There is a public comment period open from now until May 31st for NASA's defined objectives in the Moon to Mars program, which can all be found here: Moon to Mars Objectives. NASA has some details about the public comment period here: NASA Seeks Input. To make comments, go here: Feedback on the draft.
Why should a private company make a business out of space debris removal? Alternatively, can space debris removal be made into a viable business model? This is one of those complicated questions that I recently saw reduced to a gross oversimplification in a news article. There were a lot of issues with the article, and I don’t want to dwell on it, but I think the biggest problem was its underlying, unstated assumption that the only viable business case for space debris removal as a commercial service was if the government was the customer, or regulated private space industry into becoming customers. The underlying argument of the article, therefore, is that there is no viable business model based on space debris removal.
This has been decades in the making, and I have been watching the observatory be delayed again, and again, and again for years now, so it was remarkable when it finally launched.
As computers have become more advanced, faster, and more capable, the arguments in favor of manned spaceflight have become weaker, and space travel has increasingly become the domain of machines. Long before the invention of the microchip, Isaac Asimov proposed exactly this, describing unmanned, computer-controlled space exploration vehicles that would be able to venture into territories too extreme and too dangerous for humans. That vision has come to pass, and it is now commonly argued that humans are indeed too soft, vulnerable, and unreliable to utilize in spaceflight, and that removing them from the paradigm removes the weakest link. Manned spaceflight has largely been relegated to an oft-maligned holdover of Cold War international competition and patriotism. This is a mistake.
Other than indulging my penchant for expounding on space-related topics, and perhaps providing you with some insight into rocketry, I bring this discussion up because it informs a way I have been slowly coming to approach writing. I, probably like a lot of new writers, was approaching the writing of my stories like a single-stage-to-orbit. When I sat down to write, I had an expectation in my head that I would sit down and craft all of the components of a story in a single pass, and that revisions were mostly just for changing around wording and cleaning up typos. Which, it turns out, is really challenging to do, because stories are complicated.
As a bit of a side project at work recently, I did some modeling work on TESS, which is a NASA spacecraft that was launched to help search for exoplanets using the transit method (I know, you could never have guessed that from the name's acronym breakdown). Working with satellites as much as I do, this was a really interesting project, because it was quite distinctive in its orbit and mission architecture from most spacecraft that I get to study on a regular basis. For one thing, it is a remarkably low-cost, robust, straightforward system, quite different from what you often see with NASA programs, which because of their scientific goals are often pushing the very edge of our capabilities and therefore become very complex and very expensive. For another, it utilizes a simply fascinating orbit. Since I've been trying to post occasional in-depth articles on various academic topics, it seemed appropriate to share some of what I learned from that project here.
I didn't put any really complex thought into deciding what the first educational post was going to be about; I just came across an article that I found interesting, and went from there. In this case, it was an article from NASA about purchasing lunar regolith (yes, NASA.gov is my browser's homepage). There were two, primary dimensions to this article, and they're worth analyzing independently: in-situ resource utilization, and international space law.
This book, with its focus on Schriever and how he became known as the father of the high-technology Air Force, is more directly relevant to my professional life than most of what I read, what with the current efforts to stand up an independent Space Force. However, it is more than simply a chronicle of Schriever's efforts to build an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). In fact, for all that this book uses Schriever as a common thread, Schriever seemed to exist in this narrative to assist in bringing all of the other pieces and players to the stage at the right times
There was more than just discussion of Apollo in Rocket Men. Kurson sought to place the mission in its historical and geopolitical context. Although 1969 and Apollo 11 is what most people remember today, Apollo 8 and the events of 1968 were perhaps the true "moon shot" part of the entire program. Considering the events of this year, the inclusion of that context made for a more meaningful story. In 1968, America was torn by riots, deep political divisions, repeated tragedy, and a flu epidemic. Sound familiar? We do not today live in unprecedented times. History may not repeat itself, but as Mark Twain said, it does rhyme.
When I say that space has an image problem, I mean that the common conceptions of space are distorted. The typical person not only doesn't understand space, they don't understand what we do in space. That matters, because ordinary people interact with space technology on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. I don't just mean people like me, who work in the space industry. If you own a cell phone, or use a credit card, you are almost certainly interacting with space technology when you use those devices.