29 February 2012

Conceptual Design and Analysis of Planetary Defense Technology


25 February 2012

Japan leads the world in Space Solar Power satellites


Q. Could you explain the Space Solar Power Systems project.

Laser beam-type SSPS
The Space Solar Power Systems project is a space-based solar power plant that generates energy by collecting sunlight in geostationary orbit. The energy is then transmitted to the ground, and converted into electricity and hydrogen for practical use. SSPS consists of a space-based power generation/transmission facility that gathers sunlight, converts it into microwaves or laser beams, and transmits those to the ground; and a power receiving facility on the ground.
There are differences in characteristics and capability between microwaves, which are used in microwave ovens and cellular phones, and laser beams, which you commonly see in computer printers and presentation pointers. We have not yet decided which of the two to use with SSPS, or whether we will somehow combine them. We are currently conducting ground-based experiments to find the most efficient way to transmit energy.
Regardless of which transmission technology we use, when we collect sunlight from outside the Earth's atmosphere, we can get a continuous supply of it, with almost no influence from the weather, the seasons, or time of day, allowing very efficient collection of solar energy. And since the energy source is the sun, it's an endlessly renewable resource - it won't run out as long as the sun is there. Also, because the power is generated in space and carbon dioxide is emitted only at the receiving site, emissions within the Earth's atmosphere can be greatly reduced, which makes this technology very friendly to the environment.
Q. Where does the idea for SSPS come from?

The idea for space-based solar power generation was introduced by an American, Dr. Peter Glaser, in 1968. His idea was to deploy large solar panels in space for power generation, and convert the energy into microwaves to transmit to the ground. NASA and the United States Department of Energy looked into the implications of implementation. But the project was so costly, it was shut down during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. Meanwhile in Japan, probably reflecting our nation's shortage of energy resources, SSPS research was started early, and has since been pursued by many universities and JAXA.

Q. What is the progress status of SSPS in Japan?

Microwave-type SSPS
There are many technological challenges to solve before SSPS can be implemented. However, in principle, we are getting close to the stage where it is feasible, and we have just moved from the study phase to the technology demonstration phase. Researchers have started preparation for the world's first demonstration of 1kW-class wireless power transmission technology, and are aiming for practical use in the 2030s. At this point, you could say that Japan is leading the world in SSPS research. I think that this is all thanks to JAXA's long-term commitment to this research.
Q. Could you describe the advantages of Japan's SSPS technology.
When transmitting power by microwaves, a significant technological challenge is how to control the direction, and transmit it with pinpoint accuracy from a geostationary orbit to a receiving site on the ground. Transmitting microwaves from an altitude of 36,000 kilometers to a flat surface 3 km in diameter is like threading a needle. In my opinion, Japan currently has the most advanced technology to do this.
With laser beams, as with microwaves, large reflectors will be used to collect sunlight. But uniquely, the energy of the sunlight itself will be used at the collection point as excitation energy for the laser beams. This would allow us to keep the structure simple, and therefore reduce the size and weight of the orbiting power plant.

Q. How would SSPS contribute to our daily life?

Laser beam-type SSPS
SSPS will provide a great boost to the world's energy supply because power can be generated as long as the sun is there. So, in that sense, our daily life will directly benefit from the technology because SSPS will satisfy the demand for electrical energy.
Also, I believe that this technology will be useful in disaster situations. At the SSPS microwave receiving site, we use a flat-plane antenna called a "rectenna" (rectifying antenna) to convert microwaves into electrical energy. So, for example, if a blackout occurs due to a natural disaster, a thin, portable rectenna can be unfolded and deployed to receive microwaves from space, which can be converted into electrical energy.
Finally, in order to construct a structure as large as the SSPS in space, it will be essential to have a new space transport system and sophisticated robots. I think the SSPS project will push forward R&D in the rocketry and robotics fields, which will inevitably contribute to the growth of both industries.
Q. Are there any safety concerns about electrical power transmission via microwave or laser beams?

We intend to make the intensity of the energy of the microwaves similar to that of sunlight. However, it is necessary to take strong measures to ensure the safety of living organisms on Earth in case they are exposed to microwave beams that are misaligned with the receiving site on the ground. For example, even with weak microwaves, the impact of prolonged exposure on the human body has not yet been fully understood. So I think it is essential to take operational measures to ensure the safety of the surroundings of the receiving site.
Similarly, there must be strict safety measures for the use of laser beams. For example, the SSPS station would transmit a laser beam aiming at a navigation signal light on the ground. If the power transmission facility shifts in space and the navigation signal is interrupted, transmission should be stopped immediately.

