We did a movie called A City upon a Hill and we had Buzz Aldrin in the movie, and he is so convincing, and he said you have to realize the only person who had gone around the Earth at that point was Yuri Gagarin, a Russian, and the only American who had been in space had been on a suborbital flight. And here’s the President saying we will get to the Moon inside this decade. And you had to invent everything. Yeah, we had all the precursors and we had the V-2 and we had this and we had that, but the truth was if you listed every problem they solved by July of 1969, its one of the great periods of development in human history. And they just did it.
I’m giving this background for our friends in the news media because twice recently Governor Romney has made fun of me for having bold ideas in space and has suggested that the idea of having a permanent lunar colony – he actually didn’t catch the weirdest thing I’ve ever done and I’m going to tell you all because sooner or later his researchers will find it – at one point early in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance for Space, and I said when we get – I think the number was 13,000 – when we have 13,000 Americans living on the Moon they can petition to become a state.
And here’s the difference between romantics and so-called practical people. I wanted every young American to say to themselves: I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be part of building a bigger, better future. I can actually go out and live the future looking at the solar system and being part of a generation of courageous people who do something big and bold and heroic.
And I will as President encourage the introduction for the Northwest Ordinance for Space to put a marker down that we want Americans to think boldly about the future and we want Americans to go out and study hard and work hard, and together we are going to unleash the American people to rebuild the country we love [applause].
So, I’m going to give you a set of goals and then I’m going to make a set of observations about how to achieve those goals.
By the end of my second term we will have the first permanent base on the Moon, and it will be American.
We will have commercial near-Earth activities that include science, tourism, and manufacturing, and are designed to create a robust industry precisely on the model that was developed by the airlines in the 1930s, because it is in our interest to acquire so much experience in space that we clearly have a capacity that the Chinese and the Russians will never come anywhere close to matching.
And by the end of 2020 we will have the first continuous propulsion system in space capable of getting to Mars in a remarkably short time, because I am sick of being told we have to be timid, and I’m sick of being told we have to be limited to technologies that are 50 years old.
Candidly, if we truly inspire the entrepreneurial spirits of America, we may get some of this stuff a lot faster. Now, I’m going to make some modest observations and some big observations.
Modest Observation Number 1: We should be practical about using equipment. That is, for example, the Atlas 5 ought to be interchangeable and ought to be as usable for NASA projects as it is for Air Force projects. We should get in the habit of absorbing small units of space. You know, it’s very difficult right now to get the bureaucracy to think about the fact that somebody is about to launch a commercial launch and it actually has a little extra space for 40 pounds, but that doesn’t fit either the NASA or the military model. When we fly troops around we normally fly them on commercial airliners with other people. So we’re used to the idea that you can share space. You can send things that don’t have to be a military-only aircraft, or a NASA-only aircraft. I just suspect that even the NASA administrators actually fly on commercial planes with other people. So I want to know if we break down all the bureaucratic barriers and we go to what I want to call a common sense model: If it’s cheaper, faster, and it works – do it!
Second: We need to learn how to do five or eight launches a day, not one. We need to get in the habit of saying: You know, this is going to be like an airport. We are going to be so busy – you know, if we are going to be getting to the Moon permanently and be starting to get to Mars and build this near-Earth capability, and do it all within eight years, we better start thinking more like airports than like space systems.
And we better start figuring out – so how are we going to manage this many things? It’s not that we can’t do it, it’s just that we just don’t push ourselves, we don’t think about it, we don’t design the systems for it. But I want constant activity. There’s a reason. The World War II generation built tons of airplanes, so the designers that came out of World War II made lots of mistakes. And they learned from them. If you are a military aircraft designer today, you are lucky if you work on more than one airplane in your lifetime. That’s how slow and cumbersome and bureaucratic we’ve become. You don’t have any learning curve.
I want us to have so much constant energetic, excited activities that people are learning again. And that we’re drawing the best talent in the country back to the Space Coast because it’s exciting and it’s dynamic and who knows what next week is going to be like. And does that mean I’m a visionary? You betcha!
