Reaching for the High Frontier
The American Pro-Space Movement
by Michael A. G. Michaud
Copyright 1986 by Praeger Publishers and reproduced with permission of Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., Westport, CT. Read complete book here or buy from Amazon.
Chapter 14: Conclusion
There clearly was a major upsurge of organized interest in, and advocacy of, space activity between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s. The motivation to be associated with the space enterprise remained strong long after the first "Spaceflight Revolution" was achieved. People had responded to it in different ways, depending on the strength of that motivation, the skills they had to offer, and the opportunities they saw open to them.
Why did this sudden broadening of interest in, and enthusiasm for, spaceflight occur when it did? The downturn in the fortunes of the space program may explain the reactions of those with an economic or professional stake in it, but what about the others?
A major underlying factor may have been that the years 1977 to 1981 — the years of rapid growth in the new space advocacy — marked a turning point in the maturing of the spaceflight revolution and its acceptance into the American cultural and intellectual heritage. When William S. Bainbridge published his book in 1976, the outcome of space advocacy still appeared to him to be in some doubt. "Either spaceflight will be proven a successful revolution that opened the heavens to human use and habitation," he wrote, "or it will be proven an unsuccessful revolution that demonstrated in its failure the limits of technological advance."
A year later, in 1977, when American space interest groups began to proliferate, 20 years had passed since Sputnik I. In the United States, spaceflight was passing out of its early adventurous years and pausing before entering a time of expanded, routine spaceflight operations. The first generation of spaceflight technology had achieved a plateau of technical maturity; the second was not yet in operation. Space concepts that once had seemed exotic, such as escaping a "gravity well" into "free space," were being digested and assimilated by nonspecialists. The use of space for a broad range of human purposes — the utilization of this largest and, to us, newest environment — was being accepted by a growing number of Americans.
This did not happen easily; there was cultural and intellectual resistance. The wave of reaction to spaceflight and other high technology ventures in the late 1960s and early 1970s receded slowly. Many critics in the 1970s still saw spaceflight as an aberration, a technological "stunt"; some regarded space as an alien and hostile environment, appropriate only for scientific investigation. Some Americans, including Walter Mondale, still seemed to associate space with heaven. The decline in public support for spaceflight reflected not only concern with other priorities but also a cultural lag in the acceptance of space as a place where humans belonged.
Advocacy was needed to help overcome this resistance to a paradigm shift, which some advocates believe to be of Copernican proportions. At its grandest, that advocacy made urgent and probably premature claims for space colonies, satellite solar power stations, and space-based antiballistic missile (ABM) systems. The debates over these proposals have reflected not only disagreement over questions of feasibility and cost but also an intellectual struggle over the full incorporation of the space environment into human affairs. In part, the new space advocacy reflected a gathering of forces in defense of a paradigm shift.
By the early 1980s, the balance appeared to have tilted toward the space advocates. One of the reasons was generational. In 1977, the first generation to have lived entirely in the Space Age began to enter its twenties; those who had been excited by the first space ventures while children were somewhat older and provided much of the leadership of the new space movement. Harrison Schmitt noted in 1985 that 80 million Americans (one third of the population) became intellectually aware during the Space Age.
Through film and television, these younger generations enjoyed vicarious adventure and achievement. Planetary exploration stimulated them with imagery of other worlds. Works of science fiction and science fact with space themes found a ready audience among the young. Many wanted to get involved in the space enterprise. However, those who sought employment in the space field often met frustration after the downturn in NASA's fortunes.
These generations are the core of the new space advocacy. "You've got a lot of young people who grew up with the space program and now they're in responsible positions to do something about it," said Howard Gluckman in 1980. "We've believed in space all the time."
The emergence of these first "space generations" into maturity coincided with a "participation revolution" in American society. During the 1960s and the 1970s, citizen activism became an increasingly widespread and important feature of American political life. Loomis and Cigler have described an explosion of group formation, notably including public interest or citizens groups that lobbied for causes not necessarily related to the occupations of their members. There was a desire to achieve a feeling of efficacy through some sort of action, even if that were nothing more than taking part in a telephone or letter campaign. New information technologies promoted grass-roots lobbying. Affluence created a larger potential for group membership by lowering the relative cost of participation. Organizations became more numerous with increasing education. Issue-oriented groups did especially well; for a modest membership fee, people could make a statement without the burden of more direct involvement. The new reform and citizens groups depended heavily on the educated white middle class for their membership — exactly the kind of people who formed the bulk of the new space advocacy. There was a large pool of group organizers, who tended to be young, well-educated, middle-class people caught up in the movement for change and inspired by ideas or doctrine.
The conjunction of rising interest in space and citizen activism spurred organized space activism. In some cases, leading figures came from movements that had peaked or declined, such as the environmental movement and the anti-war movement; the role of space group leader defined some individual lives. Many pro-space people of younger generations shared the participatory vision in wanting to be part of the space enterprise, and to influence its course. Sometimes the appeal was direct. "Either you can be a spectator of Humankind's greatest adventure," wrote the American Society of Aerospace Pilots in May 1985, "or you can let your interest in spaceflight lead you to pioneering the next frontier." Many were not content to see spaceflight remain an elite activity (as of January 1985, 249 people had gone into space).
