[ExI] Fwd: Reality (OpenNASA)
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
"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."
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,
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
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
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
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
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. ..."
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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