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Rick Tumlinson Headshot

All of the Above

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I am a spacer. It is what and who I am. It is my cause and my life. I am not an enthusiast, a fan or supporter. It is what I exist to do here on Earth. And there are many of us, some, like Elon Musk are very high profile. Others, like me and those who are out there working the cause from blogging to building rockets are not. But we are here to do one thing -- expand the domain of life and humanity beyond the Earth. Yet we can get pretty stupid in our movement over destinations, topics and technologies. I guess it's human nature, as every group breaks into factions yet at a time when we are trying to be taken seriously, it can confuse people -- especially when it moves from being about where you want to go and what you want to do to why the others are idiots.

The Moon! Mars! Asteroids! Rockets! Helium 3! Space solar power! Space tourism! We go through fads, swarm around the hero de jour, and spend far too much time trashing the other guy's ideas in favor of our own.

All of them are seen by some as the magic bullet, and yet none of them are.

Over the years, I have supported them all, because I believe it all works together. I helped start the XPrize, arranged for the first $100k to be given to the Mars Society, edited a book called Return to the Moon, funded HE3 research, laser launch, beamed power and more. Now I am working on Free Space, the place between worlds, and its major resources, supplies, sunlight and vacuum with my partners in Deep Space Industries. And ironically, some now attack me for being focused on the wrong thing (their thing of course being "right"). Instead -- according to these usually armchair astronauts -- I should still be fighting for lower cost launch (did that for 20 years), a return to the Moon (yes we should), or humans to Mars (Elon and Tito have that covered, with NASA bringing up the rear -- and I want to sell them all gas, water and cheeseburgers for the road trip.)

Not only is this "My way IS the highway" attitude missing the point, it is naïve, ignorant and harmful to our cause. If there is only one mantra that we can all share in this battle for the hearts and minds of the world it should be: "All of the Above!"

This new revolution is not a limited sum game. It is exactly the opposite. It is about allowing people to use their own energy, ideas and resources to get up and out there and do what people do best -- create. I admit there some dumb ideas out there. But almost none of these are about the technology or destination, and almost all are about a mistaken understanding of the reason, rationale and disagreement about the results to be obtained, how and why.

So let's focus on agreeing on those so we can get off this rock. Then we can all go and play in our own sandboxes, be it red sand, grey sand or sand that floats with our own friends and using our own toys.

This means getting on message as they say. And like the Republican caucus we should get good at using the same words until they stick:

The goal of the human race is to expand civilization and life beyond the Earth.

The opening of space to human development and settlement is the most important activity of the human species. From hope to health, from wonder to wealth, the environment and the very act of living, space is the future.

It affects all other activities and unless it is allowed, encouraged and yes, supported, all other human activities will in the end be meaningless (literally, as in The End).

Next, there are three basic things we should all always highlight when we speak to the press, friends and politicians, as these are the Three Keys to the Frontier:

1. Regular, reliable and low cost access to and from space. (Meaning -- what it says.)
2. Utilization of the resources of space, wherever they are, for whatever purpose we need. (Meaning -- we must learn to live off of the land for whatever we need, and to harvest space resources to create what we want.)
3. A government that understands and supports the idea of an open and expanding human frontier in space, by, of and for the people. (Meaning -- at a minimum they get out of the way. At the median they aim their activities towards those that enhance our ability to do so. Ideally they support the opening of the frontier through pro-active policies, mandates to purchase goods and services using best business practices and yes, supporting the financing of pro-frontier activities through incentives, bonding and subsidies.)

That's it. If we can get our governments to at least get out of the way and perhaps even agree to the priority of supporting the opening of the frontier; if we can get there and back cheaply and routinely, and if once there we can harvest what we need to live and prosper, it will begin, and it will perhaps Never end.

Each of us is good at something, passionate about something and able to contribute something -- be it a billion to build a rocket, an idea that makes flying a rocket cheaper, a hand to turn a wrench that helps build a rocket, a plan to make a place for a rocket to go, a painting to show what we will see when we look out a rocket's window, an hour a week of time to help tell the story of a rocket and the reason it exists to someone who doesn't know why it is so important, or to describe its destination and how it will change forever what it means to be human and even be able to build rockets.

And we can do it all without trashing each others ideas. In fact we can do it by supporting one another whenever we can. Sure, some of us are competing for this and that funding or customer. That's business. But we can still support each other. In fact we actually Need each other, desperately, if we are to succeed at all.

As Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Universe put it: "Space is big." There is room on this new ocean for everyone, for every dream, every type and nuance of every possible way of being living and existing. And until we get this cause truly launched with the voyages begun and the new lands out there made home to whoever wants to go there, either all boats rise together, or we sink alone.

Let's get the message straight and stay on that message. When it comes to space, we want All of the Above!

Adapted from a piece in Ad Astra Magazine/The National Space Society