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bfoz
2003-Aug-23, 05:32 PM
There was an editorial (Pictures From An Expedition (http://www.spacedaily.com/news/oped-03zx.html)) on SpaceDaily the other day advocating the creation of an open-source space program.

Starting an open source space program is something a friend and I have been thinking about for several years. Recently I finally got around to making a web page (Terran Space Agency (http://terranspace.org)) in the hopes of actually getting this idea going. We're not exactly sure how to get started, but talking to lots of people seems like a good first step. The fact that a journalist has thought about, and written about, this idea makes me think that this is as good a time as any to start getting the word out. Plus, the crumbling US and Russian programs as well as competition from China, Brazil and India has lately given me a sense of urgency. Now that I have a good job and some extra income its time to start building rockets in earnest.

So...any suggestions? Thoughts? Criticism? Anybody want to help out?

rocketa
2003-Aug-23, 05:47 PM
OS Software vs OS Hardware: To contribute to the OSS, you admittedly have some competance in programming. Else you could not even communicate with other programmers. You may not be top-notch or you may be a genius, you still may make a contribution.

Now with hardware it is far different. If the OSH was open to only to specific well trained individuals, it could work. (I am not saying that great ideas cannot come from out of the blue, of course they can)

But if the OSH inputs are from people with little experience, the communication would rapidly degrade to explanations of "why that won't work" from the experts.

But it is also a good idea to have an open discussion for all in order to accumulate inputs from otherwise very intelligent people that may have a valuable contribution. Two forums seem likely for OSH; one is restricted to the 'sperts and one open to all. The experts can review the other forum from time to time and make online comments about valid contributions.

I have seen the results otherwise, extremely slow and non-productive in the hardware area.

I should say that it may not be smooth going even with experts. With the right combination of personalities and experience, a synthesis can be achieved that is remarkable.

With another combination it can be adversarial and non-productive.

So a referee is also needed who can oversee the communications and intervene when necessary.

Great idea, good luck with your concept and your site.

Fraser
2003-Aug-23, 08:06 PM
I think about this a lot. How can we break space exploration out of its current logjam? I think the only long term solution is for space to be sulf-sustaining; if space was paying for itself through asteroid mining or space-generated power then there would be pressure and incentives for corporations to invest in space development.

Oil companies are happy to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on oil rigs. Mining companies will spend that much preparing a mine to extract resources. And the reason they're willing to do this is because they know they'll see a positive return-on-investment. They spend hundreds of millions, and they get to make billons. Eventually, once the gap to space has been crossed, large corporations will regularly launch missions to asteroids to strip them of resources at a tremendous profit.

Here on Earth, technological advances were made one step at a time. Minerals used to be found sitting around on the ground. Then people had to dig them out of the ground; then deeper from the ground - and the technology progressed along.

Because the costs of space exploration are so high, and the technology is so complex, there isn't a smooth transistion from advance to advance. There's a giant gap, that can only be crossed by long term vision and persistance - when returns on investment are just a faint ghost in the future.

The Internet enabled the open-source software movement. Depending on your opinion, these collaborative efforts from people around the world are creating are serious threat to established software companies. In software, I really believe that open source is the way of the future.

But software deals mostly in zeros and ones. All you need is a few hundred dollars and an Internet connection to get involved in the Open Source Movement. Spaceflight is a completely different world. Even the most frugal efforts cost millions of dollars in hardware, fuel, etc. As we saw in Brazil yesterday, the risks to human lives are very real, and the safety ramifications push those costs even higher.

How many people can collaborate on a tank of rocket fuel? Well, the only way they can really do so it with their ideas (which we can take inspiration from the open source movement), the software and their money. And it's going to be money that really calls the shots.

So, what I think the Internet can enable now, that didn't exist before, is a worldwide effort to develop new technologies and procedures, but to raise capital. That money should be spent to help bridge that gap to space; to keep investing on space research until major corporations are willing invest their money because they see a return on investment.

The great thing about money is that the longer you hang onto it, the more valuable it becomes. Invest a million dollars today and you'll have billions in a hundred years, and then trillions in two hundred years; more than enough to fully fund space exploration efforts. And there's lots of inspiration out there of successful charities which have raised money to support worthwhile causes.

Raise the money now and then spend it wisely to enable the space revolution.

bfoz
2003-Aug-24, 05:52 PM
Originally posted by rocketa@Aug 23 2003, 10:47 AM
But it is also a good idea to have an open discussion for all in order to accumulate inputs from otherwise very intelligent people that may have a valuable contribution. Two forums seem likely for OSH; one is restricted to the 'sperts and one open to all. The experts can review the other forum from time to time and make online comments about valid contributions.
I don't think the newbie/guru issue is unique to OSH projects. Many OSS projects that I've seen have had to deal with the same problem at some point. And from what I've seen the most effective solution seems to be exactly what you suggested: seperate forums for each with the added notion that at least some of the gurus should hang out with the newbies to actively help the willing attain guru status.

Through this mechanism, and others, OSS projects tend to be self-organizing: the gurus tend to float to the top while less effective people eventually get weeded out and you end up with a core of knowledgeable hard workers and a cloud of other people. It's not efficient, but it works. My thinking on the matter is that, with the right people, it should be possible to deal with the OSH version of the problem in the same way. With "right people" being defined as those who are willing to learn and work towards a common goal.