The late 1960s and early 1970s also saw attempts to assert greater democratic control over technology, in part by technology assessment. Space advocates wanted to democratize space technology not just by controlling it but also by participating in the activities that it makes possible. Many wanted to take space activity out of the exclusive control of large government and corporate bureaucracies, to decentralize it and spread participation. Planetary Society Executive Director Louis D. Friedman wrote in early 1985, "The Planetary Society democratizes space. It gives you the chance to take part in Humanity's most positive venture." But such appeals still were largely to vicarious participation.
The most potent symbol of this "space populism" is the Space Shuttle, a major factor in reviving latent but frustrated interest in manned spaceflight. The Shuttle was not a cramped capsule but a truck to space, with a relatively roomy, liveable cab. The first launch of this vehicle in April 1981 implied not only an American return to space but also regular access by a larger number of people. To some space advocates, it was the symbolic beginning of the democratization of space.
In January 1979, Space Age Review editor Steve Durst had complained about the "exclusion" of most people from space. Three years later, NASA Administrator James Beggs announced his agency's intention to broaden the range of people going into space through what became the Spaceflight Participants Program. This stimulated Durst' s Space Age Review Foundation (with the cosponsorship of Delta Vee and the Hypatia Cluster) to publish a "Space Shuttle Passenger Project," which summarized proposals for turning the Shuttle orbiter into a passenger liner that could give large numbers of people the space experience. "It had become possible to envision space as the province of some sort of transport vehicle (even looking vaguely like a commercial transport) which could carry anyone instead of the exclusive domain of supermen in capsules," wrote Maxwell Hunter in 1984. "It is an absolute psychological triumph . . . in recasting the popular image of what space might be all about." The Shuttle also is an enabling technology for space industrialization and, possibly, space colonization.
Landmarks in the emergence of the Shuttle — the first rollout in September 1976, the first drop test in August 1977, and the first flight in April 1981 — were major stimuli to the pro-space movement. President Reagan was on the mark when he said after the first flight that "the Space Shuttle did more than prove our technological abilities. It raised our expectations once more. It started us dreaming again."
The new space advocacy also was inspired in part by a revival of technological optimism. New technologies can imply new power over the environment and the future. Nowhere is this more true than in spaceflight, a symbol of technological prowess that, with the assistance of mass media, has stirred visions of human power expanding throughout the solar system and beyond. Launch vehicle entrepreneur Gary Hudson expresses a belief widespread among space advocates when he rejects the idea that we are helpless to solve such problems as the threat of devastation by ballistic missiles; technology makes solutions possible. Satellite solar power stations, space colonies, and space-based missile defenses are proposed grand technological solutions to frustrating, large-scale problems. The generational connection with technological optimism is strong; surveys show that people under 35 are more inclined to think well of new technologies.
One intriguing index of the times is interest in engineering education. In parallel with the downturn, it bottomed out in the early 1970s, but it then rebounded sharply later in the decade, roughly in parallel with the surge in space interest group formation (Figure 14.1 [not included due to copyright]).
Space missions also reflect collective achievement through the tools we have built. Anyone who has attended the launch of a manned space vehicle will recall the sense of audience participation, the shouts of encouragement to the rising rocket. There are associated physical sensations, such as the vibration and the rumbling noise, which cause the observer to feel the power of this technological instrument. If an automobile can be seen as an extension of individual power, a space launch can be seen as an extension of our collective power.
New technologies also can imply opportunities to reorder society, even to create technological utopias. In his 1985 book Technological Utopianism in American Culture Howard Segal described how industrialization stimulated some late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Americans to advocate specific designs for engineered human communities. Segal briefly mentions Gerard K. O'Neill as an example of a modern technological utopian, commenting that space colonies look something like suburbs in space.
Perhaps the best analog to spaceflight is the technology of flight. In his 1983 book The Winged Gospel, Joseph J. Corn recounted how enthusiasm for the airplane between 1910 and 1950 was so strong that it became something akin to a secular religion for its adherents, and the airplane a kind of mechanical god that would usher in a milennium of peace and harmony. Adherents to the cause, who consistently overestimated the ability of the airplane to cause social change, believed that aircraft would produce a democracy of the air, that it augured the expansion of freedom and the end of discrimination, and that it would not merely deter aggression but also bring humans closer together, thereby eliminating the conditions that cause wars. Corn placed this attitude within the context of American technological messianism and the age-old belief that flight was divine. But the winged gospel met its demise with the rise of strategic airpower, when Americans came to consider the airplane as an ambivalent, even malevolent agent.
The parallels with space advocacy are striking. Space enthusiasts at one time or another have promised greater abundance, enhanced freedom, and the elimination of war. To some of them, space technology had the potential to bring a utopian future. Such themes were particularly visible in the early writings of Gerard O'Neill and his followers. Corn wrote:
By 1984, ambivalent feelings about space technology were obvious, primarily because of the growing military uses of that technology.
