Space Studies Tuesday: A change in direction--Mining the Sky

If anyone is still following Space Studies Tuesday, you'll notice I've skipped a couple of weeks.  I can claim sickness then the MuseOnline Writers Conference, but the fact of the matter is, as valuable as the JPL course information is, it's not especially interesting to blog about, and lately, it's become a drudgery.  I plan on finishing the course, and I invite you to do the same--on your own.

However, I like the idea of Space Studies Tuesdays, and still want to study the NSS papers with you.  I think there will be more room for discussion and exploration.  In the meantime, however, I picked up Mining the Sky by John S Lewis.  This was actually written in 1996, and I'm sure some things have changed since them, not the least of which is the founding of Planetary Resources.  Nonetheless, I'm only three pages into it--the Preface!--and it makes me want to blog! 

Mr. Lewis beings with a discussion of American industry and the conflict between pure research and end-of-quarter ledgers.  Essentially, pure research doesn't pay off in the short term, and is thus easily cut by industries looking at improving short-term profits by cutting expenses.  Of course this is like counting beans without thinking about where future beans will be planted, as Lewis puts it.  This, of course, feeds into my personal stance that we cannot depend on government programs to get us into space on any long-term basis.  After all, with a trillions-dollar debt and a government that changes every two years (because of congressional elections), long term thinking is fiscally and politically difficult. Ah, but here's the sentence that made me put down the book to blog to you:

"In a very real sense, scientifically and technically literate MBAs could save American Industry."
I don't think we have to take "MBA" literally, but think about the people who are starting up many of the space industry companies today:  entrepreneurs who sometimes made billions in some other industry (Paypal, Google, Microsoft...) who have turned their attention and their finances toward a longer-term goal, manned space.

But, Karina, they're not out there for pure research either; they're looking for profit.  Absolutely true, but one feeds the other, which is another point Lewis makes: we need "a judicious balance between long-term basic research, short-term applied research, engineering development of products, and commercialization of new products."  As I return to looking at space companies, I'll be looking for those elements.

In the meantime, back to the book!  If you want to read along with me, you can find it on Amazon or B&N

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment