Seven Steps to Space Travel

Gary Michael Church

The methodology for civilization expanding into space is to be found in a triad of indispensable human endeavors: defense, communications, and energy. After food and transporting food, the defense/ communications/energy triad is the penultimate draw on technological resources. Nuclear deterrence has precluded a third world war for over half a century. Telecommunications technology has provided real time information on the state of global affairs and provided continuity. The ever-expanding energy industry continues to stabilize the infrastructure and enterprise of civilization. Fossil fuels providing fertilizer, pesticides, and horsepower have allowed humankind to reach the present population of over 7 billion and maintain a state of equilibrium. In the 21st century the triad must relocate into space if looming breakdowns in the mechanisms of civilization are to be averted. Space is where diminishing deterrence will be restored, where communications will be globally refined, and where energy is for all practical purposes limitless.

1. Step one is to DEFINE what space is and how travel through this medium is to be classified. 100 kilometers/62 miles is the present boundary, but this number is quite arbitrary. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) has little in common with outer space because underneath the Van Allen belts humans enjoy protection from solar storms. Though analogy is much abused concerning space, it would be fair to characterize LEO as a freshwater pond and above the Van Allen belts as the deep ocean. LEO is not really space. The more accurate demarcation line is Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) over 23,000  miles above the surface. The often quoted claim that LEO is halfway to anywhere in the solar system is an erroneous halfway marker that should be reassigned to GEO. In 1968 human beings left LEO behind and then backtracked after Apollo because of NASA budget cuts. If LEO is not space then the actual space age only lasted four years. Space travel to an actual destination is properly defined as Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit (HSF-BEO).

2. Step two is to CLASSIFY the conveyances used for space travel. The two most misused terms in this respect are “spaceship” and “space station.” Providing an Earth gravity and near-sea-level radiation environment is the key enabler for long duration Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit. Massive shielding and centrifugal artificial gravity are the basic requirements for any HSF-BEO missions. These inescapable requirements are due to the heavy nuclei component of galactic cosmic radiation and zero gravity debilitation. True spaceships will ironically resemble ships at sea in that their crews will be wrapped in a bare minimum of several hundred tons of water. The terms spaceship and space station should only be applied to these rotating-with-basic-shield constructs. By this definition spacecraft and LEO platforms are all that have ever been built. It follows that mating a propulsion system to a space station changes it into a spaceship and vice versa. How to shield these stations and propel these ships is a sea change in worldview that must occur if “a real space program” is to ever become reality.

3. Step three is to clearly EXPLAIN the prerequisite technology to the public. The basic principles and realities of spaceflight are not difficult to comprehend if explained in practical terms. Unfortunately, without standard definitions and classifications the language concerning LEO, space, spaceships, and space travel is very confusing. The unavoidably massive space radiation shielding can realistically only be acquired from the six times shallower gravity well of the Moon. The ice on the Moon should be the central focus of the Human Space Flight community. There is only one realistic method of propelling such a kiloton range water shield on interplanetary missions: hydrogen bombs. These hard facts are quite a shock at first but the denial stage does wear off. The technology has existed for decades. The stark reality is going to the Moon to acquire shielding, assemble, test, and launch nuclear missions is the only path to space. The launch abort hardware exists for safely transporting fissionable material to the Moon where the shielding is. There is certainly no shortage of plutonium for nuclear pulse systems.

4. Step four is to POPULARIZE the end goals of a Human Space Flight program. The most perfect vision to date is Gerard K. O’Neill’s concept of space colonization. The enabler in O’Neill’s vision was solar energy beamed to Earth from GEO arrays effectively ending global poverty and climate change. The only way to remedy the effect of greenhouse gases on the ecosystem is to acquire the energy to run civilization outside of that system. That means beaming the energy down from space. The same beams can eventually power Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) launch vehicles. The revenue to reform the energy industry would come from the 100 billion dollar a year GEO satellite industry. This satellite system will inevitably collapse due to space debris if not replaced by a smaller number of efficient space stations. Wet workshop space stations originating in lunar orbit can clean up this junkyard using laser technology. More seed money for this future space plan would come from basing nuclear weapons off-world in deep space. This would serve to protect the Earth from asteroid and comet impacts as well as continue in their present role.