The rise and decline of space utopianism reflects not only a recurrent pattern in American history but also the maturing of spaceflight as a technology and a human activity. By 1984 the uses of space had shifted toward the prosaic. But the dream of the space utopians remains alive in some parts of the new space advocacy and drives some hopes for the future.
Space rhetoric also is full of the imagery of the frontier, another powerful idea in American history. The frontier has promised Americans opportunities for exploration, adventure, success, new wealth, and a new start. With the loss of frontiers on Earth, space became the new frontier. "Space," wrote a Spaceflight editorialist in 1985, "was like America must have seemed to the Pilgrim fathers — huge, open, and free." Gerard O'Neill made it the High Frontier, adding a transcendent element. Speaking to the 1979 Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing, Freeman Dyson suggested a parallel between future space migrants and earlier colonists in the New World — the Pilgrims and the Mormons.
In part, the American space movement is a revival of the idea of the frontier. Like the American frontier, it has encouraged visions of opportunity and adventure, and a proliferation of entrepreneurial schemes, many of which will fail. There also has been a strong association with the American West, both in the historic sense and in terms of current interest in space. Some of the social and political ideas associated with the American West fit well with the ethos of much of the new space advocacy; Joel Garreau has reported that the political culture of the West is characterized by optimism and by the absence of a sense of limits. Science writer Dennis Overbye suggests that "space is the extension of the rovings of a restless people."
Not everyone finds the frontier model attractive. "Those with a positive space program succumb to the old frontier illusion that an Eden of abundance and harmony awaits us in space," writes Daniel Deudney. "The urge to pick up and move to a new land when things start getting bad in the old country has taken on a new high-technology character."
Many of the new space advocates are libertarians or other individualists who hope that space will offer new opportunities for freedom, liberty, and voluntarism. "A lot of people who want to go into space have trouble with authority," observes Carolyn Meinel. Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, one of the grandfathers of the new space movement, emphasizes voluntarism in his novels and abhors the atrophy of the will. These tendencies may help explain the fractiousness of the new space movement.
This craving for freedom has a strong political element. "Space was the only area in our world left where governments could not control and coerce their citizens," wrote one student of aerospace engineering. In late 1984, Gerard O'Neill commented that the Space Studies Institute "looks forward to an open future, in which the free choice of individuals, rather than the dictates of governments, will shape individual human destinies." In 1983 and 1984, "Freeland" conferences were held in Southern California to discuss possible habitats (such as unclaimed islands and space colonies) outside the reach of "uncontrollable" national governments. Speakers at Freeland II included science fiction writer Poul Anderson, space entrepreneur Gary Hudson, and L-5 Society activist Conrad Schnelker. Hudson has written that "space offers a political frontier, where people can live as they like, do as they like. . . . I think that technology is a great freer of human beings." The relative lack of legal restrictions is one of the attractions of space both to potential colonists and to entrepreneurs and was a major reason for the L-5 Society's passionate opposition to the Moon treaty.
In their 1978 book Space Trek , Jerome Glenn and George Robinson wrote "Another facet of the emerging new perceptions of reality is that future Spacekind should be free from, and independent of, the political bonds of Earthkind." Their book closed with a proposed "Declaration of Independence" by space migrants. This theme is especially congenial to some space activists with a conservative political orientation. "Our highest destiny," said James Muncy in April 1985, "is to spread free people throughout the Cosmos."
The late 1970s and early 1980s also witnessed a revival of entrepreneurship in the American economy, typically associated with younger people and with high technology industries. This coincided. nicely with the ideological stance of the Reagan administration, which publicly endorsed the idea of space commercialization and encouraged entrepreneurial space ventures. It also reflected the ethos of some new pro-space groups, such as the American Society of Aerospace Pilots. Said James Muncy, "We want space to be a frontier for free enterprise."
The sense of personal liberation also has an important physical dimension. "Your support of the L-5 Society is your declaration of independence from the restrictions of planetary surfaces," wrote the L-5 News in 1985, over a painting of a man and a woman moving ballet-like in space. Many space advocates have on their walls a picture of astronaut Bruce McCandless floating free and untethered in space, an independent satellite of the Earth. A fundamental reason for pro-space activity is that many advocates want to have this experience themselves.
Another driving force was a revival of the old idea of alternate worlds. Some space advocates, notably in the Planetary Society, clearly wish to participate in a new age of discovery. For others, the appeal of new worlds goes farther. They want not only adventure but also alternatives to the familiarity and frustrations of the Earth. On new worlds, one might enjoy freedom from conventional restraints. New societies might be formed, independent of their ancestors, free of Earthly faults, offering opportunities for social experiment. Planetary exploration initially made the nearest potential alternate worlds (the Moon, Mars, and Venus) look less attractive than some had hoped, bringing the new worlds idea into temporary disrepute. But O'Neill's space colonies — artificial biospheres that could be anywhere in the solar system — revived it.
The resurgence of space activism also was part of a broader reaction to the cultural pessimism and hostility toward technology of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a revived belief in progress through science and technology. The questioning of the idea of progress, the dystopian view of the future, was unpalatable to many Americans. There also was concern that American power and economic competitiveness had declined. To many, the downturn in American space activity was a symbol of these negative times. For many space advocates, what was threatened was not only economic and professional interests but also a vision of the future.