You know, I was attacked the other night for being grandiose. I just want you to know: Lincoln standing at Council Bluffs was grandiose. The Wright Brothers going down to Kitty Hawk was grandiose. John F. Kennedy standing there saying we’ll get to the Moon in eight years was grandiose. I accept the charge that I am an American and Americans are instinctively grandiose because they believe in a bigger future.
Now just a couple more core observations. I want you to understand where I’m coming from. I very much believe in a project you can Google called Strong America Now, which is an effort to develop “Lean Six Sigma” for the Federal Government. I believe we’ve got to become agile, lean, competent, constantly evolving, and that means replacing the civil service laws that are 130 years old with a totally new practical management system that comes much closer to the way Boeing is doing the Dreamliner. Callista and I went down to Boeing outside of Charleston and they were walking us through – I don’t know how many of you know this, but this is just an example – The Dreamliner is built in Italy, Wichita, Japan, and Korea, and it’s flown in in units that are then brought together at Charleston. And they are walking around and they said this particular work area currently takes sixteen days – our goal is to get it down to six with the same number of people.
And I looked at that and I thought to myself – Department of Housing and Urban Development [laughter]. But let’s be honest, I could have said Air Force Space Command, I could have said NASA. I mean we want to become lean and aggressive, and here’s my bias: They told me in the Corps of Engineers that in order to improve the Port of Charleston so they could receive ships that are starting to come through the Panama Canal in 2014 when they finish widening it, that to do the study of the project takes eight years. Not the project – the study! And I said to them: you know we fought the 2nd World War in three years and eight months, so we beat Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan, in 44 months.
Now I want to imprint this on you because if I become your President…you will have a 365 day a year relentless pressure to be faster, quicker, leaner, more innovative, more thoughtful, more daring, more visionary.
So let’s go back to how to do it. I would want 10% of the NASA budget set aside for prize money. Lindberg flies to Paris for $25,000. You set up prizes – for example, I forget what the Bush administration estimate was, but it was something like $450 billion to get to Mars with a manned mission. So let’s put up $10 billion. And if somebody figures it out, we save $440 billion. If they don’t figure it out, it didn’t cost us anything.
But you’ll have for $10 billion – and I’d make it tax free because Americans love things tax free so much. It’s not the monetary value, it’s the psychic thrill that Uncle doesn’t get any of it. And this is why you are going to have to learn to have a lot more launches every day because if we put up the right prizes – and Bob Walker and I, shortly before I left Congress, actually hosted a two-day National Academy of Engineering Workshop on prizes, which is online, as it was published, and we were talking about the historic use of prizes going back to the 17th Century. You put up a bunch of interesting prizes, you are going to have so many people showing up who want to fly, it’s going to be unbelievable.
So the model I want us to build is largely the model of the 20s and 30s, when the government was actively encouraging development, but the government wasn’t doing it. The government was paying a reward, it was subsidizing the airmail, it was doing a variety of things. There were prizes – you know, Jimmy Doolittle got famous winning prize money before World War II, then he got famous for bombing Tokyo; I mean, he had a life that was very interesting.
We’d be better off to do 1% of the current studies and ten times the number of experiments just flying. If it doesn’t work we’ll walk off saying, well, that was kind of interesting. There is a great story of Bernie Shriver, who had been the great leader of Air Force ICBM development, calling his successor, and his said: “You know, you’ve had 17 successful launches,” and the guy said – he was very proud – “You’re right.” And he [Bernie] said: “You’re not trying, because if you had been trying you would have inevitably made mistakes. You’re only doing stuff that’s safe, what you already know how to do.”
So I came here today to ask you, because you’re here, and you know people all over the country who believe in space, you know how exciting it can be at its best, you know what a total mess, what an embarrassment our current situation is. How can we build a bureaucracy this big and get into a period when we rely on the Russians, while we watch the Chinese plan to surpass us, and we sit around bureaucratically twiddling our thumbs with no real reform?
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.