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April 13, 2010

The Russian President's Good Idea

Every April 12 is a space anniversary, of the first human flight into space in 1961, and also of the first Space Shuttle launch 20 years later.

This year, Russian President Dmitry Mededev called the space station crew to mark the 49th anniversary of Yuri Gargarin's flight. The six-member Expedition 23 crew gathered for the call in the Destiny lab: 3 Russians; Oleg Kotov, Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko; two Americans: Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Timothy Creamer; and one Japanese, Soichi Noguchi. Working nearby were the 7 space shuttle astronauts, including 3 women, one of them Japanese.

The president told the crew, "Space will always remain our priority. This is not just somebody's interpretation, it's our official state position. I am here in my presidential office and when addressing you, I can confirm again the significance of space for the government."

I found these words very encouraging. And I also greatly appreciated his next sentiment:

"No country can develop space alone, we need to combine our efforts and we need to talk about it more often," Menvedev said.

Yes, I thought. Yes! Let's talk about development, not just cooperation in one lab in space. Let's talk about providing power and resources to the world via solar power satellites, lunar and asteroid mining, supply depots, and space manufacturing!

"So maybe we could have some sort of international meeting, maybe at the heads of governments level," Mededev suggested. "Because we talk about various issues, such as tackling all kinds of challenges, dangers and hazards that humanity is facing these days, various disarmament programs, etc., but there is a very important and positive factor that unites us all. So maybe it would be good to have a summit, maybe at the heads of governments level, for the countries that are working in space. So see, I have a very good idea on this holiday. What do you think?"

I think it is always good to talk more about space! And especially about space development. Once more people understand that sunlight can be collected in space and beamed to Earth without clogging the atmosphere with more carbon dioxide or generating nuclear waste, they will push for a demonstration of this new technology.

President Obama is scheduled to address the workers at Kennedy Space Center later this week. He is reportedly going to emphasize some new research programs. NSS has urged that adoption and a clear recitation of a long-term goal will help motivate and drive research, ultimately making it more productive. The ultimate goal is nothing short of the human settlement of space.

But a great short-term goal would be a demonstration of a space-based solar power satellite. Assembling the space station has created a pool of astronauts and cosmonauts and flight control teams in all partner nations with the experience and tools to tackle this kind of engineering challenge. Private industry is gearing up to provide the launch services, and the number of launches required for a project of this magnitude would surely speed the evolution of reusable lower-cost vehicles.

The Moon and asteroids would be back in our sights as a source for oxygen and metals--teams would be dispatched to learn to extract, process, and ship them for orbital construction needs.

Many space enthusiasts participated in the OSTP Open Government online polls: and the winning idea in three categories (OSTP, Energy, and NASA) was to convene a Space Based Solar Power conference. Now the Russian president has suggested an international meeting about space. Let's combine the two!

I hope I'm not dreaming too big when I suggest an anniversary present for next year, the 50th anniversary of Gargarin's flight, and the 30th anniversary of STS-1, be the agreement among many nations, with Russia and the United States taking the lead, to build the first solar power satellite to produce carbon-free energy to the world.

Let's dream big and bold!

Happy anniversary, and thank you President Mededev for your very good idea!

To the stars,

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor
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Posted by m_dyson at April 13, 2010 12:10 AM



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