5. Step five is to VALIDATE the funding for exploiting the necessary lunar resources to build the first true space stations in lunar orbit. When considering the staggering price tag of replacing the aging U.S. ballistic submarine fleet, the necessary Super Heavy Lift Vehicle launches (SHLV) become less daunting. Wet workshop lunar space stations only require a nuclear pulse propulsion system to transform them into true spaceships. Funding for all nuclear weapon delivery systems on Earth, submarines, missiles, and bombers could thus be diverted. By replacing the GEO network with space stations in concert with spaceship construction the costs could be further reduced. The same nuclear devices used to propel spaceships can also be modified to create lunar underground factory space. A “Nuclear Moon” infrastructure would be used to lift from the lunar surface the immense solar power satellite arrays necessary to power civilization on Earth. Beam propulsion would drastically lower the cost of both lunar lift and the cost of launching from Earth allowing for ever larger numbers of space travelers.

6. Step six is to DISCARD unnecessary programs the move into space will make obsolete. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent maintaining legacy nuclear delivery systems vulnerable to a first strike, dangerously compromising deterrence. Almost all of these systems are past due replacement. Missile silos are precisely targeted, submarines can no longer hide, and bombers are no longer kept in the air round the clock. Spaceships will not be any more expensive than these delivery systems and have a great deal of technology in common with nuclear submarines. Unlike Earth based systems, spaceships will not have minutes to launch but more likely months. In addition, the planet itself can be defended with these spaceships from asteroid and comet impacts. Beside the nuclear defense industry, the telecommunications and ultimately the energy industry are most efficiently entirely space-based. Human-crewed spaceships and GEO space stations are the key to this new infrastructure. The opportunity to vastly improve conditions for humanity on Earth by the end of the 21st century has arrived.

7. Step seven is LEGISLATE a long term program. There is no downside to expanding the human presence into space. As the defense/communication/energy triad is gradually moved off-world the benefits to humankind will manifest in direct proportion. Slowing the hair-trigger nuclear response of deterrence will be complemented by space station direct human visual observation. This will greatly reduce the present nuclear inventory and support structure resulting in huge defense savings. The global connectivity provided by GEO space stations will be an order of magnitude improvement and enable a wireless world. The end-game of space solar power virtually eliminating fossil fuel use on planet Earth is the precursor to lowering the population. The promise of space colonization is to actually create artificial hollow moons from lunar resources and homes for tens of billions of people. The promise of beam propulsion is cheap SSTO lift into cislunar space on the scale of commercial air transportation. The people of the United States and of the rest of the world will support this vision of a bright future.

In conclusion, the most powerful device ever created by humankind, the H-bomb, is the only force capable of propelling a spaceship through interplanetary space. Nuclear pulse propulsion was endorsed by a cadre of celebrity scientists including von Braun, Sagan, and Clarke. The concept was also validated by the work of the originator Stanislaw Ulam, Freeman Dyson and Theodore Taylor. The Reagan Strategic Defense Initiative added mountains of classified research applicable to the directed energy devices used in pulse propulsion. Space Radiation shielding on a massive scale that provokes shock and dismay is unavoidable. However, the main difficulty with bomb propulsion is building spaceships on a small enough scale, so the two problems solve each other. The larger the mass the more efficient and economical pulse propulsion becomes. Lighting off nuclear devices near the Earth or inside the Earth’s magnetic field is unacceptable due to fallout. This is no drawback since the lunar-ice-as-shielding this powerful system will push is to be found on the Moon and outside the magnetosphere.

