New Ventures Society

  Personal Postscript

I was born in February 1945, which puts me in the Silent Generation cohort (1925 - 1945). We are the smallest generation in the US demographics, out numbered by all surrounding generations because we are the children of the Depression and World War 2. But we are also acknowledged as the best educated generation, which I attribute to the Flynn Effect, total lack of television while we were growing up and the lack of a Federally organized school bureaucracy. We produced our share of scientists, and engineers, Nobel prize winners and astronauts, rock and roll stars and folk singers, but no Presidents.

What we did during our spare time was play outside (unsupervised) and read. This brought the world of science fiction to us during the dawn of the space age. We could easily see the path Mankind would take to the Stars. First the disintegrating totem poles that would be used to launch the first satellites, followed by the development of single stage to orbit space ships that could take off from any airport, fly a cargo to orbit, unload and return and prepare to launch again the next day. This would allow the construction of the first space station (Wiley Ley model) such as seen in the Blue Danube scene in 2001 A Space Odyssey (if you look closely you will see it is with a Pan Am spaceship - such was the optimism of who would lead the way - and Pan Am took reservations for flights to the moon). Following would come the moon landing, the first moon colonies and the independent space habitats (O' Neil Colonies) at L4 and L5. Another couple of centuries and those habitats would grow in reliability to the point where they could launch themselves on a 500 year journey to nearby stars where they would settle down, reproduce themselves and in a few hundred years launch towards other stars. So eventually in 10 million years we would settle every star in the galaxy.

But the  government placed a road block in our path. In order to minimize liability in case of an accident the US government prohibited any individual American from engaging in an independent space effort. With time this prohibition was relaxed to the point that rich citizens could form corporations to develop space, but the idea of a Tom Swift having his own private electric space ship was out.

What government(s) did was engage in giant propaganda extravaganzas. The Apollo Program was a massive effort that engaged a good fraction of our population to race to the moon. Forget the rational path, we would build a monster rocket and send men directly using the disintegrating totem poles. (In spite of all the hoopla about the technical advances that came from the Apollo program, the fact remains that the ICBM program was 7 times the size and brought us the integrated circuits and computers that are modern society) And so we did. (I was unable to watch Apollo 11 takeoff or land because I was baby sitting 48 hydrogen bombs north of the Soviet Union). And no sooner than did we get to the moon than Nixon ordered the Apollo program canceled. Left over rockets were everywhere and the engineers were fired (the bureaucrats stayed on the government payroll), we had to pay for the war (not that we did). My generation and the Boomers were aghast at the betrayal, so NASA proposed the Shuttle program to give us a single stage to orbit ship. But along the way Congress kept cutting the budget until the reusable spaceship had to be totally rebuilt after each flight and it wasn't quite a single stage ship. In short it was a piece of junk (I worked at NASA down in Clear Lake and the atmosphere did not even come close to the Navy Nuclear Program. There were dedicated engineers, but the bureaucrats ruled - thus Challenger). So now Shuttle is gone and the big thing on the distant horizon is a manned trip to Mars (still using disintegrating totem poles).

Empires; be it Han, Rus or American do not want to establish permanent colonies in space. There may be military bases or scientific outposts but no one wants to recreate the Spanish and English efforts of the 16th, 17, and 18th centuries followed by the Independence Movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. A viable self sustaining colony will naturally want to go its own way, something not permitted. So unless private citizens do the work, it will not get done.

My generation has mostly passed away but I would like to see it remembered for what we envisioned. Can we leave a Legacy that would be remembered for all time - a gift of the Stars? What I am asking for is a grand effort by all generations to put us back on the path that should be traveled. My generation can provide the inspiration, the Boomers can provide much of the funding, the Gen Xs can provide the leadership, and the Millennials provide the work (followed by GenZ). This would not be a short term project, we are talking 20 -30 years worth of effort to go from a simple restaurant to space stations but it can be done. I have medical problems and will not see the completion of even the first step but at least I will know that we are on our way.

So a basic questions. Will you join me in putting us back on the path. Ad Astra!

Earl Smith
age 71 - retired
focused visionary  ( my egotistical viewpoint  -- detractors would say monomaniacal megalomaniac  -- same meaning, just differing words ),
Avid historian ( military, economic, political ),
hard science background ( chemistry, nuclear engineering ),
Science fiction fan ( hard SF, mil SF )
Former submariner (nuclear engineering officer)