#101 December 1996
Section 126.96.36.199.101.of the Artemis Data Book
Ten years! We've collectively seen a lot, and been through a lot. Pushing our dream, an open space frontier in which development of off-Earth resources includes off-planet settlement, has not been easy, smooth, guaranteed. Ours is not the role of cheer-leading spectators, and those who've joined our ranks for the bandwagon thrill of being aboard a surefire winning program with no setbacks have long since become disheartened and jumped ship. As have many of those who can't see past all the irrelevant inside politics. As have those who have identified particular paths to the future as the only ones.
We began this venture, we founders of the Milwaukee Lunar Reclamation Society L5, back in the fall of 1986, little more than half a year after Challenger exploded, and with the real disaster of public and governmental reaction still unfolding. It would be another two years before the next Shuttle flight. And already, in this interim of seeming inactivity, we were looking for alternatives and options. We talked about Dr. T.D. Lin's concept of a 210,000-square-foot lunar outpost made with 2 million tons of lunar regolith and lunar concrete (and 55 tons of imported hydrogen). We told our readers about the bold lunar real estate turnkey outpost development plans of Lady Base One's Mitch Mitchell. We worked hard to get the proposed non-agency Lunar Polar Probe effort back on track and Lunar Prospector was born, put in suspended animation, and then revived to fly this coming year.
We cheered as Endeavor was built and flew as a replacement for Challenger. We cheered as it, and the other orbiters, were outfitted and retrofitted for extended duration missions. And we were all greatly enheartened by the current Shuttle-Mir missions. The Shuttle was finally going somewhere! Yet there have been temporary setbacks: Hubble's optical problem, the failed tether experiments, and more.
At first just a few of us, then more and more until it became consensus, saw that NASA's Space Transportation System involved a radical misdirection of the agency's purpose, that a fifth orbiter should not be built, that we had to privatize space transportation, that as marvelous a machine as the Shuttle was, Proxmire was right after all, when he predicted that rather than lowering per-pound costs to orbit, this all-purpose space pickup designed-by-committee would raise them. A replacement vehicle development program was announced: NASP, the National Aero-Space Plane. But it became a victim of its own price tag and many were disheartened.
Yet the rebellion to put a sunset limit on the Shuttle and begin work on a radically new workhorse calculated to usher in "Cheap Access To Space" had begun. It quickly won converts -- not-so-amazingly becoming mainstream, given its irrefutable inner logic. The Shuttle was the door to space all right, a locked heavy door that no one but the government could afford to open. It defeated its own purpose.
MMM and MLRSL5 were born as the merger negotiations between the precursor L5 Society and the old National Space Institute were coming to a head and we became the first fully merged chapters three months before the documents were signed. The marriage has had its rocky moments as parts of the former two fought not to become one. In the struggle, many fell out, confusing the relative importance of goals and means. The merger was made to bring together the separate strengths of the two societies, but it was not without some unfortunate losses. Gaining a headquarters in Washington, where the "action" was (to those still convinced that private enterprise could only do little things, and still deludeded that the government could find the needed political will), we lost the valuable vantage point that made vision "desert clear" in Tucson.
And we mourn still the fundamentally philosophical choice of preeminence of "national policy" over "frontier goals" institutionalized in the new name of the "National" Space Society by member choice (the other choice on the ballot was "The Space Frontier Society"). We remain in the minority still.
We have watched as some organizations have gone under (Lady Base One, the Lunar Development Council, and others) and watched as others have been born to focus on special needs: Space Frontier Foundation, Space Access Society, The Millennial Foundation, Artemis Society International. This is very healthy and we applaud this diversity.
The road to an open space frontier is not a narrow one -- it is unbelievably wide and multi-versal, a goal with as many legitimate paths as there are individually talented and individually inspired people to pursue them. We decry those who, on an undeniably legitimate and vitally important path, make light and folly of all other efforts and preoccupations. The road to space is a dendritic one with many tributaries. The "space activist" is not just the supporter who takes direction well, opens his wallet, picks up his pen to write his Congress people, and makes long distance phone calls -- all to push space as a governmental program. Space is more than that! It is a human program, and anyone who uses his or her talents -- whatever they are -- to further the fuller realization of the new era of breakout from Cradle Earth has the right to be respected as a "space activist". To the contrary, for the one whose only tool is a hammer, all problems look like nails. Those who decry the meaningfullness of the efforts of others expose the emptiness of their own personal toolboxes. Indeed, we have watched as a totally new and unpredicted tool has risen to major importance: the Internet, the World Wide Web.