Orion Mark 2
Image from “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship”, by George Dyson

The logical sequence is to start by replacing the present GEO satellite junkyard by assembling wet workshop space stations in lunar orbit. These water-filled stations can then be transited back across cislunar space to GEO or completed as spaceships. The stations will generate revenue to defray the cost of the nuclear armed and propelled spaceships replacing the obsolete Earth deterrent. A few pounds of plutonium in the palm of a gloved hand holds the same energy carried in a fleet of supertankers. The only efficient way to release this energy outside of a star is in the pulse of an H-bomb. The counter-intuitive constructive harnessing of this destructive event is the key to space travel and colonization. The same devices that can push a water shielded spaceship through interplanetary space can deflect any asteroid or comet threat to Earth. If natural “super-lava-tubes” are not found these same devices can create underground lunar factory space to manufacture millions of tons of solar energy components. The same devices can lift those millions of tons into cislunar space from the surface of the Moon to power civilization on Earth.

The Only Cure for Climate Change

Gary Michael Church

It may seem bizarre to prescribe H-bombs for a sick ecosystem but as someone once said, the universe is not only stranger than we imagine….

The cure for climate change is to completely end the use of all fossil fuels by the end of this century. The promise of commercial nuclear power has proven false and solar and wind energy require massive and self-defeating industrial activity on Earth so there seems to be no answer- but in fact the solution has been available for decades. The only way to power civilization without that energy affecting the ecosystem is to acquire the energy from outside the environment- from outer space. The technology to beam electricity down from space is fairly straightforward and the concept was patented in 1973 by Peter Glaser. A year after the last Moon landing the rationale to establish a permanent lunar colony was being developed by Gerard K. O’Neill in a paper on space colonization, published in 1974, and based on space as an essentially limitless energy resource. Building these power stations in space will require Nuclear Pulse Propulsion. H-bombs.

To power civilization with Glaser’s Solar Power Satellites would require placing several million tons of collectors and transmitters in Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO). While the megatons of shipping that travel the oceans of Earth are taken for granted, lifting even a fraction of this total mass into space is not practical. Satellites built in factories on the Moon would entail a far less difficult lift if a powerful enough propulsion system was available. And that is where the H-bombs come into play- both for building the factories and lifting the required mass into space. If no immense lava tubes thought to exist underneath the Moon are found then factory space can be had by way of fusion. To lift the satellite components there is no more powerful device in existence. Stan Ulam first conceived of the idea of pushing an object through space using nuclear explosions in 1947 and published a paper on the subject in 1955.  In 1961 project Gnome proved the concept of excavating huge artificial caves using underground nuclear explosions. The fallout and contamination is of course not acceptable on Earth or even in near-Earth space inside the Earth’s magnetic field. Outside this magnetosphere is an entirely different matter.

Ulam, Glaser, and O’Neill presented the technology to power our entire civilization without burning anything. The key enabler of this modern miracle is element 94, that demonic ultra-poisonous substance called plutonium. A few pounds of plutonium can, by fission, ignite a fusion device generating the equivalent of millions of tons of chemical energy. The equivalent of several supertankers of oil held in the palm of your hand. It is the most powerful force ever harnessed by humankind. Without an application the hundreds of tons of plutonium stockpiled around the world are considered toxic waste, a terrorism risk, and a problem with no solution. For applications outside the Earth’s magnetosphere the only question is how to package this magic in a shell that can  survive the possible and probable eventual explosion of one of the rockets carrying it into space.

The solution to safely transporting element 94 into space has in part already been addressed with the escape systems necessary for sending up human beings. The Launch Abort System of the Orion space capsule is extremely powerful and was provided in response to the tragic decision to build the Space Shuttle with no escape system. The fist-sized plutonium cores of hydrogen bombs, called “pits”, can be encased in relatively large and massive heat and blast resistant shells and placed in an Orion capsule for transport into outer space. These fission triggers would then be placed in fusion devices and used to first excavate sports-arena-size lunar underground factory spaces. After the factories are in operation manufacturing solar energy components the massive assemblies are then  lifted from the lunar surface into space by again using fusion devices in pulse propulsion systems.

