I. Synthesis of Space Activities 1985-2010

by Philip R. Harris et al.
This statement was prepared by faculty fellows Philip R. Harris, Carolyn Dry, Nathan C. Goldman, Karl R. Johansson, Jesa Kreiner, Robert H. Lewis and James Grier Miller, assisted by workshop participants Ben R. Finney, Ronald Maehl, Kathleen J. Murphy, Namika Raby, Michael C. Simon, Richard Tangum and J. Peter Vajk and consultants David G. Brin and Elie Shneour. These observations were made in 1984. Subsequent events, especially the reports in 1986 of the National Commission on Space (Pioneering the Space Frontier) and the Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, seem to confirm their relevance.

The next 25 years will bring a new era in space development. Presidential policy confirms that the United States of America through its National Aeronautics and Space Administration is committed to the establishment of a permanent human presence in space.

Space-based resources offer new opportunities to make that goal achievable. Research into and development of space-based resources will give the nation additional scientific and economic leverage, while the involvement of more people in such space operations will improve human performance aloft and the quality of life on Earth.

The extension of human capabilities on the space frontier can be accomplished through a combination of human and automated activities (robot construction vehicle). That is, by the extended presence of humans on a space station, by the use of robots at a manned lunar outpost, by automated and manned exploration of Mars, and by unmanned probes into the solar system. Such activities by 2010 provide a necessary springboard for further exploration and exploitation of space resources, such as on the asteroids and on Mars.

To stay on the "high ground," beginning with the utilization of near-Earth resources, requires a long-term view of the benefits to humankind. Furthermore, an expanded infrastructure needs to be developed both on Earth and in space, first in low Earth orbit (LEO) and then in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). to achieve such objectives will require the development of bases at multiple locations in space, with more complexity and greater numbers and varieties of people on them.

Therefore, NASA should be encouraged in the short term to pursue the opportunities for space industrialization provided by a permanent space station and platform, as well as to develop the necessary technology and plans for a lunar outpost and possibly for an asteroid expedition. In this process, it is vital that support be given to research into ecological life support systems and ergonomics in space.

Over the long term - 25 - 100 years - strategic planning should include taking advantage of the resources on the asteroids (illustration of Phobos) and on Mars (USGS photo of Mars), as well as unmanned exploration of other suitable locations in the cosmos.

The justifications for such space activities are more than economic, They include

Economics and System Tradeoffs
The immediate rationale for extending human presence into space is primarily noneconomic-the human and scientific returns to be gained by such endeavors. Having said that, we recognize a viable market for the use of space in the communications industry. A case for investment in space industrialization (a photo of a satellite being deployed into orbit from the orbiter) into orbit has already been made by the success of commercial satellites and sensors. From parametric sensitivity analysis of the benefits vs. the costs of using space, it seems that information resources will have the most payback in the near term.

By the turn of the century, growth industries may emerge in space for materials processing, then eventually for manufacturing and mining, solar power, and other applications (see fig. 1). (Fig.1 shows a growth plan chart for a Power Beaming Industry). The Moon may prove to be economically attractive when production of oxygen, propellants, and bulk shielding materials is undertaken. The growth of human activities in space will continue to be limited by economic constraints, such as the high cost of transportation and of life support, both of which initially involve replenishment of supplies from Earth.

Since NASA is not an ordinary business but an R&D organization engaged in high-risk, high technology, large-scale endeavors, the agency requires large amounts of up-front capital. Its financial requests should be evaluated by criteria that go beyond mere cost/benefit ratios. Although its ventures involve much risk, exposing national prestige as well as capital, NASA's space programs also require boldness because of the possible economic and other rewards to be gained by the country and the world.

The principal system tradeoffs identified for the next 25 years are choices among (a) space transportation systems; (b) power systems in space and on the Moon; and (c) automation, human presence, or a combination of both. In attempting to develop cost projections for such purposes, NASA would be well advised to utilize now parametric models, such as the sensitivity analysis demonstrated in the 1984 summer study; it offers a method for testing and quantifying differing assumptions about space resources.