Q. Is there any international research collaboration on SSPS?

Microwave-type SSPS
We have not really discussed it yet because SSPS is still under basic study, and Japan is the only country that is proactively dedicating itself to the research, by carrying out demonstration tests, for instance. Having said that, though, in reality, the enormous costs will make it very difficult for Japan to make the project happen independently, so I think that we will eventually need to run the project at an international level.
Q. Could you tell us what your goal is now.
I believe that Japan's long-term, steady efforts in SSPS research have made us the leading country in the field. I would like to carry on technology demonstration, step by step, in order to put the technology into practice in the future.
Although, Japan depends on imported energy resources today, if we can establish SSPS technology, it may even become possible for us to become an energy exporter. We would like to continue to lead the world in SSPS technology development, so that Japan will be able to play a major role as a contributor to the world's energy supply.
Yasuyuki Fukumuro
Advanced Missions Research Group, Innovative Technology Research Center, JAXA
Mr. Fukumuro joined the National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA, now part of JAXA) in 1981, and has since worked in project planning and management, public information, and financial accounting systems. He has been in charge of research planning for the Space Solar Power Systems (SSPS) since 2007.

21 February 2012

Space Elevator That Soars 60,000 Miles into Space May Become Reality by 2050

From: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/302223/20120221/space-elevator-60000-miles-reality-obayashi-nanotube.htm

Space Elevator That Soars 60,000 Miles into Space May Become Reality by 2050
By Surojit Chatterjee | Feb 21, 2012 12:01 PM EDT

Obayashi Corporation, one of the major Japanese construction companies, has a grandiose dream - it plans to build a 'space elevator,' by the year 2050, which will transport passengers almost 60,000 miles high into space, Japanese newspaper Yomiuri has reported.

A 'Space Elevator,' till now read in science fiction novels, is set to become a realty. As early as 1979, sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke mentioned about construction of a space elevator in his novel 'The Fountains of Paradise.' The elevator was supposed to link Earth with a satellite in geostationary orbit. But, it remained a dream because of technology's limitation.

The new millienium, however, has brought the dream of 'space elevator' into the realms of reality. At the 2nd Annual International conference, year 2003, on Space Elevator, Dr. Brad Edwards, president and founder of Carbon Designs Inc, showed the blueprint of a proposed space elevator, which has been backed by NASA.

But it's not just NASA. Even non-government organizations have been working on developing the technology of space elevator.
Once the space elevator becomes a reality, price of space travel is expected to become cheaper as people will no longer be confined to travelling by a space shuttle only.

According to Obayashi, a 30-seaters space elevator will be made of carbon nanotube, a material which is lightweight but 20 times stronger than steel. The whole length of the elevator cable is expected to be 96,000 kilometers (59,651.64 miles). At a speed of 200 kilometers (124,27 miles) per hour, passenger will be able to reach the terminal satellite which is 36,000 kilometers (22,369.37 miles) up high after a 7.5 days trip.

Obayashi claims the week-long trip might not be boring as it plans to play elevator music. Unfortunately, further details have not been disclosed.

18 February 2012

Scientists Hunt for Meteor Crash Clues in 200-Million-Year-Old Murder Mystery

Scientists Hunt for Meteor Crash Clues in 200-Million-Year-Old Murder Mystery
By Aaron L. Gronstal, Astrobiology Magazine
Space.com | SPACE.com – Thu, Jan 5, 2012

