[ExI] Fwd: Reality (OpenNASA)

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat May 10 01:36:10 UTC 2008

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Paul D. Fernhout <pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com>
Date: May 9, 2008 8:11 PM
Subject: Re: Reality (OpenNASA)
To: virgle at googlegroups.com

 What are the people doing there at OpenNASA? These NASA people are getting
 basic life support (pay) and health care. :-) Same as everyone on the planet
 should get as a right of birth IMHO. :-)

 "Since the availability of power from fusion reactors [Solar panels :-)] and
 cheap automated [robotic] labor has enabled them to develop a post-scarcity
 economy, ..."

 "It is now possible to give every man, woman and child on Earth a standard
 of living comparable to that of a modern-day billionaire."
  --Buckminster Fuller

 As individuals, no doubt, these OpenNASA people are some of the finest at
 NASA; the problem is, beyond their other duties and families, the NASA
 bureaucracy and the capitalist economic values that through Congress set the
 tone for NASA prevent them from helping the world much through free stuff
 (example, the widespread assumption in Congress that NASA stuff has value
 only if someone pays directly for it, like by exclusively licensing a patent).

 "NASA owns over 1,000 patents and patent applications that protect
 inventions in hundreds of subject matter categories. NASA makes these
 inventions available to industry through its Patent Licensing Program, which
 is administered by the NASA Office of General Counsel, NASA Headquarters,
 Washington, D.C."

 See? Taxpayer-supported NASA inventions need to be "protected" from the
 likes of, say, well, the taxpayers on the OpenVirgle project. Wouldn't want
 to get those pristine ideas dirty, now would we? :-(

 Nope, best to keep those leading edge NASA ideas "protected" -- maybe tucked
 away somewhere alongside with the "lost" (technology-wise and license-wise
 and ) Saturn-V plans. :-(

 On lost "technology-wise", see:
 "Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, the Saturn V blueprints
 have not been lost. They are kept at Marshall Space Flight Center on
 microfilm. The Federal Archives in East Point, GA also has 2900 cubic
 feet of Saturn documents. Rocketdyne has in its archives dozens of
 volumes from its Knowledge Retention Program. This effort was initiated
 in the late '60s to document every facet of F-1 and J-2 engine
 production to assist in any future re-start. The problem in re-creating the
 Saturn V is not finding the drawings, it is finding vendors who can supply
 mid-1960's vintage hardware (like guidance system components), and the fact
 that the launch pads and VAB have been converted to Space Shuttle use, so
 you have no place to launch from. By the time you redesign to accommodate
 available hardware and re-modify the launch pads, you may as well have
 started from scratch with a clean sheet design."

 On lost "license-wise", from what I know of NASA licensing SNAFUs, it is
 almost certain (I haven't checked though) that most of those Saturn-V plans
 (as blueprints) are copyrighted by the contractors and so OpenVirgle could
 redistribute them under a free license that allowed derivative works. It is
 barely possible that an OSCOMAK-like project run by NASA might be able to
 redistribute them under the government's "for government purposes" rights, I
 don't know for sure, but I doubt it, and here is why. I know that contractor
 ownership of copyrights on blueprints and CAD files has been a problem with
 the shuttle and/or space station. So those plans really are "lost" IMHO,
 same as I discussed earlier how the book "The Energy Primer"
 was in that sense similarly lost even though I found my physical copy of it
 the other day. Of course, even if you could do much with the Saturn-V plans
 as far as derivative works, making available rocket technology to the world
 beyond a minimal level of sophistication is probably a USA federal offense:
  "A short history of export control policy"
 "This essay deals with the history of export policy and how it came to be as
 it is today, governed by the State Department as part of the International
 Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ... This was accomplished by the removal
 of said items from the Commerce list of dual-use items in the Export
 Administration Regulations and placing them on the State Department's United
 States Munitions List, controlled under section 38 of the Arms Export
 Control Act."

 And that's one reason, sadly, I'd probably rather not see any rocket
 technology in OSCOMAK right now beyond (presumably legal for-export) hobby
 level rocketry. And that is another reason why I myself am focusing on
 habitat design. (Although I really do it mainly for this reason:)
  "Both CATS and DOGS are needed..."

 Of course, people using a distributed system, like you are working with on
 SKDB, and who are, say, running it outside the USA (unlike the OSCOMAK
 server which is around Pittsburgh) would not necessarily be bound by more
 than prudence and local laws of whatever country's laws covered such use.
 Still, prudence also suggests we need to solve habitat issues sooner than
 rocketry issues, even if just to make SpaceShip Earth work well for most

 These roadblocks to space habitation are all thrown up as part of our tax
 dollars at work under the current economic mythology:
  "The Mythology of Wealth by conceptualguerilla.com"
 "Are you scratching your head? "What do you mean, they have 'nothing at
 all'? Property and money are something." Property and money are as
 mythological as Zeus. The first thing they teach you in law school - and I
 mean the first thing -- is that "property" is a collection of legal rights.
 They are mental abstractions. They were created in more or less their
 present form in the middle ages by common law judges. ..."