OS projects have a reputation for being highly effective and sometimes fast, but they're hardly known for being efficient; personnel problems being one of the primary reasons for this. I know this going in, so I'm expecting to have efficiency problems and I realize that this will be a long road to travel, but I also expect to get the job done.

If you look at the TSA page, I've set up a mailing list called tsa-chat, which is intended to be the newbie list as well as a general chat forum. I haven't bothered with any other lists yet since there's no one on the first list. But I had already planned to have multiple lists to acheive just what you suggest. Incidentally, I'm using the FreeBSD mailing lists as a model.

Thanks for the input. The more the better.

bfoz
2003-Aug-24, 08:16 PM
Originally posted by fraser@Aug 23 2003, 01:06 PM
I think about this a lot. How can we break space exploration out of its current logjam? I think the only long term solution is for space to be sulf-sustaining; if space was paying for itself through asteroid mining or space-generated power then there would be pressure and incentives for corporations to invest in space development.
The assertion that we can only achieve orbit by climbing a mountain of cash doesn't work for me. Certainly it will take money to build and fly the hardware, but not a mountain, and it doesn't necessarily have to come from visions of return on investment, although it would help.

None of the current major space programs started because some large amount of money willed them into existence (I'm negelecting Japan, China, India and Brazil since I don't know much about them and they're not really "major" yet). Each program can be traced to a small set of enthusiasts blowing things up in their back yards. Goddard did his early work in a farm field, Von Braun was a member of a group of German rocket enthusiasts before the Nazis showed up, Tsiolkovsky was a wistful academic and Korolev was a college dreamer who started out in academic design teams. All of them went on to become part of larger and more expensive projects, but their initial efforts didn't require major backing and there's nothing that says that they actually needed goverment assistance. However, it is obvious that large budgets greatly accelerated their work, but that was in an era when goverment help was actually helpful. That doesn't appear to be the case in modern times, at least not for space development.

Major corporate backing won't help much either since they're not interested in building the infrastructure to get to space easily or to conduct scientific exploration or even to just live there. As you pointed out, they're only interested when there's a good chance of making money. Granted, Lockheed and NASA tried to go down the "right" path with SLI, X-33, etc but as soon as it looked unprofitable they pulled the plug.

However, I am not in any way adverse to the idea that corporate involvement will be useful. In fact I'm already planning on it. It is very likely beyond the scope of a volunteer project to produce hardware on schedule, book flights, keep scheduled flights on time and handle all of the other aspects of routine space flight. So, in my mind TSA will be the "Spacefairing Web". It will handle the community level aspects of the project: communication, collaborative design, etc., while a commercial entity will be needed to actually sell hardware, assemble vehicles, and book reservations. Naturally it would behoove such an entity to make copious donations to the volunteer project to ensure its continued survival.

Now of course someone's going to ask how that's different from any other corporate backing. The difference is that most corporations exist to make money for their shareholders and therefore strive to do that and little else. I'm advocating a company that will exist for the sole purpose of complimenting and supporting the open source effort. Essentially a Red Hat or Suse for space development. If anyone has bothered to pull up my profile you'll notice that the domain of my homepage is terrandev.com. Go there and you'll see a link back to TSA. :)

And yes there's a big flaw in that idea. When Red Hat was formed their signature product already existed. I currently have nothing. The missing detail is that Red Hat doesn't just sell Linux, they make money from other products as well. And that is what I plan to do.

Grass roots efforts have spawned large space programs in the past. I see no reason why it can't be done again. But this time we're going to do it without boxing everything into a government monopoly. The key, I believe, does not lie in money but in people. If we can gather enough of the right people together and organize them properly they'll figure out where to get the money. Where there's a will, there's a way.

bfoz
2003-Aug-24, 08:39 PM
Originally posted by fraser@Aug 23 2003, 01:06 PM
But software deals mostly in zeros and ones. All you need is a few hundred dollars and an Internet connection to get involved in the Open Source Movement. Spaceflight is a completely different world. Even the most frugal efforts cost millions of dollars in hardware, fuel, etc. As we saw in Brazil yesterday, the risks to human lives are very real, and the safety ramifications push those costs even higher.

A large portion of the costs for a space program are personnel, R&D and safety. Although safety is largely a matter of personnel and proper R&D. The actual hardware, propellant and pad costs are typically a small fraction of the overall cost of a launch.

This whole idea of an open-source space program came to me after reading an article that analyzed launch costs and came to the conclusion that the fledgling space companies of the time (Roton, etc.) were doomed because of R&D costs. Given their projected payload fees (or even multiplying them by 10) the analyst concluded that there aren't enough hours in a day to launch enough payload to pay off their current R&D budgets, let alone the actual cost of the launch or any future R&D expenses. Or something to that effect, its been a few years since I read the article.

Being an OSS type person I started thinking of ways to transfer the applicable lessons from software to hardware, and the idea was born. One of the original criticisms of OSS came from commercial vendors who thought that there was no way a bunch of hobbyists could duplicate what cost the company millions in R&D. They were wrong.

That just leaves material and personnel costs. Not-for-profit organizations have a long standing history of effectively dealing with those problems. With enough dedicated people I don't see this being a show stopper.

bfoz
2003-Aug-24, 09:08 PM
Originally posted by fraser@Aug 23 2003, 01:06 PM
Here on Earth, technological advances were made one step at a time. Minerals used to be found sitting around on the ground. Then people had to dig them out of the ground; then deeper from the ground - and the technology progressed along.

