Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Megamissions and How To Get To Space

Two interesting papers from Jerry Pournelle. The former is the standard 'seize the high ground' jazz; if you're not convinced this is important then you're not reading history or you have a severe case of wishful thinking.

The latter describes X Projects, and is longer.

Megamissions and Space Power
A Lecture Presented at the United States Air Force War College
Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.
March 20, 1994

Spacepower today is similar to airpower in 1920: within 20 years space supremacy will be a decisive element of military victory on land or sea. The power that has access to space and can deny access to its enemy will have an advantage at least as great as air supremacy or sea supremacy.

How To Get To Space
Jerry E. Pournelle, Ph.D.

Whose Job Is It?

We have institutions for nearly everything now, but we have lost the institutional means of long range planning. Who looks after our grandchildren? Surely not the politicians, who can hardly think past the next election, and are generally content to put problems off to be solved when the politician is safely out of office.

We no longer have great families planning for the future because we don’t have continuity of wealth: for good or ill, there is no entailment of property, and while there is talk of abolishing death taxes, they have pretty well done their egalitarian work; and perhaps this is a good thing. Good or ill, few think about the next generation and fewer try to do anything about it, because they have little confidence of continuity of their positions and fortunes.

The corporations are useless. The discounted value of a dollar in thirty years is effectively zero. A corporation that invested significantly in research with a thirty-year payoff would be involved in a hostile takeover not long afterwards.

That leaves government.

But Government Always Mucks Things Up

It isn’t strictly true that government always mucks things up, but it’s often enough so. A, if not the, major purpose of government is to extract money from non-government and use it to hire and pay government employees. This guarantees that government will always expand; and there inevitably comes a point at which the addition of people to a project has a negative impact. Almost all long-standing government agencies and projects have people who are worse than merely useless, they are in the way; and the more conscientious they are about earning their pay the more they tend to get in the gears and bring progress to a halt

If building a space-faring civilization were easy it would have already been done.
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