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Discussing The Issues

This looks like a much more interesting and broad-based discussion than the Park/Zubrin debate. It still has Park, but now we'll get some other viewpoints into the arena, instead of narrowly focusing on man vs robots.

Wish I could be there.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 13, 2004 07:41 AM
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Muncy certainly knows the issues. But Park is a broken record and he was lousy in the recent "debate" with Zubrin. He is not a very good speaker. Hudgins, however, thinks he knows a lot about the subject of space and really does not. For instance, one of his solutions to current problems is to "commercialize" the space shuttle. Most libertarian space activists realize that this is ridiculous, as the shuttle is too expensive to ever operate commercially. There are other severe blind spots in Hudgins' knowledge of the subject. I would not have very high expectations for this discussion.

Posted by Joyce at February 13, 2004 11:49 AM

This is a short Metro (subway) ride away from me.

I'll go.

Anybody want a first hand report?

Posted by Chuck Divine at February 13, 2004 12:10 PM

I agree with your take on the participants, Joyce. I was referring more to the likely aspects to be discussed, and I think that just having Muncy there alone will make it worthwhile.

And frankly, I don't mind having the anti-human perspective put forth by a weak proponent (Park).

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 13, 2004 12:15 PM

Yeah, Chuck, please provide a report if you can. I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

Posted by Aleta Jackson at February 13, 2004 02:54 PM

Great...I just bought Hudgins' book this morning. I take it that I just threw my money down the drain?

Posted by T.L. James at February 13, 2004 03:51 PM

I'm not sure what you mean by "Hudgins' book." If you mean "Space, The Free Market Frontier," it's certainly worth having--it's basically the proceedings of the Cato conference two or three years ago on that subject, and has papers by many people. He's got one paper in there (with some errors in it), but otherwise, he's just the editor.

Posted by Rand Simberg at February 13, 2004 04:00 PM

I was underwhelmed by Space: The Free-Market Frontier. Most of the essays seemed rather superficial. And there was a lot of handwaving going on--dismissing as unimportant some pretty serious issues. The "free marketeers" for instance, have a tendency to forget that the US government considers rockets to be weapons and will never allow them to go mostly unregulated. Even if you disagree with this requirement for regulation, you have to accept that 99% of the members of Congress are going to disagree with you. How do you deal with that problem? You will find no answers in the book.

Hudgins is just really ignorant of the subject and shows no sign of being swayed by facts. In particular, look for his rather bizarre analogy comparing a "space pod" to an underwater vehicle. He claims that this "space pod" (I'm not sure if he ever explicitly explains what it is) was obscenely expensive and the underwater vehicle was dirt cheap. Now the argument that space equipment does not have to be as expensive as NASA or the government or big aerospace claims is a worthwhile argument, Hudgins' claims are no help to this debate. In fact, they look goofy. What kind of thermal cycling does an underwater vehicle face? And weight is not really a major consideration for an underwater vehicle in the same way it is for an orbital vehicle--if you have to you can add 20 pounds to an underwater vehicle and not worry about it, but every pound you add to an orbital vehicle requires ten times as much weight in fuel to put it in orbit.

Hudgins has called for the immediate privatization of ISS and the space shuttle. But it is clearly his ideology that is driving these comments. I have serious doubts that he has ever read ANY of the shuttle privatization studies.

T.L. James asked if he had thrown his money down the drain by buying the book. I suggest keeping the receipt. You can always return it.

Posted by Joyce at February 14, 2004 09:10 AM

Thanks for the review, Joyce. There are a lot of myths and general hand waving from every side in space debates. And almost all arguments are recycled from the '70s (the idea of commercial suborbital flights is one of the few exceptions). One of my personal peeves is the "clean Helium 3 from the moon" bit. We don't have the technology to use it and don't know when or if it will ever be practical. It wouldn't be radiation free either (though it would be low).

Regulation has already killed several private launch projects. In at least two cases the rocketeers kept getting the runaround trying to get launch rigts in the U.S., then were blocked when they tried to move elsewhere for developing "weapons technology." Talk about Catch-22!

Posted by VR at February 17, 2004 02:43 PM

I went.

A quick summary:

Muncy was superb. His top ten myths of the Bush space plan were excellent. Myth #1? The plan is about NASA. No, it's not. The plan is about us (humans). Muncy eloquently put forward the observation that space was about all kinds of human endeavors.

Former astronaut Searfoss was the big surprise. He was critical of NASA, supportive of private space endeavors. He observed he lost six friends when Columbia burned up. I was very favorably impressed.

Hudgins and Park were very predictable. To be honest, I could have done a better job at presenting cases for their positions (even though I have some disagreements with both) than they did. Debate training from high school and college (at least what I got decades ago) does give me a bit of an advantage, though.

Posted by Chuck Divine at February 18, 2004 06:35 AM

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