Because the costs of space exploration are so high, and the technology is so complex, there isn't a smooth transistion from advance to advance. There's a giant gap, that can only be crossed by long term vision and persistance - when returns on investment are just a faint ghost in the future.

Incremental improvement is how space technology was originally developed.

The issues are complex, but they're not insurmountable and its all been done before. There's nothing in an Apollo capsule that can't be understood by a competent engineer. Boosters are actually less complicated than a manned capsule, but much bigger. The real tricky stuff is the math that goes with being in orbit, and that's all in textbooks.

This definately isn't a project that can be taken lightly by the average Joe (or Jane), but all of it is teachable. I think most of the perceived complexity of space flight is in the math and in the age old mystique of the rocket scientist. Neither of which is as big as it looks.

rocketa
2003-Aug-24, 11:23 PM
There is a form of reporting in NASA called "Lessons learned". it is very valuable as it points up the little "gotcha's" that are so prolific in hydraulics, electronics, pneumatics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, internal ballistics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, to name just a few.

It is this list of "lessons learned" that is patterned after the apprentice school of teaching. The apprentice whacks his thumb with the hammer and the master shows him how to avoid that behavior in the future. If you had "lessons learned" to read before using the hammer, you might not have whacked your thumb, or the rocket may not have exlpoded on the launch pad.

Now we have about thirty years of down time in the passing on of "lessons learned" to the current generation of engineers and scientists, at least in the field of rocket propulsion. A friend of mine, a rocketeer, was quite shaken when invited to see a test of a rocket motor and virtually no safety precautions were taken. His admonishments were met with stares.

There were hundreds of launch vehicles expended in destructive events before they got it right in the various launch vehicle (or launch vehicle nee ballistic missile)

Without those lessons learned it is unfortunate that the same mistakes will be made once again. That means many failures before success.

Money tends to evaporate in an environment of little success. That is another problem to deal with.

I don't want to be pessimistic, merely realistic. It is a very diffficult job to make orbit with a newly designed vehicle.

bfoz
2003-Aug-25, 04:21 AM
Originally posted by rocketa@Aug 24 2003, 04:23 PM
There is a form of reporting in NASA called "Lessons learned". it is very valuable as it points up the little "gotcha's" that are so prolific in hydraulics, electronics, pneumatics, mechanics, fluid dynamics, internal ballistics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, to name just a few.
We have a similar setup at Lockheed, it even has the same name.

Would your friend be interested in this project? Like you said, knowledge transfer is a big problem and we're going to need a lot of it.

I take it you work at NASA? Is there any way to get access to lessons learned info from the old Mercury/Gemini/Apollo programs? I'd love to find some way to get copies of the old drawings too, or better yet, get them imported into a modern CAD format.

The knowledge gap created by the last 30 years worries me, and sometimes I think it might be a showstopper. But then I remember that the people who did this the first time didn't have the benefit of the history they made and they managed to get the job done. Of course, they blew up a lot of stuff (and people) along the way. I expect to do the same. I don't have any aspirations of smooth sailing nor do I expect to start work on a manned orbital vehicle right away. I'm thinking an incremental approach is probably best. And of course, I would like to avoid as many of my predecessors' mistakes as I possibly can.

I imagine that most investors who run away at the first sign of difficulty are the ones that shouldn't have been there in the first place or didn't realize what they were getting into. A thorough understanding of the nature of the endeavour is just as essential for potential investors as it is for the people flying the vehicles.

It would be nice to find the folks that bankrolled Amazon since they are obviously able to see the long term, but I imagine Blue Origin already got to them.

Fraser
2003-Aug-25, 06:28 AM
That "Lessons Learned" is part of NASA's software project management process. One of the best project management documents I've read is NASA's "Software Engineering Library: Recommended Approach".

Here's a link:
http://sel.gsfc.nasa.gov/website/pro-support.htm

I was watching an interview with Burt Rutan on CBC's Master's of Technology this weekend. He was involved in the early tests with NASA and the Air Force and he's quite infuriated about the complete lack of progress between then and now. He considers the Joint Strike Fighter to be a disgrace. Very interesting interview.

Good luck with your project bfoz, and feel free to promote what you're doing here on the Universe Today forums - I don't mind. :-)

philip slater
2003-Aug-27, 01:01 AM
Hello, bfoz.

I have just read, with increasing velocity, through your posts and those of Rocketa and Fraser above, and arrived here at the add reply button.

Instant reaction is that what seems to be happening right here on UT forums is a valuable part of the first renaissance of the space age. It seems to be gaining both critical mass and momentum which sounds dangerous but could be useful. How it all works out, as it is worked through, will as usual depend on the quality of the concepts and of the people concerned.

Congratulations and good luck. If there is anything that the UK-NISA project can do that might be of any use to your project just ask. I can certainly think of things that you might do to help the nascent Independent Space Agency concept to progress over the coming year. I'll doubtless send you a few thoughts about that before too long.