Mass extinctions are a relatively common theme in the history and evolution of life on Earth, and the most famous one is the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. A plethora of research has been conducted to determine how the dinosaur era ended, generating theories of massive volcanic eruptions, catastrophic climate change and giant impactors from space.
However, much less is known about another remarkable extinction event that occurred roughly 135 million years earlier — an extinction that may have set the stage for the age of dinosaurs .
The mass extinction that occurred just before the boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic periods wiped out much of the life on land and in the oceans, leaving the world ripe for dinosaurs to plunder. For astrobiologists, the causes of this extinction comprise one of the greatest murder mysteries of all time.
Now, a team of scientists is helping to reveal the secrets of the Triassic-Jurassic (T-J) extinction by studying geological formations around the world that bear evidence of a traumatic disruption in Earth's ecosystems some 200 million years ago.
Recently, their investigation brought them to the shores of Northern Ireland's Antrim coast near the seaport of Larne. Northern Ireland is famous around the world for its stunning coastal drives and the lush forests of its glens and inlets. However, many of the locals are unaware that the quiet countryside also holds a veritable "pot of gold" beneath their feet for geologists. [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]
The emerald coast
The team of researchers, led by Paul Olsen of Columbia University and Dennis Kent of Rutgers University, gather on a misty Irish morning in a small parking lot in Whitehead, Northern Ireland.
Here, they are able to cross the train tracks that hug the coastline and scramble down to a seawall that provides a safe route along the rocky shore. As their shoes slip along the damp stone, the small cliffs come into view ahead.
There is nothing particularly dramatic about the cliffs themselves, which are nestled below the train line and an imposing seawall topped with barbed wire. But the crumbling rocks peeking out from straw grass and brambles are a rare outcrop of material from the T-J boundary. They contain physical and fossil evidence that could help determine what happened to Earth's ecosystems before, during and after the T-J extinction.
In a time of plenty
At the time of the T-J extinction, the view from Northern Ireland's Antrim Coast may have been quite similar to the one that the research team is treated to today. In the late Triassic, Earth's landmass was smashed together as the single supercontinent Pangaea, and the British Isles were positioned relative to one another in much the same way they are now.
However, the waterways of the North Atlantic that now separate Ireland and Great Britain had much less exchange with the open ocean. In fact, this body of water was more akin to a large, inland sea. As the waves of this sea rolled in and out, the sediments they gradually deposited on the floor recorded a history of the environment that can be read like a book by geologists today as they dig down through the layers.
The late Triassic was a time of plenty for Earth, and the planet was a veritable paradise for life. Even the land now known as Antarctica was temperate, moist and supported a diverse range of flora and fauna. On the shores of the ancient Irish Sea, amphibians roamed the land alongside reptiles, some of which had some distinctly mammal-like traits.
Suddenly, disaster struck. In the geological blink of the eye (i.e., 10,000 years), life on Earth began to die. Two hundred million years ago, just before Pangaea began to break apart, half of the known species on Earth disappeared. [Earth in the Balance: 7 Crucial Tipping Points]
Many of the mammal-like reptiles were wiped out along with a vast array of single-celled and multicellular creatures on sea and land. Theories have been put forth about how this could have happened, but evidence of the true cause has eluded scientists for decades.
Modern shores and ancient lake beds
Evidence of the T-J extinction has been reported by numerous researchers working in sites throughout the world. For instance, a sharp decline in organic carbon and marine organisms was reported in samples from Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands in 2001 and St. Audrie’s Bay in England in 2002.
With their sampling efforts in the United Kingdom, Paul Olsen and his team are hoping to add their expertise to solving the T-J question. In various locations throughout the UK, scientists have identified outcrops of rock from the T-J boundary that are uniquely exposed at the Earth's surface. These sites are like natural libraries for geologists, where they can simply walk up and pick up samples that were "written" by the Earth at specific points in its history.
The researchers chose two additional sites in the British Isles to examine. The first was in western England's Somerset County. Here, the sediments that settled on the bed of the tropical sea between Great Britain and Ireland are now visible as great sheets of rock below the cliffs of the Bristol Channel. In these cliffs are visible layers of limestone and shale that contain a myriad of fossils — lasting evidence of the T-J catastrophe.
The team's second site was Lavernock beach near Barry Island, Wales. At these sites, there is a "dead zone" where few fossils can be found at the time of extinction.
At all three sites (Northern Ireland, Somerset and Wales), the cliffs reveal a unique feature that makes the British Isles of particular interest in the story of the T-J event. Near the time of extinction, the layering has been contorted. In contrast to the surrounding sediments, the layers ripple and bend as if they were shaken and pushed out of place. Could it be a clue of some specific, violent event that befell the region?
According to Paul Olsen, "The scale of the disruption is huge, and a huge cause seems likely."
This type of deformation is not rare in the geological record. Local disturbances, such as earthquakes, often disrupt the layers of rock beneath the Earth. What is unique is that it occurs all around the United Kingdom. If this deformation was caused by an earthquake, it would have been a very large one indeed.