The timeline for such a project depends entirely on funding. As the first global public works project an international effort diverting many, many trillions of dollars from existing energy arrangements and the defense industries that protect them would accelerate and lower total cost. Compared to landing on the Moon from scratch it is not so much a technical challenge as a logistical one. The first step is to go back to the Moon to stay and that means Super Heavy Lift Vehicles to carry the necessary manufacturing infrastructure. Thousands of lunar factory workers may seem hard to imagine but if transported a half a dozen at a time with close to a 100 launches a year this workforce would be established fairly quickly. Presently over 50 rockets are launched per year on various commercial and military missions.

The precursor to lunar factories and Solar Power Satellites would be establishing human crewed Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) space stations to replace and clean up the present satellite junkyard. By using empty rocket stages (the Wet Workshop concept) these stations can be assembled in lunar orbit and partially filled with water derived from lunar ice as radiation shielding. These classic spinning wheels would provide the Earth gravity and near sea level radiation levels necessary for health during multi-year tours. The first revenue producer would be the vastly upgraded global connectivity using GEO stations, then lunar factories and the end goal of Solar Power Satellites beaming power down to Earth. Ulam and O’Neill envisioned space travel and space colonies and after completing the space solar project a migration from Earth into space could eventually lower the population of the planet. The alternative is the distinct possibility of involuntary depopulation events.

H-Bomb Salvation

By Gary Michael Church

The famous poem considers whether the world will end with fire or ice. A more promising approach is to ask when a new world will begin with fire and ice.  This is a matter of two technologies; nuclear fusion and cryopreservation. The most powerful device ever created by humankind holds the key to exploiting the limitless energy of solar energy while mastering the technique of freezing tissues without damage unlocks the potential of humankind to travel to the stars. Compared to creating an artificial sun, simply lowering the the temperature of a complex form of matter without disruption should be practical. Yet the incredible power these technologies represent is ignored and invisible to the public eye. Why, in this new century does the human race seem to be falling into stagnation and ever greater disorder when the future holds such bright promise? At the time of this writing, Christmas day 2014, the state of human civilization on this planet is one of slow deterioration.

The problem that faces humankind has been with us from the beginning of civilization when those first few with leisure time available philosophized about the meaning of existence. Our ephemeral lifespan has always controlled history in a profound way by dictating fundamental behaviors. It is incontrovertible that if human beings had an indefinite lifespan we would act much differently. A strange psychic denial turns minds away from this subject of making indefinite lifespans a reality. I will not presume to take this mechanism apart and examine it; I do not think anyone can. It is enough to recognize and seek to overcome this obstacle at this perfect moment in human history. A simple medical procedure could be the beginning of a new age, a second coming of the promise of salvation from certain death and a new hope for the future.

It is clear these technologies are potentially disruptive to the same extant they can empower and join the human race together in a single great project. The world would completely change when the over riding priority would become first the rescue of all those in mortal danger from sickness and old age and what follows. After that initial emergency was dealt with the unavoidable challenge of curing these survivors would be next. As the bodies pile up in cold storage the need for a great awakening to follow the great rescue would be the single concern of civilization. Travel to alien planets would be part of this new world. The H-bomb, that fearsome destroyer of worlds so abhorred and demonized, is also the only practical method of travel through interplanetary space. With a working method of freezing and reviving human beings these bomb propelled spaceships become starships. Most likely beam propulsion will accelerate very large habitats and bombs will slow it down centuries later upon arrival.

The circumstance of a limited lifespan endangers the entire species. Few give any consideration to the consequences of their actions to future generations, they will be dead and it just does not matter to them. This can be seen in the immense fortunes poured into the for-profit defense industry while a simple satellite costing a comparative pittance for detecting possible asteroid or comet impact threats is considered a waste of money. Because of the small chance of an impact in anyone’s lifetime the threat is ignored. The fact the Earth has suffered several extinction level events over the course of geological history is meaningless to beings that exist for the tiniest moment of that history. Whether from impacts, volcanic epics, climate change, plagues, or other events, individuals are not willing to sacrifice any percentage of time out of their short lifespans protecting others who have yet to be born. We become our species worst enemy because our individual bodies are already our enemies and eventual executioners.