Philip

bfoz
2003-Aug-27, 03:49 AM
Originally posted by fraser@Aug 24 2003, 11:28 PM
Good luck with your project bfoz, and feel free to promote what you're doing here on the Universe Today forums - I don't mind. :-)
Thanks. I'll probably take you up on that offer, although it looks like I already did. :)

But hopefully I'll get some people to move over to the list I set up for this so we don't bug you too much. For those who are interested the address is tsa-chat@neptune.homeunix.net and you can subscribe at http://neptune.homeunix.net/mailman/listinfo/tsa-chat. Of course, there's nothing wrong with discussing this in mutliple places. The more the better.

Thanks for the link, I haven't read all the way through it yet, that could take weeks, but it looks helpful.

I'm not suprised that Rutan is mad, I know how he feels. Seems like everyone with an interest in aviation or space feels let down by the last few decades. But that's ok, we can fix it.

bfoz
2003-Aug-27, 04:06 AM
Originally posted by philip slater@Aug 26 2003, 06:01 PM
Congratulations and good luck. If there is anything that the UK-NISA project can do that might be of any use to your project just ask. I can certainly think of things that you might do to help the nascent Independent Space Agency concept to progress over the coming year. I'll doubtless send you a few thoughts about that before too long.

Thanks for the encouragement. It helps on those days when I start wondering if I've lost my mind.

Unfortunately, I must confess that I'm not familiar with UK-NISA. Do you have a webpage? What exactly does your group do? If you want I'd be happy to add your site to my links page.

I am definately open to working with other groups. The whole idea here is collaboration, and getting existing groups together will help bring things together faster.

One of the things I think needs to be worked on first is establishing a set of common data formats for exchanging designs and other information. I started a project on SourceForge over a year ago to work on creating a suite of engineering applications and formats, but it hasn't attracted much attention. Its hard to find engineers that like to program. If you know any please send them my way.

I look forward to working with you.

bfoz
2003-Aug-27, 04:28 AM
The author of the article that started this topic (John McKnight) sent along a link to an interesting paper presented at the 2001 Thirteenth SSI/Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing. I'm passing it on as it is applicable to the topic at hand. Enjoy.

A REVIEW OF LICENSING AND COLLABORATIVE DEVELOPMENT... (http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/SSI_Fernhout2001_web.html)

Fraser
2003-Aug-27, 05:34 AM
Collaborative projects like this are nearly impossible to get off the ground. I haven't seen many that start in agreement and then end up that way. A more successful approach seems to be through force of personality.

Think of it like you're starting a fusion reaction. Assume that you'll be supplying ALL of the initial energy; people will offer to help you out, and some might actually follow through on their offer. At some point, the whole endeavour will start to take on a life of its own (similar to the development of Linux). The trick is to know when to get out of the way. :-)

Start working, but have a concrete plan on how you're going bring other people on board. Since you generally won't be paying them, you'll need a wave to catch their enthusiasm and then release them again when they need to move onto other things (or they're just flakes).

mikael63
2003-Aug-27, 12:35 PM
This is the most interesting topic so far i have seen, finally we are talking about
doing something.

I have been planning to start something similar for a long time, but im not sure how to start getting people together.

I agree both bfoz and fraser...but with a compromise, we need both money AND
human resources to achieve something that no nation alone is willing to do.(they have too much other things in mind)

I agree also with rocketa and philip slater, this could be a start of something really
wonderful..i have my own ideas to contribute to this discussion, but i would like to
first contact all of you by email before i post my ideas on the board, if thats ok with all of you?

Looking forward to VERY interesting communication between all of us.

philip slater
2003-Aug-27, 09:33 PM
Hello Brandon.

I very much hope that we can all work together to take forward the project of getting off planet whilst we, and not just our grandchildren, are still on it. And of course coming back to visit from time to time. I too am looking forward to having the opportunity of working together with you and all involved with TSA. Working in isolation is fine for a few decades or so but now and again it is nice to get to communicate with people who have some idea of what you are going on about, or better still have worked it all out for themselves already.

You say
Thanks for the encouragement. It helps on those days when I start wondering if I've lost my mind.

Don't worry about it. Just about everyone involved with setting up anything to do with Space Age II (the independent, that is, non-governmental, version) has lost their mind. Or found it, or changed it for something better. Or maybe just made up their mind to do a job that needs to be done. The reason it is happening now is probably simply due to an intersection of the paths of the planets in their courses (a few more revolutions of the Earth and in our thought patterns) with the exponential curve of the co-evolution of carbon and silicon based intelligence. (I keep forgetting to ask if everyone has read Ray Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines")

Maybe the lull in the outward urge had to happen whilst we as a species collectively took a deep breath and took on board quite what it was we had just done. But now it seems that things are on the move again.

You also say

Unfortunately, I must confess that I'm not familiar with UK-NISA. Do you have a webpage? What exactly does your group do? If you want I'd be happy to add your site to my links page.

There's no reason, nor any great probability, that you should or would have heard of UK-NISA yet. The project, although a long time in mind, only began to take shape towards the latter half of 2002. The UK-NISA web site was just being made available on line on the fateful 1st of February this year and since then has been rather frozen in time. However, headlines of a first batch of project proposals should be posted soon. Throughout September the process should begin of developing and selecting projects to be worked through during UK-NISA's first twenty-five year plan.

All pretty self-explanatory, hopefully, if you take a look at UK-NISA (http://www.uk-nisa.com)

It would be much appreciated if you do put a link on your very interesting site, although as I say there will not be anything very new until the latter part of next month. Whether as a project it has any value or not I am quite happy to leave to be judged till the end of the first twenty-five year plan in August 2029.