The wish to escape the limits to growth, to believe in progress and in the strength and rightness of American culture, found a visible rallying point in the revival of American manned spaceflight in 1981. "Space," wrote Aviation Week three years later, "is in the good news department." The concurrent revival of publicly expresssed patriotism, of a desire to strengthen American defenses and to match foreign economic and commercial competition, all were congruent with a revival of support for spaceflight. American faith in growth and technological progress were reasserted. The spring 1981 report of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy concluded, "The rediscovery of progress is a reasonable and feasible goal for the United States in the 1980s." In part, the new space movement was a reflection of what Time magazine called "American Renewal."
Since the earliest days of thinking about spaceflight, there have been transcendental elements in its advocacy, even hints of a secular, humanistic religion. In the Spaceflight Revolution, Bainbridge wrote that the initial urges that brought the spaceflight movement into existence were "non-economic, impractical, personal, and primitive desires." They could be described either in psychiatric or religious terms. Like early aeronautical literature, space literature is liberally sprinkled with noneconomic justifications; both aircraft and spacecraft have been vehicles for transcendental aspirations, however ill defined they may be.
Clearly, such motivations were a factor in the revival of spaceflight advocacy in the United States. There were technological transcendentalists, who seemed to believe that whatever was scientifically and technologically possible would be done; Richard Hutton, in his 1981 book The Cosmic Chase, called them the "radical fringe" of the Space Underground. There were others who saw a reformation of humanity in the space environment. Many space advocates are unembarrassed by the idea that they are driven by a dream.
Nowhere was the transcendental element seen better than in the space colonization movement. In a remarkable act of self-recognition, H. Keith Henson published an article entitled "Memes, L-5, and the Religion of the Space Colonies" in the September 1985 L-5 News. Drawing on memetic theory, Henson suggested that the space colony concept is a meme with religious characteristics. Memes (information patterns that influence an organism to pass the meme on to other brains) lose their intense hold on people with the passage of time, especially when the promises of the meme are at great variance with reality. Henson sees the gradual replacement of human habitation with a general pro-space theme in the L-5 Society, and its loss of a clear goal, as byproducts of this process.
For many space advocates, there also is a sense of being part of a larger enterprise, of historic importance. Spaceweek's Dennis Stone put it well when he said, "We are not in it for ourselves." Different advocates may define that historic enterprise in different terms. However, the underlying fact is that our generations are opening to humanity the largest of all environments, an act some compare to the emergence of sea life on to the land. The space "movement" is, in part, a symptom of that historic event.
As they approached the end of their first decade, the new space interest groups were becoming a mature phenomenon, a relatively permanent part of the American interest group scene. In her third report on the space movement, published early in 1985, Trudy E. Bell found that the number of space interest groups had stabilized at about 48. Their aggregate total memberships topped 300,000, and their aggregate budgets exceeded $30 million. The leadership of the groups had become increasingly professional. Bell speculated that the advent of corporate funding to various space interest groups might be an indication that the groups were finally being recognized as legitimate entities whose work was worthy of support.
After a burst of organizational formation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the space advocacy began to coalesce in the mid-1980s through increased cooperation and the weeding out of the less stable and more personalistic groups. There appeared to be movement toward the center. Relatively radical groups like the L-5 Society reconciled themselves increasingly with the classic agenda for manned spaceflight. Some older space interest groups, notably the American Astronautical Society, became more advocacy oriented and enjoyed an upturn in membership. The gap between professionals and enthusiasts narrowed; older and younger generations of spaceflight advocates, once separated by differences in cultural assumptions and style, seemed to draw closer after a period of standing off. There was some movement toward a consensus on a modified form of the classic agenda, with the Planetary Society being a major exception until 1984. Above all, there seemed to be a regained confidence in the future of spaceflight and a lessening of the sense of urgency that had prevailed a few years before.
Perhaps as a consequence, most space interest groups appeared to be near the top of their sine curves in 1984. The rate of organizational formation had declined sharply, and membership had leveled off or declined in most groups. Bell noted that the "flaky" groups were gone, but some initially credible organizations, such as the Institute for the Social Science Study of Space, also had vanished from the scene by 1984. The one major exception to this trend was the Young Astronaut Council, whose membership continued to climb through the end of the year. One of the staffers in that organization's Washington headquarters was Todd C. Hawley of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, a successful migrant from citizens activism to a paying space-group position.
The space "movement" remained a diverse, eclectic, fragmented phenomenon, without a dominant leader or an agreed-on agenda. "The citizens groups are still too disorganized, and need to find more areas of agreement," observed the AIAA's Jerry Grey in 1983. Coordinating mechanisms remained weak; the National Coordinating Committee on Space appeared to be inactive as of 1985. There remained the strains of differing priorities and the tension between grass-roots activism and professional credibility. Some citizens groups continued to try to play several roles instead of accepting a division of labor within the movement. The advocacy also seemed more divided by political partisanship than in the past; a new conservative space consensus, including suport for the Strategic Defense Initiative, was emerging by 1982, while liberal space advocates tended to emphasize international cooperation, including joint U.S.-Soviet exploration of Mars.