Humankind has, at this moment, the technology to launch giant rockets to establish bases on the Moon in likely immense lava tubes. Using lunar resources these factories under the surface of the Moon can build the millions of tons of Solar Power Satellites (patented decades ago) to power civilization. These satellites can be lifted from the lunar surface using bomb propulsion. The solar energy beamed down from outside the ecosystem would not only mean the end of our present fossil fuel binge, it would enable beam propulsion. In this system a true airline to orbit can transport millions of human beings every year into outer space. Eventually the Earth would depopulate and attain the status of a nature preserve to be visited. The reasons for people   leaving Earth to live in hollow artificial moons are easy to understand. These moons are ready made starships and by freezing the occupants multi-century journeys to new worlds become feasible. These would be young worlds where life has yet to evolve and each one is a potential new Earth. The religious aspects of this eventual migration are difficult to overlook. The parallels to resurrection and creation stories are unmistakable.






When We Lost the Stars

By Gary Michael Church

The recent launch of the Orion EFT-1 mission has generated a large amount of criticism from the New Space mob. The counter to such propaganda is to simply explain the facts. The best date to cite as a beginning of this explanation is the start of the Space Shuttle program.

On January 5, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon announced his approval of the Space Transportation System.

“I have decided today that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier of the 1970s into familiar territory, easily accessible for human endeavor in the 1980s and ’90s.

This system will center on a space vehicle that can shuttle repeatedly from earth to orbit and back. It will revolutionize transportation into near space, by routinizing it. It will take the astronomical costs out of astronautics. In short, it will go a long way toward delivering the rich benefits of practical space utilization and the valuable spinoffs from space efforts into the daily lives of Americans and all people….”

The 40 year saga of America’s biggest mistake ended on July 21, 2011, when the last Shuttle mission ended. My interest in space exploration began a few months after the loss of the second Shuttle crew in 2003. I was helping my wife research a college paper and happened upon George Dyson’s “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship.” Space exploration had always struck me as a Star Trek-like enterprise that would have to wait until the 23rd century but that book was proof I was mistaken. My research has since led me to believe the shuttle program was not only one of America’s greatest mistakes, but also may have been a turning point for humankind. Mistakes have consequences. The Fermi Paradox has become more commonly discussed since the discovery of billions of planets existing in our galaxy. No evidence of intelligent life has been detected in a half century of listening for alien radio signals. The possibility that life is just too stupid to survive is real. We are the evidence.

If a four word catch-phrase can express the root cause of humankind’s failure to leave Earth- and our endangered species status behind, it would be “there is no cheap.” Indeed, the Saturn V rocket could lift just barely enough for the Moon mission due to the cost-restricted design. The technology that would allow for much larger launch vehicles and enable a permanent presence on and exploitation of lunar resources was never utilized. America went cheap and as is often the result, ended up with nothing. The International Space Station, hailed as a wondrous achievement, is in reality a worthless Albatross. What is not explained to the public is that Low Earth Orbit is not space. Below the Van Allen radiation belts is a near vacuum, very high altitude domain, where endless circles are practical. It is not space. Science fiction author Robert Heinlein’s claim that Earth orbit is halfway to anywhere is often misquoted as “Reach low orbit and you’re halfway to anywhere in the solar system”, and is used to promote the NewSpace business plan. Heinlein’s exact wording is unknown but the truth is Low Earth Orbit is a dead end.

The first space age began on December 21, 1968, when human beings first left Earth’s gravitational field and circled the Moon. It ended December 19, 1972, with the return of the last Apollo mission. The space age lasted just short of four years and in the forty years since we have not left Earth and have no prospects of doing so any time soon. Despite the continued media hype pushing Mars as the next great adventure the public is sadly uninformed about an extremely damaging component of Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCR). The reason Mars is impossible without the Moon and why Mars as a second home a genuine scam is complicated, but not too complicated for the person on the street to understand. However, the GCR elephant in the room is not to be discussed by anyone who is looking for a paycheck in the human spaceflight or space tourism industry. You will not find any “NewSpace entrepreneurs” who will talk honestly about cosmic radiation dosing and zero gravity debilitation. A world renowned scientist did explain the situation in laymen terms in the March 2006 issue of Scientific American magazine. In his article, “Shielding Space Travelers”, Eugene N. Parker presented the only guaranteed solution to protecting astronauts from heavy nuclei; a capsule surrounded by 500 tons of plastic or water.