And another point you make:

I am definately open to working with other groups. The whole idea here is collaboration, and getting existing groups together will help bring things together faster.

Excellent.

Slogans are cheap, so UK-NISA has one, all about space:

Doing it Sooner and Doing it Better.

Do feel free to use it at TSA, if you feel you can take the pressure and stand the strain of living up to it.

More to follow, I expect.

Philip

philip slater
2003-Aug-27, 11:26 PM
Hello Mikael.

Good to be able to be in touch, courtesy of Universe Today forums.

You say
I agree both bfoz and fraser...but with a compromise, we need both money AND
human resources to achieve something that no nation alone is willing to do.(they have too much other things in mind)

I agree also with rocketa and philip slater, this could be a start of something really
wonderful..i have my own ideas to contribute to this discussion, but i would like to
first contact all of you by email before i post my ideas on the board, if thats ok with all of you?

As far as I am concerned I look forward very much to hearing from you. You can either email me through this system or via the "like to be involved?" button on the UK-NISA web site (active link in previous post above).

What you say reflects a topic of which everyone above who is trying to get things to happen is clearly well aware. The question is a big one with huge significance for everyone intending to do any voyaging into space during the remainder of this century.

How much can you do open and how much must you do closed?

How much can be in the open domain and thus given away and how much needs to be kept, for a while at least, under wraps. How open can the open door be held?

This seems yet another area where neither a rigid formula nor standard idealism achieves the necessary results. And there seem no grounds for believing the answer lies with some convenient middle way between the two extremes. It may be somewhere entirely different.

Suppose a project involves the use of money. It may have a business plan with a product development and marketing strategy. Would it be a good idea to discuss that in the public domain, where business competitors might be paying attention?

A more serious example. The Space Programme of the USSR was very secretive, kept most of its information even from its own citizens, and paid the price.

NASA has been very much more open and gained the benefit. However, although it has been more outgoing and truly generous about sharing information it has not been as open to taking in information from outside as it might and for this I believe a price has been paid. (I'll say something more about this issue, code named Rabbie Burns, at another time in another place.)

We are all looking to be as open as possible in what we do. How open can that be? TSA will be open to the inputs from the best minds on the planet and also those along the continuum in the other direction. Would you want to fly in a spaceship built by us? is quite a question.

A lot of thought has been put into handling this problem/opportunity and some more is needed.

Philip

bfoz
2003-Aug-28, 02:53 AM
Originally posted by philip slater@Aug 27 2003, 04:26 PM
We are all looking to be as open as possible in what we do. How open can that be? TSA will be open to the inputs from the best minds on the planet and also those along the continuum in the other direction. Would you want to fly in a spaceship built by us? is quite a question.

You brought up two very good points that are going to have a large impact on any upstart space program.

This first is dealing with "those along the continuum in the other direction". Seems like there's at least one in every group. In the software world its not much of a problem since computers usually don't crash in a ball of fire. It may be more of a problem in the space world since lives, and a lot of money, are on the line. So far OSS projects seem to be fairly good at weeding out these people before they cause much damage. I'd like to think that ability is transferable. Either way a rigid review and test process is probably in order. I like the idea of a "core" team similar to what FreeBSD has. It seems like a good mechanism for maintaining a group of well respected experts to enforce sanity and safety.

The second...OSS projects, and hopefully OSH projects as well, tend to be populated by people that use their own creations. So I expect to turn the question around and ask, "Would you want to fly a spaceship that you built?". Hopefully having developers that are willing to fly their own vehicles will instill confidence in everyone else.

I'm about to go on travel for a week and won't have much email access, but everyone is welcome to email me. I'll answer everything when I get back.

mikael63
2003-Aug-28, 11:08 AM
The great thing about money is that the longer you hang onto it, the more valuable it becomes. Invest a million dollars today and you'll have billions in a hundred years, and then trillions in two hundred years; more than enough to fully fund space exploration efforts

We dont need a hundred years...its called "money management" and in theory,
if you make 10% per month ROI (which is doable in stock market) and reinvest
most of the profits you can triple the money per year or even more.

So if we start with $25,000, then after 15 years we would have about 350 billions..of course when capital grows to billions it will be much harder to achieve
10%, so actual figure would be lower.

But let say 50 billions and growing in the hands of people whos only purpose is to
advance space exploring...

Any thoughts on this ?

Fraser
2003-Aug-28, 03:43 PM
Well, the concept of creating a fund that grows over time and its only job is to pay for space exploration is one thing. But 10% per month? That would beat the returns of the best investment managers in the world. I think that Warren Buffet has been able to sustain something like 30% per year for about 20 years. You can beat that by a factor of 10? I just don't think that's realistic.

You need to be conservative in your thinking. Hope for the best but plan for the worst.

bfoz
2003-Sep-06, 08:39 PM
Gald to see the discussion continued for a little bit while I was gone. Two whole people subscribed to the TSA list, and this thread was even mentioned in the UT daily newsletter (thanks Fraser). Not too shabby.


So if we start with $25,000, then after 15 years we would have about 350 billions..of course when capital grows to billions it will be much harder to achieve
10%, so actual figure would be lower.
If you know of an investment that can return 10% monthly for 15 straight years please let us know.