The fragmentation of the space movement probably was inevitable because of the board, inclusive, positive, and future-oriented nature of the space dream. "The big disadvantage of the space movement," said the National Space Institute's Mark R. Chartrand in 1983, "is that it is arguing for something abstract and future, instead of against something here and now." Agrees the L-5 Society's Gary Oleson, "The positive nature of the space agenda is the most serious organizing problem."
Despite these problems, the space advocacy was held together loosely by many interconnections — shared concerns, overlapping board memberships, frequent contact at conferences, shared media, and personal friendships. At some deeper level, it is held together by vague and often unarticulated ideas about the importance of the broad space enterprise, the sense that it is something new and of historic significance.
In looking at the earlier spaceflight advocacy, Bainbridge found it to be outside normal science, and thus explicable only in terms of social processes that operate outside the conventional market mechanism – that is, a social movement. In 1980, Trudy E. Bell found that "a space movement is in the air – a palpable excitement, almost a kind of euphoria in the proliferation of new groups, the discovery of one another's existence, the creation of new types of groups, and a sense of promise, direction, destiny." Does the post-1972 space advocacy meet the criteria for social movements?
Certainly, the new space advocacy reflected a broad community of belief in the importance of space, held together less by shared economic interests than by shared ideas. It also demonstrated a rapid growth of organized activity, often by volunteers. However, this was a very fractious coalition, including individuals ranging from conservative aerospace engineers to former environmentalists and anti-war protesters. The advocacy also included very different types of organizations. Behavior ranged from conservative to radical. "You need some groups over the edge," says space writer James E. Oberg, "because they make the more moderate ones seem reasonable by comparison." This phenomenon is not unusual in social movements, particularly in their early years.
Ralph Turner and Lewis Killian, in their book Collective Behavior, defined a social movement as "a collectivity acting with some continuity to promote or resist change in the society or group of which it is a part." By this criterion, the results are mixed. Most of the older, established space groups behave more like traditional economic interest and professional groups, seeking to protect and advance the economic and professional interests of their members. Other space interest groups are basically enthusiast organizations, in which members want to communicate with others who share their interests. But the leaders of some of the newer pro-space organizations (particularly the L-5 Society and the Space Studies Institute) would argue that they and their supporters are in fact seeking significant change. They may indeed reflect a social movement.
Robert D. McWilliams argued in 1981 that space exploration supporters (particularly proponents of space industrialization) were rapidly evolving the organizational characteristics typical of social movements, such as common ideology, organized strategy and tactics, and the differentiation of roles and the distribution of power, and cited the L-5 Society as an example. Bell's interviews suggested that within the citizen-support space-interest movement, the necessity for these additional factors was dawning.
McWilliams also found that persons who wish to see more money spent on space exploration scored higher on indexes of social and moral liberalism than did those who opposed the space program; this fit with people involved in other social movements. They also scored higher on indexes of socioeconomic backgrounds, intellectualism, and attitudes toward organized religion. These indexes are comparable with those seen in the civil rights movement and the women's movement, for example. McWilliams concluded that "evidence such as this suggests strongly that the minority of Americans who wish to see more federal money allocated to space exploration are the sort of people who comprise social movements."
Bell concluded in 1980 that "all of the signs indicate that by the mid-1980s an American space-interest movement could be as powerful as some of the major special interest movements existing today." Two years later, however, she wrote that the spirits of leaders of space interest groups seemed notably dampened about whether or not there had been an evolution of a space interest movement since 1980; a good portion of the optimism expressed then had been based on the groups' discovery of each other. By 1985, when she wrote an editorial on the subject in Space World, Bell had concluded that the space community was too fragmented and had too diverse an agenda to be called a movement.
Perhaps it is most accurate to describe the new space advocacy as a set of overlapping social and political phenomena — partly a social movement and partly a set of interest groups, with the trend toward the latter. The L-5 Society had its roots in one kind of space-related social movement, having to do with space migration and the creation of new societies in space. The American Society of Aerospace Pilots emerged from another social ideology, concerned with free enterprise, voluntarism, and the re-creation of the American frontier in space. However, most other space interest organizations are not nearly so visionary and are more properly called interest groups.
The space "movement" also is relatively small by the standards of modern American social movements. Richard Hutton pointed out in 1981 that there were 20,000 environmental public interest groups, bringing in about $1.5 million a week from a constituency of about 4 million people. This is more than ten times the membership – and more than twice the claimed budget – of the organized space advocacy in 1984. But the environmental movement is instructive in another way. It never coalesced into a single organization under a single leader, yet it often has been effective through its use of coalition politics.
If the new space advocacy is as much a set of interest groups as a social movement, what kinds of interest groups? Some, such as the Aerospace Industries Association and organizations of aerospace professionals and space scientists, have behaved in ways reasonably congruent with the economic model of interest group behavior. That model assumes an "economic man," a rational actor pursuing his own self-interest. However, most members of citizens pro-space groups have no direct economic or professional stake in the space program. Despite this, many have devoted substantial personal time and effort (and, in some cases, money) to working for space. They seem to fit better with the theoretical revision of Olson's model offered by Terry Moe in 1980, in which he posited a "bounded rationality." Moe argued that citizens act not only on the basis of their economic interests but also on the basis of their values, their limited information, and their personal calculation of their influence. They form not only groups that offer "economic" and "selective" incentives but also groups that offer "purposive" incentives, such as ideological or moral satisfaction, or even solidarity.