However, to create the necessary economic infrastructure for these space undertakings, new sources of income that go beyond the Federal budgeting of NASA requests are essential. New financial participation may come from tax incentives and other encouragements of space entrepreneurs and technological venturing. New legislation is desirable which facilitates space commerce and involves business on a broader basis than does the aerospace industry, while improving the insurance situation for space activities. Furthermore, new options should be carefully evaluated by the President and Congress for greater public financial participation in space endeavors that will spread the risks, such as through a national lottery, Government bonds, stock investments, or limited partnership opportunities. In such ways, the fifty existing space advocacy organizations might be mobilized, so that their collective membership of 300 000 and their aggregate annual budget of $30.5 million (M. A. Michaud, 1987, Reaching for the High Frontier. The American Space Movement, 1972-84 (New York: Praeger).) would have greater impact on space development.

While NASA should be urged to pursue innovative ways to reduce the costs of its space transportation system and other operations, its budget should be increased to cover both operational commitments and new developments. Other financial benefits might come from developing technological systems that are more generic or building reservoirs of consumables onsite in space, using nonterrestrial materials when possible. Savings might be further effected by designing support systems that permit recycling and accept substitute sources or even substitute chemicals. Creative funding may involve the privatization of many space activities, so that the NASA budget can focus on research and development.

Management and Structure

The next stage of space development poses a challenge for the management of large-scale technical enterprises, such as a space station and a lunar outpost. In this regard, we recommend that the nation's political leadership consider giving NASA a new charter-one that would allow it greater autonomy and flexibility (like the Tennessee Valley Authority). Perhaps all NASA's research functions should be concentrated into a National Institute of Space.

In this postindustrial information society, human systems like NASA are expected to go through a process of organizational renewal. Since NASA made management innovations during the Apollo period, it can capitalize on this heritage to meet the challenges of change in organizational culture and in the role of management, especially as a result of advances in management information systems (MIS). More behavioral science management research is also needed on (1) the role of, problems faced by, and skills required of space project leaders (both those who manage space resource undertakings from Earth and those who lead space programs onsite) and on (2) the macromanagement approaches required for effective administration of large-scale technological projects in space.

Legal, Political, Social, and Environmental Issues

Technological excellence in space will not only serve the needs of national pride, defense, and growth but also ensure America's leadership, especially in high technology and its applications. To energize the nation's will toward space development requires the creation of mechanisms such as the following, which we recommend to the nation's leaders for consideration:

Overall Desirabilities and Probabilities

Space is a place to motivate new modes of human cooperation. [The National Commission on Space (1986) offered specific recommendations in this regard.]

An imaginative plan for a lunar base might inspire the next generation to turn outward in pursuit of challenges on the next frontier. Space resources are vital for the development of human habitats and factories, be they on the Moon, on asteroids, or on Mars.

In the long run, human migration into space will not only alter our own human culture on Earth but also result in the creation of a new culture adapted to the realities to space living. Apollo 11, (photo of Apollo 16 crew in command module) broke our perceptual blinders that we were Earthbound and opened up to us the possibilities for exploring and utilizing the universe. To prepare for the ever-expanding human presence in space, we need more study of:

The next 25 years offer lead time to plan for the more mature space communities to come. To cope with the unique conditions of life aloft, such as weightlessness (A rendering of and early concept of Life onboard a Space Station) and perpetual reliance on machinery, humans will adapt and acculturate, thus altering behavior. New living themes and patterns will change our sense of self, communication dress, food, time, relationships, values, beliefs, mental processes, and work habits. To prepare for such revolutionary changes in the human condition, we need immediate research by cultural anthropologists and cross-cultural psychologists on such relocation issues as,


The increased number and diversity of people going into space beginning in the next 25 years requires research and development into more areas than just transportation, energy, and materials. It necessitates expansion of studies in the human sciences on issues of life support, safety, ergonomics, habitats, communities, and relocation of people, as well as the ecology of space resources. The situation would seem to warrant a more comprehensive, systematic approach to such planning.

The human race is in transition (A conceptual rendering of humans moving from an earth-based to a space-based culture) from an Earth-based to a spacebased culture. Although this "passover" may take centuries, we are now taking the first revolutionary steps toward the time when we can regularly, economically, and safely extend out from low Earth orbit to the orbit of the Moon. Perhaps there we humans will really mature and achieve potential as we move out into the universe and a new state of being.


Table of Contents

To request information on this web site in a Section 508 accessible format, please contact [email protected]

NASA Website Privacy Statement

Curator: Al Globus
If you find any errors on this page contact Al Globus.
Space Settlement hompage

This site was hosted by the NASA Ames Research Center from 1994-2018 and is now hosted by:

National Space Society