Think of it like you're starting a fusion reaction. Assume that you'll be supplying ALL of the initial energy; people will offer to help you out, and some might actually follow through on their offer. At some point, the whole endeavour will start to take on a life of its own (similar to the development of Linux).

At some point funding will be a big issue, however in the early stages of development the greatest need will be in labor, thought and deciding what to do. Like Fraser said, start working and add people later. That leaves it to me to figure out what to do and start doing it.

So...what to do? I had plenty of time to ponder this very question while I was lamenting the current state of airline travel (United's food has improved greatly, but the airplanes are still cramped and poorly ventilated).

The first question to ask is: What resources do I have? Right now that amounts to a bit of pocket change, an internet connection, some fancy diplomas, a little bit of experience, and a lot of determination. Not much, but its a start.

There are many things that need to be accomplished. At the moment there's almost no adequate method of sharing hardware design info. So I've been working on software to address that (http://sf.net/projects/tda), but at the rate I've been coding lately the software will become useable just in time for the next ice age. I'm hoping that as I get more people interested I'll find someone who can either help program or knows of tools that already exist.

In the meantime I'm going to explore two avenues. First, I'm going to work on high level designs for incremental goals. What would it take to put 1 Kg into LEO? 10Kg? Easy questions, but the thought process has to start somewhere. Look for the results on the TSA page (or come discuss it on the list).

Second, I'm going to start making avionics for model rockets. I'll start simple, say an acceleration logger, and then maybe a simple IMU. I know those are trivial and have been done, but you've got to start somewhere. The basic idea is start with small rockets and avionics and just keep getting bigger, all the while posting every little detail on the website.

BTW, there's an event in Nevada sometime in November (I think) called Rockstock. Anyone going? It looks like its just small rockets, but it could be fun.

bfoz
2003-Sep-06, 08:52 PM
Originally posted by mikael63@Aug 28 2003, 04:08 AM
We dont need a hundred years...its called "money management" and in theory, if you make 10% per month ROI (which is doable in stock market) and reinvest most of the profits you can triple the money per year or even more.
This particular idea may be unreasonably optimistic, but it is thinking in the right direction.

What are alternative sources of funding? Every space launch startup that I can think of has gone with sole source funding, namely investors. The advocacy groups seem to have few sources too; membership dues, subscriptions, donations, etc. What are other potential sources? Is it feasible to draw upon many sources at once?

AIAA has its own line of credit cards (I have one) and I seem to remember X-Prize branded cards too. How much money do they bring in?

Remeber that girl that posted a sob story about being unemployed along with a PayPal link? Didn't she rake in something like $20K? If she can get that much begging, why can't we do it too?

What else can you think of?

Fraser
2003-Sep-06, 11:29 PM
I agree that it's the right direction. If a long-term minded organization started hoarding money and investing it wisely, they would be able to afford human spaceflight and even a colony on Mars eventually. It might take hundreds of years, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the amount of time humans have been on Earth.

So, people set up a long-term fund and then invest the money aggressively (like Warren Buffett). People can donate their capital, but they can only take back out their original principal. That would stop people from trying to join if it turns out to be a good investment.

When I look around on the web and see various space development societies, people want to talk about space ships and propulsion systems, astronauts and colonies. But they mostly avoid the only thing that going to make any of this happen.

The only thing that's holding it all back.

Money.

Supply the money and you enable the space revolution. Compound interest levels the playing field - if you're patient.

But people aren't patient, they're in a hurry. It's the same reason that people fail to save for their retirements. They want human exploration of space to happen in their lifetime. If they can't make it happen, they're frustrated and lose interest.

I know it's a lot less sexy than collaborating on software/hardware, or growing lettuce remotely in a greenhouse, but it's what needs to happen. Hundreds or even thousands of people need to get busy raising money, and keep raising it until there's enough to seriously get humans off this planet.

Now, I'm not saying spend it all at once. In fact, it makes sense to donate money as viable projects are suggested. In fact, publicity would play a huge part in attracting future money.

I'm currently researching how to create a fund like this, and then I plan to implement it. Even if it takes 300 years, we're going to get off this planet.

Sounds like it'll mesh well with what you're doing. :-)

bfoz
2003-Sep-07, 01:38 AM
Originally posted by fraser@Sep 6 2003, 04:29 PM
I'm currently researching how to create a fund like this, and then I plan to implement it. Even if it takes 300 years, we're going to get off this planet.

Sounds like it'll mesh well with what you're doing. :-)
It could potentially mesh very well.

Getting lots of people to invest a small amount can be a viable alternative to a few large investors. Banks have known this for quite some time. Groups that accept paypal donations know it too. I may have to look into making a not-for-profit for TSA.

Do you want to discuss details here or should we take it somewhere else?

Fraser
2003-Sep-07, 03:46 AM
We can definitely discuss things here. The more brains the better.

bfoz
2003-Sep-08, 03:44 AM
There are several avenues for acquiring funding. But, for this post, lets just stick with those that involve lots of people making small investments since that's what Fraser brought up.

How is this sort of thing being done for other purposes? Off the top pf my head I can think of four ways: Fundrasing events (charity drives, telethons, etc), Donation sites (Paypal donation links, etc), Paraphenalia Sales (t-shirts, mugs, newsletters, etc), and Bank accounts.