"Not only is this disruption seen in the UK," Olsen said, "but it also appears to be present in at least Belgium and maybe as far away as Italy, according to the work of my UK and US colleagues."
Interestingly, at the Lavernock beach site in Wales, the deformation rests just below the dead zone where few fossils are found. This raises questions about whether or not the deformation event is tied to the loss of life at the T-J boundary.
"It's extremely unusual to have such a widespread zone of deformation," Olsen said. "The fact that it occurs very close below the extinction level suggests that there might be a causal relationship between the cause of the disruption, probably a mega-earthquake, and the extinction itself." [The 10 Biggest Earthquakes in History]
The culprit
Many of the typical explanations for mass extinctions have been put forth as potential culprits in the T-J event. These include dramatic climate change or the evolution of new and more competitive life forms. However, geological evidence from the British Isles provides little support for these theories.
The organic-rich shale that is widespread in the UK is evidence of a period of anoxia (no oxygen) — but these rocks were laid down seemingly later than the actual extinction event. Evidence for disruption of the carbon cycle due to global warming is also present, but again it postdates the main extinction event. In the UK, the extinction appears to time more closely to geological evidence of sea-level fall and loss of shallow marine habitats.
So what could cause a large-scale disruption in the geological record — rippling and twisting layers of rock over an area the size of the British Isles — and cause global repercussions that could change the course of life's evolution at the planetary scale? Could the dinosaur age have been ushered in by the same type of event that brought it to a close — namely, an impact from space? [5 Reasons to Care About Asteroids]
Questions concerning an impact event at the time of the T-J extinction have been raised before, but there is no known impact crater from this time period that is large enough to have caused so much damage.
The surface of the Earth is an incredibly dynamic place. Processes such as weathering, erosion and shifting plate tectonics mean that physical features on Earth are constantly being born and then wiped away. Mountains grow and wither, rivers change course and ancient impact craters are washed away or covered by soil and forests.
The only known impact that is thought to have occurred around the time of the T-J extinction, and in a location near the Britsh Isles, struck the Earth near the village of Rochechouart, France. Today, the Rochechouart crater is so heavily eroded that no surface features are visible at the Earth's surface. Disruptions in the rocks surrounding the impact were discovered in the early 19th century, but it wasn't until 1969 that the French geologist Fran├žois Kraut proved an actual crater existed underground.
The Rochechouart crater is relatively small, with an estimated diameter of only 13 miles (21 kilometers), although before erosion it may have been about twice that wide. Unfortunately for Paul Olsen and his team, it is unlikely that the Rochechouart impact was large enough to cause a mass extinction all on its own.
By expanding their sampling efforts, the researchers hope to gain a larger view of the events surrounding the T-J extinction. Rochechouart may not be the primary culprit, but maybe it's just one piece in a series of catastrophes, from impacts to earthquakes and the eruption of a giant pulse of lava flows, that befell the Earth at this point in history.
What's next
Back on the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland, the researchers are finishing their day of sampling. New pieces of the T-J puzzle have been pulled from the cliffs, catalogued and placed in sample bags. The supplies are packed away and the now sample-laden backpacks are slung over shoulders. As the team climbs atop the seawall to make the trek back home, the mists finally give way to brilliant sunshine.
The samples collected from Northern Ireland will now make their way back to Columbia University, where they can be carefully studied in the laboratory.
"The samples will be analyzed for platinum group elements (PGEs), the specific ratios of which can help us distinguish between causes related to impacts or volcanic eruptions," Olsen said. [Image Gallery: Wild Volcanoes]
On Earth, the elements referred to as PGEs (such as iridium, platinum, palladium and osmium) were concentrated in the core shortly after our planet was formed, leaving the crust depleted in these metals. This means that there is a lower proportion of iridium at the Earth's surface relative to debris objects (like asteroids and comets) left over from the formation of the solar system.
Asteroids and comets retain higher levels of PGEs and have distinct PGE signatures, generally with more iridium relative to platinum and palladium. Most lavas have very low levels of PGEs with crustal ratios of the elements (although there are some exceptions), and volcanic and magmatic processes occurring on the way to the surface can also result in distinct PGE signatures.
Thus, generally only layers with both high levels of PGEs and high levels of iridium are candidates for an impact origin. Studying PGE concentrations and ratios has helped scientists recognize impact structures in the past, even millions of years after they were formed. A famous example is the iridium anomaly at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary, which has been shown to originate from the impact of a giant dinosaur-dooming asteroid or comet.
"We have already found platinum group element evidence of an impact in eastern North America and Morocco," Olsen said, "and if we find it here in the UK, we will make a concerted effort to find more definitive evidence of an impact such as shocked quartz. But searching for that is very laborious, and we need to know which specific layer to focus on."
The Antrim coast will help the team build on previous studies from far-flung locations. Each of these locations offers a new perspective on the disaster that befell life at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic periods. With every new sampling effort, Paul Olsen and his team are getting closer and closer to understanding this pivotal period in life's evolution on Earth.
This story was provided by Astrobiology Magazine, a web-based publication sponsored by the NASA astrobiology program.