At this point in the story the plot thickens. In March of 2010 it was revealed the Indian Chandrayaan-1 space probe had detected evidence of hundreds of millions of tons of lunar water ice. To understand what this has to do with saving the human race from extinction the original start date of the Shuttle Program must be revisited. In 1972 the Moon was considered dry. For this reason alone the logistical problems of supporting a permanent lunar base were considered insurmountable. Though it was guessed at, the presence of ice was not in evidence and no money for probes to find out was forthcoming. Interestingly, in the early 1960’s long before the first landing, the solution to propelling a spaceship far beyond the Moon had already been found, though the data was and is still largely classified. The concept of using specially designed small atomic bombs to push a spaceship around the solar system had been validated in a secret military project called Orion. The problem was fallout. Detonating Orion-type bombs in near-Earth space is little different than atmospheric explosions in terms of fallout because the Earth’s magnetic field, the magnetosphere, will eventually funnel the radioactive contaminants back down into the atmosphere. The magnetosphere extends far out into space and comes close to the Moon.

So the situation is that of the human race stuck on Earth, in danger of extinction from some natural and man-made catastrophe. Human beings cannot travel in space without massive radiation shielding and we cannot lift that much shielding into space from Earth without a nuclear propulsion system that would in turn poison the atmosphere with radioactive byproducts. With hundreds of tons of surplus plutonium on Earth, enough for tens of thousands of Orion propulsion bombs- and millions of tons of ice-as-water-shielding waiting on the Moon- the solution is to take the plutonium to where the shielding is available outside the magnetosphere.

The critical technologies never utilized that would make possible a Moon base and enable spaceship assembly comes in two parts. The first is already in use in the form of solid rocket boosters but are far too small to be effective as super-heavy lifters. The original giant pressure-fed boosters specified for the shuttle were passed over in favor of this existing solid fuel technology. Massive reusable boosters are thus the first part. The second, the “wet workshop”, was tested in part with the “dry workshop” called Skylab. The physics and hard realities of human spaceflight are not difficult to understand, they have just never been explained to the public.

In 1954, two scientists working for a rocket subcontractor in Virginia experimented with adding larger and larger percentages of powdered aluminum to existing solid rocket fuel formulas and had promising results. The Navy was in the market for a missile to launch from submarines for their Polaris program and the result was very powerful solid fuel rocket boosters. A decade later studies had been completed on reusable boosters built in shipyards, ironically using submarine hull technology, with over 15 million pounds of thrust. These giant monolithic boosters were not used in the shuttle program for various cited reasons, the most glaring being that each booster was twice as powerful as a Saturn V. This increase in thrust over any previous launch vehicle made for a far larger and more expensive stack. It did not matter that such lift was the most efficient available; it was not within budget. The SLS heavy lifter presently being developed uses two shuttle-derived boosters providing a total of 7.2 million pounds of thrust. Two of the 1963 monolithic models would have delivered an incredible 30 million pounds of thrust. Such massive lift is of course still well within our grasp for the same price paid for contemporary military weapon systems of questionable value. The more efficient but expensive route is to develop the originally specified pressure-fed boosters. These would be recovered in the same manner as the Space Shuttle SRB’s.

The wet workshop concept was proposed by Kraft Ehricke and Werner von Braun reuses spent empty upper liquid fuel rocket stages as crew compartments. Skylab was a cheaper dry workshop- a converted Saturn V third stage that did not carry fuel. Wet workshop upper rocket stages can be designed to be refilled with lunar water-as-shielding and assembled in lunar orbit as the first true space stations and spaceships. We lost the stars the day the shuttle program began because such a poor cargo-plane-to-orbit was the antithesis of the optimum super-heavy lift launch vehicle and wet workshop concept. The Shuttle was designed on the cheap with so little payload that no escape system could be fitted. Two crews were lost on a vehicle designed to carry satellites as well as people- a fundamental mistake dictated by a profit imperative. The do-everything-pay-for-itself cargo bay of dreams turned out to be an astronaut killer.