Fundrasing events are usually what you associate with volunteer fire departments and the local civic groups. Such events tend to generate cash, but not very efficiently and they rely on community involvement. eg. the local fire house connects to its community through service, and the community knows that its in their best interest to make sure the fire truck gets a new set of tires. Space communities can be drawn upon, but its not clear that it will work as quite well. For one, the effort may require more cash than the community alone can provide. Donations from people outside the community may be required. But what connection do they have to the effort? Why should they donate? To date the standard arguments of exploration, manifest destiny, moon colonies, and survival of the species haven't loosened many purse strings. Second, the space community seems to be spread pretty thin geographically speaking. That makes it rather hard to stage a traditional community fund raiser. Nonetheless, anything that generates a positive cash flow should be explored.

Paypal donation links suffer the same sort of problems, but have the advantage of the internet. A donation link is relatively easy to establish and maintain, can potentially reach a large audience, and is easy for donors to use. In terms of cash flow it probably won't be any better than a fund raiser, but its too easy to pass up.

A quick tour of the internet will reveal a multitude of sites, both commercial and OSS, selling project related paraphenalia. I have no idea how effective it is, but everybody seems to be doing it so maybe its worth a try. On the other hand, I don't think I've patronized a single one of those sites. I already have plenty of mugs and hats. Does anybody buy that stuff? The basic idea is sound, but to make it really work you have to sell something people want to buy. Since we can't sell tickets just yet, we have to sell something else. I have a few ideas that I'm pursuing, but I'm not ready to talk about anything in detail yet. If you have an idea of something to sell and want to contribute the proceeds to a rocket project, please do so. I'll even help you.

So why did I throw in bank accounts? Banks aren't there to hold your cash, they exist to make a profit. Bankers have somehow managed to convince massive numbers of people that investing in the fattening of others wallets is a worthy cause. Of course the deal has been sweetened with interest payments, but the investment bankers and shareholders still get significantly more. Of all the money making schemes I've heard of, this is my favorite. Why can't we convince people of the same thing, but redirect the profits to a worthy cause? Say...something like space exploration.

Granted, the big problem here is that banks are risky endeavours and require an enourmous amount of financial knowledge that I don't have. Starting a bank is an enourmous undertaking, kinda like trying to get to orbit with volunteer labor. B) On the other hand, its not clear that this idea requires starting a new bank, at least not initially. It may be sufficient to partner with an exiting bank to create branded accounts similar to the branded AIAA and X-Prize credit cards, but with savings and checking accounts.

From a customer's point of view the account would function just like any other account, but it comes with the knowledge that the bank is making donations to whatever not-for-profit is associated with the account (I'm thinking of things beyond space, like Red Cross or Make A Wish accounts). This could be a sticky point though. Banks don't generally advertise that they're making a profit off your money, and they really don't want to point out just how small your cut is. Which could be another problem; banks like their profits and I doubt they'd like to cut into those profits just because we like the idea of hurling ourselves into space. They'd want to compensate by lowering the interest rates on the accounts, which would make the accounts somewhat less appealing since people like their profits too.

But then there are the Credit Unions which are essentially not-for-profit banks. To some extent they exist as a counterbalance to the greed of regular banks. They're all focused on something other than generating revenue: they provide services to a specific class of people regardless of profitability. The fact that they're not allowed to turn much of a profit shows up in their interest rates. A credit union might make a better partner simply because they're more altruistic by nature.

What of the internet banks? They make more money, and pay more interest, per account because they have almost no infrastructure to support. They're potential partners too. The internet banks are still new and small so would likely be more willing to take part in something with the potential of increasing awareness and mind/market share.

Are there any internet-only credit unions? I haven't found any yet, but I haven't looked very hard either.

It would be nice to have a not-for-profit bank dedicated to generating income for other not-for-profit enterprises (like space exploration). I have no idea how feasible such a thing is, I've only recently thought of it and I'm an engineer, not a financier. I only throw it out since its reminicent of the fund that Fraser is talking about and in case somebody knows more about this than I do. Its a big and crazy idea, but then so is TSA.

I have a few contacts in the financial world that I'm thinking about running this by. I take it you have some too Fraser?

Fraser
2003-Sep-11, 08:00 AM
As you said, I think there are lots of ways to raise funding, but I think the most important aspect of it is public relations. Just look at the X-Prize. I can't count how many stories get written about this $10 million prize. Although it was a huge effort for the founders to get the whole thing rolling, it's got a lot of momentum now.

So, the trick would be effective public relations in some pretty unconventional ways to drum up support and volunteers who could then participate in various fundraising campaigns. Once you'd gotten a certain amount of legitimacy, you could entice various celebrity boardmembers; astronauts, scientists, etc. This would further build the viability of fund.

I can imagine a cool calculator that donors could use to see how much their funds might grow over the course of hundreds of years, or see how many days, months, or even years they might knock off the wait time if they donated money. Although you could gather some money through Paypal, etc, you'll probably need to go after larger donors. There are lots of books and courses on fundraising, and with hundreds of years ahead of you, you'll have lots of time to test out all kinds of strategies. :-)

I'm not sure I'd want to start a bank, though. Although you could generate revenue for the funding space exploration, there would be a lot of distractions - like... running a bank. :-)

I'm going to look into what's involved to set up a fund like this. Probably talk to a lawyer, I suppose.