 Of course, the actual taxes taken out of our pockets and then spent mainly
 on the military slow us down too, by making us "work" for income more and
 taking time for volunteer work.

 For the record, I'd be happy to pay even more in communal taxes if it was
 spent better, like is often the case in Europe (although not always). Even
 given NASA's bureaucracy, I'd gladly pay more taxes in the USA if NASA got
 50X what the DOD got, and not vice-versa, on the assumption some of the
 money would leak into good things even if unintentionally. :-) But
 seriously, most of the NASA budget has gone to running the Shuttle (or one
 space station). If NASA had 20X as much money, they would have a lot of room
 for experimenting. So -- no aerospace contractors need go hungry with a
 switch to a different "racket"
 -- just an issue of mythology and choosing whether to worship Athena
 (Weaving and Wisdom)
 or Mars (War)
 with that budget.

 NASA could likely be improved, of course, to spend money more effectively as
 to space habitation. But they would have to at least start laughing at the
 idea of space habitation first instead of mainly ignoring it out of IMHO
 fear of another "Golden Fleece Award" (see below).

 "Before you can reach a point of effectiveness in defending your own
 children or your principles against the assault of blind social machinery,
 you have to stop conspiring against yourself by attempting to negotiate with
 a set of abstract principles and rules which, by its nature, cannot respond.
 Under all its disguises, that is what institutional schooling is, an
 abstraction which has escaped its handlers. Nobody can reform it. First you
 have to realize that human values are the stuff of madness to a system; in
 systems-logic the schools we have are already the schools the system needs;
 the only way they could be much improved is to have kids eat, sleep, live,
 and die there."

 So let me rewrite this for NASA: :-) "Before you can reach a point of
 effectiveness in defending your [space ambitions] or your principles against
 the assault of blind social machinery [embodied in NASA], you have to stop
 conspiring against yourself by attempting to negotiate with a set of
 abstract principles and rules which, by its nature, cannot respond. Under
 all its disguises, that is what institutional [space travel via NASA] is, an
 abstraction which has escaped its handlers. Nobody can reform it. First you
 have to realize that human values [or the Pro-Am revolution] are the stuff
 of madness to a system; in systems-logic the [space programs] we have are
 already the [space programs] the system needs; the only way they could be
 much improved is to have [potential space habitat dwellers] eat, sleep,
 live, and die there [without ever getting to live in or even visit space]."

 For example, the OpenNASA site doesn't even render well in (my up-to-date
 version of) FireFox/IceWeasel -- the left border is non-existent. What does
 that tell you about the true feelings of NASA-the-institution about F/OSS?

 Anyway, sadly, I would expect NASA makes it impossible for these OpenNASA
 individuals in the course of their employment to be helpful in the useful
 ways you outline, for the "systems-logic" reasons mentioned above. For one
 thing, they'd worry about giving a soapbox to people like me. :-)

 Except maybe for naming comets, it feels like NASA as an *institution* has
 no interest in (or understanding of) the rest of the "Pro-Ams" revolution
 yet (regardless of employees' individual understanding):

 These F/OSS and exponential and post-scarcity technology ideas are just too
 threatening to the entire mythology organizing the UN Congress, and so the
 US Government, and so NASA. My pessimistic prediction is that if OpenNASA
 was really effective, since it threatens the elite status quo (with the
 elite having its head in the sand about people starving, dying of
 preventable illnesses, being bored in school. and losing their dignity at
 work, etc.), it would soon get some version of a Proxmire "Golden Fleece
 Award" again.

 I feel space habitation research and development at NASA has never even
 recovered even from the *last* time that happened in the 1970s:
 "Rather than rocketing construction materials into space, he proposed mining
 lunar rock and then shipping it to an orbiting manufacturing plant. The rock
 would be moved around by a solar-powered EM launcher--much cheaper than
 shipping rocket fuel to the moon, he reasoned. Best of all, O'Neill
 concluded, rather dubiously, these colonies could be created "with existing
 technology." ... To build Mass Driver II would require more funding, but
 before NASA could approve it, Wisconsin senator William Proxmire got wind of
 O'Neill's space colonies idea. Famed for his "Golden Fleece" awards for
 government spending he deemed wasteful, Proxmire went on television to
 proclaim "not another penny for this nutty fantasy." NASA quickly pulled the
 plug on all its space colonies projects, including the Mass Driver."