Roscosmos Revives Permanent Moon Base Plans

From: http://www.moondaily.com/reports/Roscosmos_Revives_Permanent_Moon_Base_Plans_999.html
Roscosmos Revives Permanent Moon Base Plans
by Staff Writers
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jan 20, 2012

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos is in talks with its European and U.S. partners on the creation of manned research bases on the Moon, the agencies chief, Vladimir Popovkin, said on Thursday.

"We don't want the man to just step on the Moon," Popovkin said in an interview with Vesti FM radio station.

"Today, we know enough about it, we know that there is water in its polar areas," he said, adding "we are now discussing how to begin [the Moon's] exploration with NASA and the European Space Agency ."

There are two options, he said: "either to set up a base on the Moon or to launch a station to orbit around it."

The project of a "prospective manned transportation system" to be sent to the Moon is currently being developed, the Roscosmos chief said.

The Moon base project seems to revive Cold War-era plans to create a permanent outpost on the Moon, which was talked about by some Soviet and U.S. scientists since the late 1950s.

Russia is also planning to send two unmanned missions to the Moon by 2020, the Luna Glob and the Luna Resource, Popovkin added.

Tap solar power from space: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

From: http://www.deccanchronicle.com/channels/sci-tech/energy/tap-solar-power-space-apj-abdul-kalam-406

Tap solar power from space: A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
January 10, 2012 DC chennai

To answer the energy crisis in the world former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has suggested that solar energy can be harnessed by establishing space stations in outer space in order to tap solar power round the clock.

Addressing scientists and faculty at Anna University on Monday, Dr Kalam said that the sun radiates about 10 trillion times the energy which humans consume across the world today.

If we were able to extract even a small portion of this energy from the sun, it would be sufficient to secure the energy demands of our future.

“Space based solar power has many advantages over traditional terrestrial based solar plants. First, the level of solar irradiance is about 1.4 times in extraterrestrial level than at the surface of the earth.

Second, in case of surface based solar power plants the panels can collect solar power for about 6 to 8 hours a day, whereas, in the case of space based power plant, the collection time is full 24 hours”, he said.

Pointing out that space based solar power plants do not get affected by weather, which might bring down the efficiency in case of terrestrial power plant, the former President said that thus space based solar power plant would be far more effective in their efficiency and power generation than the land based systems.

“There are three major focus areas in the space based solar power plant. First component is the space based solar power plant.

Second, is the earth based collection system and the third important aspect is the medium of transmission from space to earth”, he added.

Dr Kalam suggested that the energy should be transmitted from space back to earth – either through microwave or any other technology like laser. Careful research of the impact and safety concerns would have to be conducted.

Should this be our future NASA Administrator? He gets it!

Back to the Moon—For a Fraction of the Old Price
Gingrich is right that America needs to retain its lead in space.


As a former NASA executive, I am saddened by the media response to Newt Gingrich's proposal that we return to the moon. The mockery and ridicule does America a great disservice. Space exploration and development is an important national issue. It's not only possible and necessary to safeguard our future—it can be a lot cheaper than anybody dreams.

To recap: During the Jan. 26 Republican primary debate in Florida, Mr. Gingrich proposed that we return to the moon within eight years to establish a lunar colony, asserting that the benefits to America would be tremendous. Mitt Romney retorted that if somebody came to him to ask for "a few hundred billion dollars" to return to the moon, he would say: "You're fired."

