractor as soon as possible, with the understanding that the facility be operated in an entrepreneurial, profit oriented and cost reducing manner.

  2. Competitively bid all payloads and passenger flights to and from the US portion of the station amongst US launch firms.

  3. Requiring that all expansion of the US portion of the station beyond the current design be leased from US commercial firms.

  4. Assuring that all domestic and international laws, treaties and agreements involving Alpha Town create a level playing field for US firms and act to encourage private investment in space.

Converting the civil Space Station program into a economically viable outpost in orbit - the heart of "Alpha Town," achieve's the Chairman's vision - it makes the project relevant, gives it an easily understandable rationale for the taxpayers and will eventually make human space flight as important to the American public as airline travel is today."

Proponents of the concept see "Alpha Town" as the "federal heart of a bustling free enterprise based community, carrying on all types of activities, from science, to new product development and tourism".

This concept is a great start in the right direction. The MMM editor and the Lunar Reclamation Society are happy to endorse it. There will be considerable resistance to letting commercial and for-profit interests play in this multi-govern-mental sandbox. Still, we need to aim yet higher to hit even that mark. We think the above provisions offer a basic core and can benefit from further embellishment and offer the following additional suggested improvements:

  1. We need to dust off the late 70's "Space Cartage Act" proposal, by which only commercial operators could carry equipment or personnel between space locations (between orbits). This would put an effective limit on NASA's operational "career". We'll need a commercial tug marina.

  2. Commercial refuelling depot, cryogenic scavenging etc. as proposed in the SSI '88/89 Systems Study

  3. Bid for a Commercially operated "hotel" module.

  4. Derelict satellite salvage and refurbishment and sales - i.e. a commercially operated hangar with pressurized bays.

  5. Draft legislation requiring that additional stations with U.S. involvement in other orbits be wholy commercial

SFF has shown considerable and vocal annoyance at the often poor signal to noise ratio within the National Space Society, but that often and unfortunately paralyzing chatter is what one must expect of any organization which attempts to run itself democraticly. Yet we hope the NSS Policy Committee and Space Cause will adopt and agree to cosoponsor the Alpha Town proposal.

All this may be for naught, however. The Russians, beset by continuing political and economic upheaval, may yet pull out of the International Space Station deal, prefering to continue to grow and update the present Mir, an option most U.S. observors find unworkable, or "not worth our bother."

We won't be in suspense for long. Construction on the International Space Station is due to begin late next year. Meanwhile, any legislative efforts along the lines sketch above won't be wasted It will be in place for successor efforts, if needed. Regardless of the flux of this international drama, NSS policy makers ought to give serious, favorable attention to this SFF proposal. -- Peter Kokh

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