 Of course, I can hope times have changed and either the award would not
 happen or NASA as an institution would find the backbone (and other support)
 to stand up for everyone's dreams of a better future *both* on Spaceship
 Earth and "out there". But until that day, it's up to us hobbyists IMHO.

 And some people have a tough time forgiving NASA for that lack of courage to
 this day. :-( But as my wife says, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

 Ultimately, it won't matter what NASA does or doesn't do.
 "At this moment nearly every engineer on earth has a powerful and globally
 networked computer in his or her home. Collaborative volunteer efforts are
 now possible on an unprecedented scale. Moores's Law predicts continued
 reductions See for example the writings of Raymond Kurzweil at
 http://www.kurzweilai.net/ or Hans Moravec at http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm
 in the cost of bandwidth, storage, CPU power, and displays - which will lead
 to computers a million times faster, bigger or cheaper in the next few
 decades. Collaboration software such as for sending email, holding real-time
 video conferences, and viewing design drawings is also reducing in cost;
 much of it is now effectively free. This means there are now few technical
 or high-cost barriers to cooperation among engineers, many of whom even now
 have in their homes (often merely for game playing reasons) computing power
 and bandwidth beyond anything available to the best equipped engineers in
 the 1970s."

 But we can still hope NASA may change sooner rather than later, because for
 every day NASA plays by the old fearful scarcity mythology, people die of
 preventable problems in the rest of the world, for example:
  "According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
 more than 25,000 people died of starvation every day in 2003, and as of 2001
 to 2003, about 800 million people were chronically undernourished."
 Those deaths just go to show the power of myth to do evil, since there is
 more than enough food to go around. Why doesn't everyone get enough?
 Ultimately, it is due to social myths -- like the value of "free markets"
 where ironically nothing is free, even is most place, "dying" (with or
 without dignity).

 There were "pre-scarcity" myths:
 "In our Seneca Tradition, the Field of Plenty is seen as a spiral that has
 its smallest revolution out in space and its' largest revolution near the

 There are now "scarcity" myths (including NASA's licensing policies. :-)

 And after that scarcity bubble pops (assuming it does not "pop" too
 literally and noisily :-( ), there will be "post-scarcity" myths:
 (which are essentially a return to the pre-scarcity myths, but with the
 technology for space travel and supporting quadrillions of people in the
 solar system via self-replicating space habitats included as an upgrade from
 suffering through the cycle. :-)

 Personally, down the road, I have high hopes for recruiting *retired* NASA
 people (and "retired" from other places too) to make OpenVirgle literally
 take off. :-) A lot of those people hated the bureaucracy too and might be
 willing to take their retirement on life support (pension) and do something
 with their time.

 I have multiple objectives with my posts, but eventually another source of
 recruits for "retirees" as far as full-time devoted effort (we need no money
 now or maybe ever as a group IMHO, even if we may need it as individuals)
 are the Google Millionaires (not Billionaires, since those financially obese
 guys will always be too busy managing their money to add much content or
 metadata to OpenVirgle/OSCOMAK. :-) Anyway, there must be at least one
 hundred to one thousand people working at Google who could quit tomorrow and
 go the rest of their lives working full-time (as a volunteer hobby) on
 Project Virgle and never miss a frugal meal or basic health coverage for
 themselves or their family. Ultimately, just the *possibility* of even some
 of these people leaving all at once may be enough to transform Google into a
 subsidiary of OpenVirgle project -- once OpenVirgle/OSCOMAK has enough
 content and momentum to be credible so these Millionaires think they can
 change the word more and in better ways via that than, say, Knol. :-)

 I know, wake him up, he's snoring in his dreams. :-)
 "While snoring is sometimes considered a minor affliction, snorers can
 suffer severe impairment of lifestyle. ..."

 --Paul Fernhout

 Bryan Bishop wrote:
 > Hm. So, an OpenNASA project. Makes me wonder. What are the people
 > doing there? The individuals that are working at NASA, I mean. Are
 > they so very busy that they can't bother to spend time appearing on
 > the internet and organizing amateur communities? Are they really that
 > busy? I doubt it. I bet most of them have 'desk jobs' from 9 to 5,
 > that sort of thing, except pushing the longer hours for the techies.
 > Of course, everybody needs a break, but if promoting space communities
 > seems like work then maybe they are in the wrong field? I wonder what
 > happens when digital age tech kids grow up to work at NASA. Do they
 > torrent all of the data up to the net? Do they publish schematics on
 > wikileaks.org? etc.

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