Tag Archives: Space Shuttle

A New Path to Space (for everyone)

J. Simmons introduces Mach 30, a grass roots space program, and invites the space community to join this revolutionary movement.

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Can’t watch the video right now?  You can read the transcript below.

If you don’t care about space exploration, this video is not for you. Feel free to stop watching now. But, before you do, I would appreciate it if you took a moment to send it to any of your friends who are into space. They might like it.

If, on the other hand, like me you grew up with Star Wars and the Space Shuttle, or going a little further back, with Star Trek and Apollo, then this message is for you.

Hello, my name is J. Simmons. I am the founder and President of Mach 30, a non-profit with a new approach to space exploration.

I have wanted to go to space my whole life. My earliest memory is sitting on my mom’s lap at a drive-in movie theater watching Star Wars. I was too young to really get it, but the images of ships flying through space and of traveling to other worlds stuck with me. As I grew up and the Shuttle program started, I believed people when they said the Shuttle was going to make the dream of routine access to space a reality. And yet, 135 missions, and 30 years later, and we are still only dreaming. Sure the ISS is an impressive feat of engineering, but it is not somewhere any of us can expect to visit.

We have waited too many years for someone else to change the course of human space exploration. Instead of again asking our representatives to increase NASA’s budget, or cheering on another rocket launch, we must take the reigns ourselves.

There has never been a more perfect moment for a grass roots space program. The Internet has changed the way we work, share, and support one another. The success of open source software is ushering in a revolution in the design of hardware. And, the gap in US spaceflight has opened the door to new directions in space policy.

Enter Mach 30. Our goal is to design open source spaceflight hardware, and in doing so, create a world where the next “Facebook” is a space-based company whose business model is as inconceivable to us now as Facebook would have been in 1990. That’s the kind of world I want to live in. Where access to space is like the Internet: everywhere and a part of our daily lives.

We need your help to go from concept to reality. First, please share this video with all of your pro-space friends. We need to get the word out that there is a new path open to us, one that we have direct control over. Send it to your scifi buddies, post it on Facebook, tweet about it, share it with your Linux Users Groups…

Second, please make a donation to Mach 30. Hardware costs money, legal fees cost money. It turns out space is just really expensive. And remember, it all adds up. $5, $10, $25, and $50 at a time, from everyone who dreams of going into space could change the whole game.

Thank you for your help and support. Ad astra per civitas – to the stars through community

What do we mean by a “spacefaring civilization?”

2001: A Space Odyssey Clavius Moon Colony

Image by Dallas1200am via Flickr

The mission of Mach 30 is “to hasten the advancement of humanity into a spacefaring civilization.” But what does that mean? When we talk about a “spacefaring civilization,” we are talking about the promises of the 1960s made real. Consider the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in April 1968 over a year before the first humans walked on the Moon. This movie predicted that by 2001 major airlines would be offering regular service to Low Earth Orbit using reusable space planes. It also predicted there would be multiple, extensive lunar bases. And, let’s not forget that the defining mission to another planet is not to Mars (been there, done that?) but to Jupiter and its moons! This is something that not even the most forward looking advocates of space exploration are discussing.

2001 is not the only example from the 1960s that makes these kind of predictions. There are a number of of books, videos, and other material that all promised a very similar future (routine access to space, lunar colonies, expeditions to Mars), all by the end of the twentieth century. Yet, none of this has come to pass. At present, all human access to Earth orbit is still provided by government space programs. And the Space Shuttle, while partly reusable, does not come close to being the kind of space plane that can make routine flights to space (commercial or otherwise) a reality.

Yes commercial companies are starting to work on access to space, but each of them has to start at square one when they are founded. Just look at the first project of almost every new space company: design and build a rocket engine. Seriously, if you want to start a spaceflight company, the first thing you need to do is design your own rocket engine. This is the equivalent of saying go design your own jet engine to anyone who wants to start an airline.

Still, we believe, some day the kind of future predicted in 2001 (or one very much like it) will come to pass. It is a vision born of the idea that commercial enterprise has developed the tools, technologies, and markets to establish a true space economy. And eventually all of those things will come to pass. It is just in our nature to push the boundaries of what can be done and where we can go. So, reaching this future is less a question of if, and more a question of when.

Given the costs associated with spaceflight (and the amount of effort spent reinventing the “wheel”), it seems reasonable to assume that without any intervention it will take quite a bit of time before we reach the future promised in the film 2001. Our goal at Mach 30 is to shorten the wait. We believe that by applying the principles of sustainability, open source development, and the use of mature technology we can get off the “not invented here” merry-go-round, and instead get on a path toward evolutionary improvements built on a shared foundation of technologies. And that like the explosion of commercial enterprise on the Internet, this shared foundation will lead to new and unimagined markets in space for commercial enterprise to serve.

End of the Space Age? Or a Time for Reinvention?

Although no astronauts are visible in this pic...

Image via Wikipedia

The Economist has dedicated an issue to the “end of the space age” suggesting over three articles that the promise of the space race has faded, political will eroded, and public interest evaporated. Who can blame them? Aging isn’t easy! Like life, it always seems more exciting when you’re young and free and visionary.

Kennedy mesmerized the world with sheer audacity of launching the space race. Without a doubt the excitement led to incredible achievements built on competition and daring goals. It helped, of course, that this competition had political objectives and seemingly unlimited resources to back it up.

When the shuttle program took off, it galvanized the world, again, around the possibilities of new technologies and intrepid journeys. The shuttles made it possible to create and support the International Space Station with which the shuttle has docked for that last time. I know I was captivated by the possibilities the ISS provided that unfortunately never materialized for most of the American (and global) public. Indeed, The Economist got it right that, over thirty years, the space program has become commonplace, mundane—just another trip to the International Space Station. But, where the The Economist sees the mundane Mach 30 appreciates the mature.