Greed inspired hubris places lives in peril and there can be no greater example of this than the failure to launch asteroid and comet warning satellites to detect impact threats. The reason the dinosaurs went extinct was they did not have any spacecraft to stop the asteroid that killed them…and neither do we. The chances of an impact are low so the money is not forthcoming as it would take away from other status quo programs. While the consequences of ignoring the need for stronger airliner cockpit doors and inevitable tsunamis can be bad or catastrophic, ignoring the inevitable asteroid or comet impact is an apocalyptic risk. Going cheap on planetary protection gambles with the fate of humanity as surely as NASA gambled on the now ridiculous notion that a launch vehicle filled with explosive rocket propellants could be as safe as a commercial airliner. There is no cheap.

Why was the Space Transportation System America’s biggest mistake? The shuttle could not travel into space. Endless circles at very high altitude going nowhere do not qualify as space travel. The discovery of ice at the lunar poles happened thirty years later than it should have. With no long term plan the changing administrations and congressional turf battles virtually guaranteed space exploration would be an underfunded political football. The public has no idea of the opportunity that was lost. Instead of the means to lift the necessary components and establish a cislunar infrastructure the U.S. invested in and continues to invest in weapons. The sad truth is space is hard money and defense is easy money. While highly profitable weapon systems often fail miserably with little public notice, spacecraft must work. Compare the crash of the Marine Corps V-22 Osprey in 2000 with the loss of the first space shuttle. Another example is the F-35 stealth fighter, the most expensive program in defense history and projected to cost a trillion dollars over the next half century. Both aircraft are considered by many experts to be failures yet because of congressional influence protecting defense interests in so many states these programs are almost invulnerable. Only when the price of a weapon is completely outrageous and it becomes a campaign issue does the outrage prevail. The example of this rare situation was the F-22 fighter plane in the 2008 election.

While weapons make mountains of money the basic problems of the human condition are given little attention. The criticism that money spent on space is criminal while such suffering exists on Earth is actually the opposite of the true situation. The American prophet of space colonization was astrophysicist Gerard K. O’Neill. His 1976 book, The High Frontier, was based on the premise of space solar energy beamed down to Earth to effectively end global poverty and the conflicts it generates. The technology to realize that extraordinary vision exists but O’Neill has been mostly forgotten. In the 21st century, there is also a new reason to pursue Solar Power Satellites. The only acceptable way to end the production of greenhouse gases affecting the ecosystem is to acquire the energy to run civilization from outside the environment- from outer space. The only alternative solution is a massive reduction in population. The beam is the dream and the alternative a nightmare. The problem with Space Solar Power has always been how to lift the many square miles of solar arrays and antennae into Earth orbit. The solution proposed by O’Neill was to use lunar materials to build the arrays. The Orion project bombs would enable millions of tons of solar power station arrays to be lifted from lunar factories into space. Problem solved.

While eliminating energy production on Earth and its effect on the environment would be a long term project, there is an interim space moneymaker that could pave the way. The real edge of space halfway to anywhere in the solar system is geostationary orbit. This 165,000 mile circumference ring around the Earth is presently a junkyard of mostly dead satellites in a debris field that may eventually cripple global telecommunications. Water shielded human-crewed space stations would laser-broom this ring clean and provide vastly improved connectivity to the planet. There have never been any long term human missions in geostationary orbit because of the danger of lethal radiation from solar flares. Large space stations would have to be assembled and filled with water in lunar orbit and then transit back across cislunar space to Earth. Such stations would be self-sufficient and essentially spaceships-without-engines. The addition of nuclear propulsion systems to new construction in lunar orbit would enable multi-year missions to the outer solar system. These true spaceships are the only way to Mars and would actually make Mars a poor destination compared to Ceres and the moons of the gas and ice giants. If not for America’s biggest mistake we would probably be exploring those distant sub-surface oceans already.