Political scientists Nathan C. Goldman and Michael Fulda have proposed a useful taxonomy of space interest groups. The chart in Figure 14.2 [not included due to copyright] is organized along two axes: degree of economic motivation and degree of purposive motivation.
According to Fulda and Goldman, examples of high purposive but low economic groups would include the Hypatia Cluster and Write Now!; high purposive and high economic, the National Space Club and the Universities Space Research Association; high economic but low purposive, the Aerospace Industries Association and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; and low purposive and low economic, UFO groups and mystical cults. (There is, of course, some overlapping membership among space interest groups in different categories.)
Orenstein and Elder have observed that purposive groups are by nature unstable; they attract splinter groups and have difficulty in maintaining membership interest. Material benefit groups, once established, tend to be stable. These principles are supported by the experience of many space interest groups. Yet both the National Space Institute and the L-5 Society, examples of new, high purposive groups, are now over ten years old.
The space advocacy also provides examples of both the "staff" and "grass-roots" models of American interest groups, with others along the spectrum between these extremes. The Institute for Security and Cooperation in Outer Space and the Institute for Space and Security Studies, for example, are pure staff organizations, with no real grassroots base. Spaceweek, by contrast, is an extreme example of grass-roots decentralization.
There have been many motivations for forming space interest groups, such as protecting economic and professional interests, proselytizing for an idea, and seeking an application of knowledge and skills. However, many of the recent groups fit the entrepreneurial model of interest group formation described by Moe. The new space advocacy includes several groups founded by a single individual that often continued to revolve around that individual, with some collapsing when that individual went on to other pursuits (for example, Delta Vee). Howard Gluckman has observed that many space advocates who reacted to the downturn in the space program sought like-minded groups; when existing space interest organizations seemed inadequate, some of these people founded others.
David Koch, who co-founded Spaceweek and who founded the American Society of Aerospace Pilots, and David C. Webb, active in the formation of Campaign for Space and U.S. Space 82, seem excellent examples of organizational entrepreneurs. James Muncy, who founded the Action Committee for Technology and Using Space for America, describes himself as a political entrepreneur.
The multiplication of space interest groups also may reflect a democratic society's response to important new technologies; defaulting to a technological elite is not sufficient. Goldman and Fulda, addressing the space interest group example, have commented that the pluralist solution to technology may be more interest groups.
Loomis and Cigler note the formal penetration of interest groups into the federal bureaucracy (advisory groups), the Congress (caucuses), and the Presidency (White House group representatives). Parts of the space advocacy have achieved the first two of these. But the advocacy's purposes also have been advanced significantly by informal penetration of the administration, the Congress, and the Executive Office of the President. The space advocacy has allies (and sometimes formal members) within both the executive and legislative arms of the federal government. NASA, the United States Air Force, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and congressional staffs have been "infiltrated" by people who share the space dream, who belong to that broad community of belief that underlies the pro-space phenomenon. Perhaps political science needs an interest group model that more formally recognizes that alliances across the rather artificial dividing line between government and interest group can be purposive in motivation and that such alliances are not limited to the classic "iron triangles" composed of federal agencies, their authorizing committees, and related economic interest groups.
Writing in 1982, Bell concluded that space interest groups had failed in terms of their original expectations. If we use the influencing of policy, budgets, and legislation as our main criterion, pro-space groups have not played a significant role in most major space policy and program decisions taken since 1972, except for the defeat of the Moon treaty. That lobbying effort succeeded in part because it was allied to more powerful interests, whose primary concern was the Law of the Sea. It also was directed against a proposal, not in support of a new program that would have cost the taxpayers large sums of money. The record is less impressive in other cases:
All this suggests that major space program and policy decisions in the late 1970s and early 1980s continued to be made largely by the internal processes of government, supplemented by industry information and lobbying. Interviews show nearly unanimous agreement that the principal influences on such decisions are (l) the administration, particularly the President and his advisers, the Office of Management and Budget, NASA, and the Department of Defense, with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council staff sometimes playing important roles, and (2) aerospace companies. Congressional members and staff, aerospace professionals, and space scientists generally were considered intermittently influential. Pro-space citizens groups were seldom mentioned.
The L-5 Society's part-time lobbyist in Washington, Gary Oleson, agrees that the citizen group impact is not at the point of decision. "They can't go in and swing votes," he says. His colleague from Spacepac, Gary Paiste, acknowledges that Congress has not had reason to take pro-space citizens groups seriously. House Space Subcommittee Staff Director Darrell Branscome says that citizens groups rarely are the first on the doorstep; they follow up.