There’s less fanfare in building the foundations, but Mach 30 is focused on a new audacious goal—Open Source Spaceflight Hardware; cooperation that moves beyond government agendas or private industry to a community-led effort. Shuttle technology never focused sufficiently on building the mature technologies that could be leveraged for missions further afield. Imagine what small steps over 30 years might have meant to a spacefaring future.

Mature technologies (perhaps with small changes or new uses) are the foundation of successful systems. It’s critical that those systems be sustainable also in order to make long-term space travel a reality. Mach 30 goes one step further by placing open source as a central springboard for innovation to keep barriers low and advancement rapid among communities of practice—reaching for the stars through community.

Mach 30 accepts that moving a little slower but very deliberately may actually be the quickest route—even admitting we do miss some of the excitement of the race! That is maturity indeed.

And, yet there are dreams to be achieved. There are bold goals yet to be named. Find them with us—whether you’re a space enthusiast or simply recall shuttle memories—by joining Mach 30’s community. Donate. Friend us. Contribute to Open Design Engineering. With an open community leveraging mature technologies for sustainable travel spacefaring will be a reality.

Greg’s pictures from the STS-135 Space Shuttle Launch

Here’s a set of pictures from my trip to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to watch the Space Shuttle Atlantis launch on mission STS-135, the final flight of the NASA shuttle fleet.  We at Mach 30 are working to expedite the return of human space access here in the US.  If you want to make sure that we continue to pursue safe, sustainable, routine and reliable access to space, donate now, like us on Facebook, or sign up for the newsletter…  Then enjoy my photos!

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“Ad astera per civitas – To space through community”

Mach 30, Foundation for Space Development

The Space Program Marks Time with a Career in the Classroom

A big thanks to Lucie Carruthers for sharing her memories of NASA‘s space program as part of Mach 30’s Open Source Spaceflight Revolution!

This month marks the forty-second anniversary of man stepping onto the moon for the first time and the last time the space shuttle will orbit the Earth. In the span of the fifty-five years that I have spent in the classroom, many space discoveries have been made, many opinions about space have been proven to be false, and many amazing innovations in science have occurred. None of the more recent events in the NASA program have eclipsed the initial euphoria I felt when the United States first launched its space program in the 1950s.

USSR postage stamp depicting the communist sta...

Image via Wikipedia

My first introduction to space exploration came at the hands of the older students in the one room, Nebraska schoolhouse I attended in 1957. I remember I was six years old, and in first grade — an age when anything the seventh and eighth graders told me had to be true. On a fall day, warm enough that only a sweater was needed to run out to the pump where the big kids were passing around a dipper filled with water from the small, corrugated tin shed that sat a few yards away from the building, I joined a group of older students who were standing around during a recess break. Someone noticed a shiny object moving across the brilliant blue sky, pointed at it, and yelled, “Sputnik!” Then I recalled my older sister, who was in the fifth grade, burst into tears. She said, “The Communists are going to get us. They’re going to bomb the United States.” For many years, I lived in the shadow of fear that the Communists from Russia were going to destroy our country. That threat was further reinforced when my dad built a sturdy bomb shelter in the basement of our home. This was also the era when some of our teachers told us that humans would never put a man on the moon, while the more optimistic ones predicted people would drive flying cars by the year 2000. Some of the older folk, those individuals born in the late 1800s, often believed that astronauts never stepped foot on the moon but were part of a huge government conspiracy concocted to make people believe they did.

Armstrong works at the Apollo Lunar Module in ...

Image via Wikipedia

In 1969, the next momentous event in space travel occurred. Contrary to what some of the naysayers from the early 1950s predicted, NASA—using Apollo 11–did put a man on the moon in July of that year, two months after I graduated from high school. The Norfolk Daily News, a local paper, used a fourth of the front page to declare the victorious success of JFK’s New Frontier program. My husband kept a copy of the Omaha World Herald’s special edition commemorating the event and it’s buried somewhere in our house, hidden away like the memory of the near-tragic Apollo 13, an event I journaled about in college.

Space Shuttle Challenger ' s smoke plume after...

Image via Wikipedia

Throughout the next forty years, most of my time was spent in the classroom. It was there that I received the heart-breaking news about Challenger’s fateful flight, carrying a teacher who many of us in the teaching profession had secretly wanted to swap places with, and the repeat shuttle disaster of the Columbia in 2003 that spread a pall over the whole space program. I was still in the classroom and rejoiced when my second cousin, Clayton Anderson, was chosen to man the International Space Station for 152 days in 2007. He instigated a lively interaction with school children while serving at the space station that drew many of them into the fascinating study of space. Afterwards, he visited Minden, Nebraska, the place where I teach, because our town is the home of Royal Composites, a company that makes materials for space launches. The miracle of space travel was never far removed from elements in my teaching career.

I am now approaching my sixtieth year—a year that might possibly be my last in the classroom. Coinciding as it does with the last shuttle mission this summer leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Can travel in space be so easily compacted into the time a life-long teacher scrolls through her career? Wheeled vehicles have existed for over 5500 years. Inventors took another 5400 years to add a motor to them. Today, those vehicles still operate using the principle of friction created by contact with the earth. When will man’s imagination fly high enough to lift the mode of ordinary travel off the ground and into the wild blue yonder? I hope humans say good-bye to elite space exploration and hello to private travel created by the masses through open source technology.

Ready to join the Open Source Space Revolution?  Learn more here.