Any lawyers in the audience?

bfoz
2003-Sep-18, 05:20 AM
Originally posted by fraser@Sep 11 2003, 01:00 AM
I'm not sure I'd want to start a bank, though. Although you could generate revenue for the funding space exploration, there would be a lot of distractions - like... running a bank. :-)
You're right, starting a bank would be a huge distraction. But then so is any sort of fundrasing endeavour. Any successful project is going to have to put effort into raising money so its a distraction that will have to be lived with.

I went to the Reno Air Races over the weekend. As I walked around the pit looking at the airplanes and talking to various racing teams it occured to me that every single one of them is a financial dependent. Just look at the airplanes, the trailers, and the ubiquitous t-shirt tables: they're all emblazoned with sponsor logos. Some of the unlimited teams burn enough cash in a single year to put many kilograms into orbit. There are at least a dozen unlimited teams that have managed to get sufficient funding and all they do is go around in circles. If they can get hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding every year just to make left hand turns really fast, why can't we get that funding for something more useful? I have no problem with making left handed orbits if thats what it takes to get money. :)

I also found out that every team has people dedicated to PR and finding capital while the pilots and the crews focus solely on the airplane and the race. This could be the key ingredient that so many failed endeavours have been lacking. We need to find somebody to worry about financing while the rest of us concentrate on the building and the flying. With such a person, or group of people, the distractions inherent in fundraising schemes, like running a bank, aren't much of a problem. Any volunteers?

In hindsight I guess this is why the Red Hat model looked attractive to me. It nicely splits the total effort into two parts: the open part that works on the product and the corporate part that sells the product and raises capital. Of course, there's no reason why the open part can't have its own fundraising branch to complement the corporate part. Unfortunately it will probably be too much for little old me to try and run two organizations while holding down a job. I need help.

bfoz
2003-Sep-18, 05:42 AM
Originally posted by philip slater@Aug 27 2003, 02:33 PM
Slogans are cheap, so UK-NISA has one, all about space:

Doing it Sooner and Doing it Better.

Do feel free to use it at TSA, if you feel you can take the pressure and stand the strain of living up to it.
I've never been too big on slogans, although I guess its good to have one. When I was making the TSA page I thought long and hard on condensing my ideas into something sloganly short. The best I could do was the italicized text at the top of the main page.

At this point sooner and better seem like luxuries so I'd settle for "Just Do It", but I think that one has been taken. :angry:

How about "The sooner the better"?

philip slater
2003-Sep-18, 04:09 PM
Originally posted by bfoz@Sep 18 2003, 05:42 AM
I've never been too big on slogans, although I guess its good to have one. When I was making the TSA page I thought long and hard on condensing my ideas into something sloganly short. The best I could do was the italicized text at the top of the main page.

At this point sooner and better seem like luxuries so I'd settle for "Just Do It", but I think that one has been taken. :angry:

How about "The sooner the better"?
Hi Brandon.

Maybe I should have used the word ‘motto’ rather than ‘slogan’. Whichever, I just love them. They offer the chance to see whether people or organisations manage to live up to their best hopes and claims. The modern multi-zillion corporate identity industry owes a lot to the old idea of having a recognisable story-telling image on your shield plus a short summing-up statement such as 'Per Ardua ad Astra' (in Latin) or 'Ich Dien' (in Welsh). Costs you a fortune, millions in fact, to have your corporate identity thought about, but someone once told me that it is a transparent medium of communication. Another way, I think, of saying the truth will out.

On message boards anyone can give themselves any name they like. Native American plains folk participating in councils had to earn theirs and they were a given gift I do believe. You really did have to run as fast as a deer or be able to smell like a goat or whatever.

We went for the 'do it sooner and do it better' concept because we were thinking about the currently achievable aims of the plain folk who are now gathering together within the big tent of the ISS (the Independent Space Sector). Aims which are currently achievable within the 'laws' of Physics as currently understood and the surplus disposable income available on planet Earth at this very moment. Available without taking a penny or a cent from any Medicare or poverty or hunger or ignorance relief programme.

For example we could fund any imaginable independent space programme solely from the ghastly grot sector. Ask any economist to give you a ballpark figure for the amount plain folk choose to spend competitively on ghastly grot in just the poorly designed and manufactured designer-labelled unnecessary furnishings, clothing and personal adornment market, world wide, per annum. Or the unnecessary and unenjoyable motor car journey sector.

Doing it (space) sooner and doing it better sums up for me quite nicely my reasons for doing it.

We have no other time than now, even if the philosophy-of-science thread just round the corner hasn’t yet quite established whether there is such a quantised time unit as 'now' (see the thread or strand of yarn started by Kafkas_hat on the temporal topic).

'Now', whether it exists or not, is the only time we have in which to do anything, if we want to do something.

So, yes, the sooner the better.

But if we can't do it better we shouldn't even think about doing it at all.

That means doing Spaceage ll better than we did Spaceage l.

(Not too hard, seeing as we now know the basics of how to do it and we have computers to help, two advantages the greats of the last half-century didn't have to hand when they started.

And it means doing this wave of life expansion better than all the others that have taken place since our ancestors first came out of Africa or wherever.

There has to be room for improvement in that respect as well.

Philip

bfoz
2003-Sep-20, 05:48 PM
My Brit to English dictionary seems to be missing a page. What's a "grot"?

The description for the UT Human Spaceflight forums seems like an appropriate moto: "People jammed into metal boxes and hurled into space". You just can't get any more accurate than that. :)