But what would President Romney say to me if I proposed to return to the moon for $40 billion, not hundreds of billions? And if I explained how that would fundamentally enhance U.S. national security?

In 2011, I challenged a team of NASA engineers to answer a simple question: "Can we send humans back to the moon, and to the asteroids, with existing launch vehicles?" The answer was, "Yes, we can." We concluded that it would cost about $40 billion, and that this could be financed out of NASA's existing annual human spaceflight budget (around $4 billion) over 10 years.

But we can also change how we structure our human spaceflight efforts. In the face of trillion-dollar deficits, there's no other option. Mr. Gingrich's solution is to allocate 10% of NASA's annual budget of about $18 billion to prizes that would challenge and entice our best innovators and spaceflight entrepreneurs.

I would add that we should target the most important problem first—the cost of space launches. Use the first year's prize money of $1.8 billion to create a Reusable Spaceplane Prize. Set the first prize at $1 billion, and the second prize at $800 million—and then get out of the way.

Total reusability is the holy grail of space development. We have known this for 50 years. With it, launch vehicles become like airplanes. With it, we reduce the current launch-into-orbit cost of $5,000-$10,000 per pound to about $500 per pound. With reusable spaceplanes we can establish and economically sustain an initial lunar base—and open the solar system to all humanity. We already have the basic technology. The X-37, an unmanned vertical-takeoff, horizontal landing plane that uses 1990s technology, was last reported (it is on a national-security mission) in orbit on its second tour in space. The X-37 is a Mach 25 reusable spacecraft.

So why are we not developing fully reusable spaceplanes now? In 2010, NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist concluded that the primary barrier wasn't technical. It was that there was not enough demand for flights, based on existing and provable markets, to justify the large and risky investment. We hired a Wall Street advisory firm, Near Earth LLC, to independently assess the same issue, and it reached the same conclusion.

A Reusable Spaceplane Prize would solve this problem. As Mr. Gingrich pointed out in a speech last month, in the 1920s and 1930s entrepreneurs like Bill Boeing, Glen Martin, Donald Douglas, Jack Northrop and the Wright brothers—with some help from the U.S. government—created the greatest aviation industry on this planet. America is still the home of the entrepreneur, and we now have space-travel pioneers like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, Burt Rutan, Paul Allen and Jeff Greason.

The race for a Reusable Spaceplane Prize would grab the whole world's attention. After all, the nation that builds the first true reusable spaceplane will be in a position to dominate the much broader global commercial space industry. The nation that leads in spaceplanes will capture new markets opened by this industry, such as satellite servicing, tourism and medical breakthroughs from zero-gravity research. From all this will flow even more innovations, businesses and jobs.

Spaceplanes will also transform U.S. national security. In 2001, for example, Congress sponsored a bipartisan Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization. In its report, the commission warned that the U.S. is in danger of a Pearl Harbor-type attack in space.

Our assets in orbit are strategically critical and yet vulnerable to attacks from our enemies. Commercial satellites, comsats, are part of the foundation of the world's economy. While our national-security satellites are hardened against irradiation and some other assaults, our commercial satellites are not. Across the planet, ATMs, remote-payment systems, television, radio, GPS, weather, Internet services and much more depend on comsats. Overnight, America's enemies could destroy orbital infrastructure worth tens of billions of dollars, with a sustained global economic impact in the trillions of dollars.

In January 2007, China successfully demonstrated an antisatellite weapon. More worrisome, both North Korea and Iran are developing ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. One nuclear explosion above the Earth's atmosphere could have a devastating impact on the Free World. While China is likely to be rational in its use of antisatellite weapons, the same cannot be said about North Korea and Iran. Spaceplanes will eliminate this weak spot. With their ability to rapidly replace our orbiting satellites, they will reduce the incentive to attack us in space in the first place.
Remember that when Newt Gingrich talks about five to eight flights per day to space. Don't ridicule him for that. Don't scoff. He's not talking about a luxury, he's talking about a necessity. He is talking about American leadership throughout the 21st century. He is talking about peace through strength.
Mr. Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC in Arlington, Va. He served as NASA's senior adviser for commercial space from Feb. 2009 through Jan. 2012.