John Loosbrock, the experienced public relations officer of the Aerospace Industries Association, noted in 1983 that 200,000 members is not much when distributed over 435 congressional districts; pro-space groups are spread thin. Such groups may have access to individual members of Congress or state delegations (as the L-5 Society did with the Arizona delegation) but not across the board. Space writer David Dooling noted in 1984 that all of the space interest groups together then had a membership smaller than that of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
Pro-space citizens groups generally have even less impact on the administration; the September 1981 National Coordinating Committee for Space policy statement reportedly had no impact on policy (a possible exception is the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, some of whose members were well connected in the Reagan administration). Yet it was the President and his advisers who made the major decisions that are defining the next decade of space activity: the space station, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and space commercialization.
One would think that a natural point of contact for pro-space groups would be NASA itself. Although that agency has institutionalized channels for working with aerospace companies, aerospace professionals, and space scientists, as of 1984 it had no mechanism for regular liaison with pro-space citizens groups. Associate Administrator Patrick Templeton said in February of that year that the agency appreciates the support that citizens groups give but acknowledged that NASA does not have an official responsible for maintaining contact with them. Such access as pro-space groups have enjoyed has tended to be through a few sympathetic individuals.
One is tempted to conclude that the belief of some pro-space citizens groups that they have had significant political influence confirms John Kenneth Galbraith's observation that "resort to an instrument of power is widely confused in our time with an exercise of power." Given the dependence of citizens groups on unpaid volunteers, one also could argue that the need to believe that one is having an effect on the policy process is inevitable. However, these conclusions would dismiss the modern pro-space advocacy too lightly. Although pro-space groups are not powerful in themselves, they play other important roles, indirectly influencing the process by which space decisions are made.
It is clear that pro-space citizens groups do not rank with the American Dairy Association and the National Rifle Association as effective lobbying organizations. However, they do have influences of more subtle, indirect, and long-term kinds:
Bainbridge wrote in 1976:
The new space advocacy has a complex agenda. At the center of it, however, is the idea that many people, not just a few, can and should go into space to explore, to work, and to live. Many want the experience and the adventure of going into space. For some, the goal is an old one — to explore new worlds. For others, the goal is a space-based civilization, the extension of human activity of all kinds into a new environment, and the permanent incorporation of nearby space into the human realm. Gerard O'Neill speaks of the attraction of establishing small-scale, manageable social units in space, reviving cultural diversity. The L-5 Society states explicitly that it seeks "an independent society in space."  These people want a second spaceflight revolution: the permanent human occupation of space.
NASA officials have advocated this for some years, although in more cautious, bureaucratic language. In the mid-1970s, senior NASA official John Yardley stated that "NASA's principal long-term manned space goal is the achievement of permanent occupancy and limited self-sufficiency in space." The Space Shuttle and the space station are the first, necessary steps, the first enabling technologies. The Campaign for Space wrote in 1984, "President Reagan's space station initiative represents the beginning of a new era for NASA, an era that will culminate in the permanent habitation of a totally new environment for Mankind."
If the spaceflight movement of the 1920s and the 1930s laid the groundwork for our first, exploratory ventures into space, the new space advocacy is laying the groundwork for permanent human occupancy. The modern spaceflight movement is establishing the culture for a "Second Spaceflight Revolution." Its leaders are attempting to build the constituency for a paradigm shift that they believe is as profound as the Copernican revolution in astronomy.
Those who want a "Second Spaceflight Revolution" face a continuing challenge. Space involves big ideas, which take a long time to sell. The space movement has long time horizons; the bureaucracy, the Congress, and the industry do not. Those institutions are dominated by incrementalists not revolutionaries.
By 1984, old divisions within the space advocacy were becoming more visible, heightened by recent events. Familiar issues were revived, with some scientists, for example, criticizing manned spaceflight, and with many liberals criticizing the military uses of space technology.
Political scientist Nathan C. Goldman sees phases in the development of the new space advocacy. In the first phase of "mass consensus," we saw widespread backing for the naming of the Shuttle Orbiter Enterprise and for the Jupiter Orbiter Probe. In the second, we saw a breakdown of the coalition over the Moon treaty and the satellite solar power station, with a split between spaceflight advocates and environmentalists. In the third phase, new divisive issues arose, notably the space station and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
These splits appear to reflect a deeper rift that goes back to the beginning of the Space Age. At the extremes, there are two identifiable schools of thought, one one each side of the fault line. Most people interested in space probably do not line up entirely on one side or the other. But a model divided along the following lines suggests the underlying strain:
There are, of course, reasons of self-interest underlying this division. For example, NASA and the aerospace industry have very practical reasons to favor large, complex, long-duration projects, while individual scientists may be more advantaged by a diversity of smaller projects that enables more researchers to achieve individual recognition.
There also appear to be deeper reasons. Among those interested in space, there may be a difference in world view between those who study the environment (whose scientific training is to see celestial bodies as objects) and those who see them as fields for action, as worlds. There may be a difference in ethos between those who enjoy the pleasure of finding out, knowing, and telling others, plus the vicarious adventure of remote exploration, and those who enjoy the extension of individual and collective human power and influence through technology. And there may be a division between those who see space exploration and its findings as ends in themselves and those who see them as means to other ends.