Meanwhile our own tool, MMM, is a modest one. Yet we have watched its circulation grow from an initial hundred (fattened by freebies) to some six hundred, reaching every continent but Africa and Antarctica, spreading beyond Milwaukee to ten other NSS chapters, and beyond service within NSS to service within Artemis Society International. MMM has grown from an initial ten pages to twenty four, and has never missed an issue. A disproportionate fount of its success has been the simple gitgo decision to publish ten months a year with a semiannual burnout-prevention and inspiration-renewal break. The entrance of Mark Kaehny to edit Moon Miners' Review in the two off-months has made this work.
MMM has been and continues to be a labor of love. We are not tired. And the well is far from dry. As we continue down the path to the future we will meet new obstacles, setbacks, trials, and uncertainties. Some will fall by the wayside. Yet we have been gratified by our continued very high 80% plus renewal rate, year after year. So thanks to all of you without whom it would not have been possible.
It has been encouraging, too, to hear many of the ideas first introduced in these pages echoing back from other speakers and writers. Attribution in this game means less, far less, than our success together as a fraternity determined to take mankind beyond its womb world, with no turning back.
Commerce and Private Enterprise still seem to us the only horses worth riding. Ridiculed as unable to do the job so far, they remain without alternative. By nature, governments subservient to consumers cannot ever muster the political will to do what will always be beyond the majority vision. What is popular is not necessarily right, and vice versa. If free enterprise cannot rise to the occasion, then, folks, it cannot be done at all. Nor confuse free enterprise with the contract-addicted major players.
With so many visions, all with some validity, it is inevitable that our movement has picked up a heavy burden of fellow travellers: those not interested in an open space frontier, the development of off-planet resources, nor the establishment of viable off-world pockets of humanity. Yet their lesser visions, of expanded Platonic knowledge of our solar system through robotic proxies, of expanded knowledge of our home planet through orbiting probes, and of other space-routed domestic home-planet services -- these visions, too, are each valid, however tragicomically limited. They and those taken up with them deserve our respect. In the process of fulfilling our vision, we will fulfill each of theirs -- beyond their wildest dreams, and despite themselves.
In the coming decade, MMM hopes to see competitive enterprise take a much stronger role; to see the emphasis in planetary probes shift from increasing textbook knowlege to increasing our pragmatic knowledge of the resources available in Earth's off-planet hinterland; and to see the dawn of effectively cheaper access to space.
There will continue to be detours. A plaque in my bedroom reads "the contented man is one who enjoys the scenery along the detours." That is not enough, however. We must always be on the lookout for the serendipitous along the way, the discovery of unsuspected better routes than the one whose cutoff we may have been bemoaning. If the optimist is a ridiculous person, so is the pessimist. Only the meliorist is not a fool: the person who can accept the given and go on from there, change of direction after change of direction. "Reality", says the witticism, "is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans." It is a game that optimists and pessimists alike must lose, one only the meliorist can win.
MMM will continue steadfastly in this melioristic posture and we hope you will stay with us. Bad news is news we have yet to look at from the right perspective. With the right attitude, we will overshoot our goals. It's a temperament thing.
We've been passionate about man's "Destiny in Space" since we learned how to read -- that's a long time ago, before the V-2's started buzzing London. By the time you read this, we'll have had to blow out 59 candles. But it's a personal go for another 25. We hope you keep us company.
Artemis Project architect Gregory Bennett asked me how I planned to celebrate MMM issue #201. I replied "by finishing the master copy on the Moon, or emailing the text back from Luna, or reporting on Artemis Base in Angus Bay. Right now, I'm more concerned with issue #102. One step at a time!"
Contents of this issue of Moon Miners' Manifesto