Youve got a lot of technology breakthroughs that you

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Unformatted text preview: and policy analyst and served as an investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, 8 [Dwayne A., 6-9-8, Space Review, “Knights in Shining Armor”, accessed 6-30-11] You may not have noticed, but the space activist community is all worked up about space solar power (see “A renaissance for space solar power?”, The Space Review, August 13, 2007). It is now the topic of much conversation whenever a group of space enthusiasts get together. It was recently on the cover of the National Space Society’s magazine Ad Astra. The upcoming NewSpace 2008 conference will feature a panel on it. The International Space Development Conference in Washington, DC featured no less than three —yes, three—sessions on space solar power, or SSP, to use the shorthand term, plus a dinner speaker who addressed the same subject. With all of this attention, one would suspect that there has been a fundamental technological breakthrough that now makes SSP possible, or a major private or government initiative to begin at least preliminary work on a demonstration project. But there has been none of this. In fact, from a technological standpoint, we are not much closer to space solar power today than we were when NASA conducted a big study of it in the 1970s. The reason that SSP has gained nearly religious fervor in the activist community can be attributed to two things, neither having to do with technical viability. The first reason is increased public and media attention on environmentalism and energy coupled with the high price of gasoline. When even Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are advertised with a global warming message, it’s clear that the issue has reached the saturation point and everybody wants to link their pet project to the global warming discussion . SSP, its advocates point out, is “green” energy, with no emissions—other than the hundreds, or probably thousands, of rocket launches needed to build solar power satellites. The second reason is a 2007 study produced by the National Security Space Office (NSSO) on SSP. The space activist community has determined that the Department of Defense is the knight in shining armor that will deliver them to their shining castles in the sky. Space activists, who are motivated by the desire to personally live and work in space, do not care about SSP per se. Although all of them are impacted by high gasoline prices, many of them do not believe that global climate change is occurring; or if they do believe it, they doubt that humans contribute to it. Instead, they have latched on to SSP because it is expedient. Environmental and energy issues provide the general backdrop to their new enthusiasm, and the NSSO study serves as their focal point. Many people now claim that “the Department of Defense is interested in space solar power.” But it is not true. The NSSO study is remarkably sensible and even-handed and states that we are nowhere near developing practical SSP and that it is not a viable solut...
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