Nathan Goldman comments that there are two paradigms of the future in space, but that the pro-space movement thinks of itself as the reflection of one paradigm. Are these different world views permanent features? Or does one reflect the true future of space advocacy, while the other is a temporary, even reactionary phenomenon? We may need the perspective of another generation to tell.
Some experts comment that space policy is just the space dimension of other policies. However, this does not take into account a deeper motivation for the space advocacy, one whose roots reach far back before the present. Although not always stated explicitly, that motivation is shared by many of those involved in the new spaceflight movement. It is expansion.
In both science fiction and speculative fact writings about the future in space, the outward expansion of humanity is a recurrent theme. At the end of the 1936 film Things to Come, H. G. Wells has one of his characters express this in an extreme form:
There may be an historic connection with cultural dynamism. "In human records," wrote the anthropologist J. D. Unwin, "there is no trace of a display of productive energy which was not preceded by a display of expansive energy."
As pragmatic a man as NASA Administrator James Beggs has recognized the significance of this theme. "I believe that one of the indisputable truths of our time is that humanity is slowly but surely expanding into space," he said in 1985.
Although few would wish to be so labeled, many space advocates are human expansionists. They wish to break out of the limits of the Earth and to extend human power and presence outward as far as it can reach. However impractical or uneconomic that may seem, it does much to explain the frequent hints of transcendental aspiration in the space literature. The division between expansionists and nonexpansionists is one of the elements underlying the schism in the space community. Yet by 1984, even the Planetary Society had begun to recognize the appeal of the expansionist motivation by endorsing a Moon base and manned missions to Mars and the asteroids.
Looking backward over the history of the astronautical movement, we find a kind of rough continuity reaching at least as far back as the nineteenth century. Originally, small groups of people who shared an insight and a passion formed a kind of friendly conspiracy, an open cabal advocating the use of the rocket to reach into space. Bainbridge categorized the revolutionaries as dreamers, practical visionaries, and implementers. Periodically, someone catalyzed the spaceflight idea. Space societies rose and fell with changes in leaders and generations. People independently rediscovered the promise of space.
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, rocketry became a mature technology, reaching a symbolic climax as a means of exploration with the Apollo expeditions to the Moon. The rocket advocacy was no longer an underground.
To some extent, history is repeating itself. In the new space advocacy, we have seen dreamers and pragmatic visionaries; the implementers of the "Second Spaceflight Revolution" may be indentifiable in the 1990s. Some space advocates have made their peace with the classic agenda. But those with the greatest dream — massive human migration away from Earth — may be falling into the pattern of the first spaceflight revolution: first a proselytizing advocacy that meets frustration, then a military or political detour, then civil and private uses of the new technology.
In the 1970s we saw the elaboration of a new underground, seeking to democratize space, to establish a space-based economy, and to build permanent space settlements. This flowered in organizational form in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a resurgence of the space advocacy on an unprecedented scale. But much remained to be done.
In his 1981 book The Cosmic Chase, Richard Hutton wrote that the "space underground" was more like a loose federation than a tightly knit group of like-minded people. That remained true four years later. But some things had changed. The underground had grown significantly; it had become more diversified, more open, more visible, more political. No longer just a friendly conspiracy, it aspired to be a social movement. By 1985, it was successfully co-opting a growing number of established figures who did not originally belong to it. Its organizations, while they may have conventional roles, also were arms of the space dream being turned into action. The organizations may change, but the dream goes on.
The conspiracy continues in an altered way, composed of overlapping subunits of people dedicated to exploring the cosmos, to expanding the human uses of space, to extending the human reach outward, and to spreading humanity beyond the Earth. The agenda has become more complex and diversified; there are several schools of thought as to what the next step should be, presenting the space advocacy with an organizational challenge.
The specifics, the tactics, and the justifications change, but the idea of humans going into space does not. Pursuers of the space dream have adjusted their appeal to the issues of the times, arguing that new ventures in space would be solutions to current social, economic, military, or political problems:
The space underground continued to live in 1985. Even with space activity revived, it continued to plan and advocate further steps, seeking to coalesce around new goals, searching for new justifications. What mattered to the space advocacy was not so much the solution of specific Earthly problems but the continuation of outward exploration and expansion by the human species.
By 1985, William Bainbridge's 1976 question about whether the spaceflight revolution would succeed or not had been answered. Despite predictions of its demise a decade ago, the American space program had survived and had been revitalized. The political climate for incrementally increasing American activity in space was generally good. Space activity, once the exclusive province of U.S. and Soviet government civil and military space organizations, had more diverse and widespread bases; space power was decentralizing, with more nations, government agencies, and independent companies becoming directly involved. Powerful new forces supporting increased activity in space were increasingly visible by 1984 in the form of defense and commercial interests, which seemed likely to create expanded, long-lasting constituencies. The means of access appeared to be diversifying, much in keeping with the ethos of a pro-space movement that wants more people to go.
Strikingly, there was virtually no organized opposition; only sniping about priorities from budget cutters and some scientists. As long ago as 1982, the National Space Institute's Leonard David had poked a little fun at the term "pro-space," pointing mockingly to "the invisible anti-space program invaders." The space enterprise had become a permanent fact of our lives; "space" was here to stay.