Ex-NASA exec: Gingrich moon colony lost in the laughter
By Charles Miller, Special to CNN
updated 3:11 PM EST, Tue February 7, 2012
Editor's note: Charles Miller is president of NexGen Space LLC in Arlington, Virginia, a space industry consulting firm. Although NASA is not currently among the firm's clients, Miller previously served as NASA's senior adviser for commercial space from February 2009 through January 2012.

(CNN) -- Lost in the laughter over the past two weeks has been GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's core point about America's future in space. We shouldn't just explore space, we should develop and even settle it, using the same enterprise-friendly approaches that helped open the West and the skies.

As a former NASA executive, it is clear to me that most commentators don't understand this is now possible, let alone necessary.

David Frum's recent CNN viewpoint is eerily similar to what critics have said about other visionary ideas during America's history.

In 1844, Asa Whitney (cousin of cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney) proposed to the U.S. Congress that America build a transcontinental railroad. U.S. Sen. Thomas Benton of Missouri responded that it was "an imposture, a humbug; it could have emanated only from a madman ... science was unequal to overcome the Allegheny Mountains -- and now Whitney proposed to scale the Rocky Mountains, four or five times as high! Why sir, it's madness!"... "You are one hundred years before your time."

The golden spike was pounded into the ground in Utah just 25 years later.
In 1867, Secretary of State William Seward proposed that America purchase Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million. Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune mocked Seward, calling it "a frozen wasteland." Alaska became known as "Seward's Folly." It was one of the best investments America ever made.

David Frum: A moon colony is a waste of money

To be fair, Frum makes a point that must be addressed:
"With the greatest respect," Frum wrote, "'the wonder and glory of it' is not a very compelling answer to the question: 'What do I get for my hundred billion bucks?'"

The answer is that we shouldn't spend that much, and certainly not for "wonder and glory." Gingrich's core point is that we must change how and why we do space by leveraging the power of free enterprise.

Whatever misgivings you might have about Gingrich, in this case he is right.
American history proves that smart, focused action by the U.S. government can jump start entire new industries that open new frontiers -- from western railroads, to the air, to the Internet - and that is exactly where we are today in space.
In 2011, I led a NASA team that designed a strategy that could return America to the moon in 10 years for $40 billion. We can do so by using existing launch vehicles. More importantly, this strategy could also enable a new commercial space-plane industry and fundamentally enhance U.S. national security.
Space launch today costs about $10,000 per pound. Our national security space systems are dominated by small numbers of multibillion-dollar satellites. Innovation is slow. It takes over a decade to plan, develop and introduce new systems.

A large army of people watches over each satellite. If this reminds you of mainframe computers in the mid-1970s, then you know this sector of our economy is ripe for innovation.

Reusable space planes will forever change the space industry. The ability to launch frequently, reliably and at much lower cost will promote experimentation and enable new solutions.

NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist concluded that America has the basic technology to build space planes now. The primary problem is the proven market is not large or certain enough to justify the investments required. A Wall Street investment advisory firm, Near Earth LLC, independently validated our conclusion.
We've been here before.

In the 1850s, it was not possible to close the business case for a transcontinental railroad. The size, cost and risk of the private investment was too large. Then Congress passed the Pacific Railroad Act of 1862.

American entrepreneurs connected a continent and provided rapid, reliable, low-cost access across the country. They quickly accomplished what had been deemed impossible two decades earlier. America was never to be invaded again; no one would dare. We were firmly on the path to become a world superpower.

What do I get for my hundred billion bucks? The answer is that we shouldn't spend that much.
Fast forward to the 1920s.

Airline entrepreneurs were unable to raise the capital to purchase new airplanes because the passenger travel market was considered speculative. Then Congress passed the Kelly Airmail Act of 1925. With airmail contracts in hand, private airlines sprouted up all over America. Passenger travel grows exponentially. Less than two decades later, U.S. airpower helps win World War II.

Today, we are at a similar juncture. We have lost world leadership in commercial space transportation. But we can recapture it with totally reusable space planes.
Space planes are the transcontinental railroad of our generation. Space planes will open the next frontier -- the greater Earth-moon system -- to economic activity and bind it together. Space planes will radically lower launch costs leading to new applications, new industries and new jobs. The growth in demand will lead to even higher flight rates, lower costs and new opportunities.

As this virtuous cycle takes hold, America's role as the preeminent world leader in space will be assured for the next 50 years. U.S. national security will be permanently enhanced.

And we will get a little wonder and glory, too.