The View From Here

E pluribus unum – astra praeter

Written by: developer

Out of many, one — to the stars and beyond. As the curtain prepares to go up on the 32nd Space Symposium, I am mindful of the fact that, despite the amazing growth and many transformations of the event over the years, its purpose has never really changed.

As we first stated in our charter back in 1983:
“to foster, develop and promote, among the citizens of the United States of America and among other people of the world … a greater understanding and awareness … of the practical and theoretical utilization of space … for the benefit of civilization and the fostering of a peaceful and prosperous world.”

Over the decades the space “industry” has become a global space community, more complex, with more sectors, more spacefaring nations, more space agencies, more research organizations, colleges and universities, more government and non-government actors, and more value to society than ever before. The Space Symposium has reflected this transformation, becoming larger, more complex, more international and with more “moving pieces” than ever before. And yet, our single minded focus for the Space Symposium, not too dissimilar from the national motto that was originally proposed by the U.S. Congress on August 20, 1776, has never wavered.

What prompts these thoughts, “out of many, one – to the stars and beyond,” is an excellent blog written for Security Debrief by my long-time friend, Rich Cooper. Well known in our community for his years of executive service with both NASA and the Department of Homeland Security, Cooper was blogging about “Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space,” a white paper jointly released by a coalition of space advocacy groups, led by the Space Foundation, AIAA, AIA, the Commercial Spaceflight Foundation and the American Astronautical Society, and including the Aerospace States Association, Coalition for Deep Space Exploration, Colorado Space Coalition, Satellite Industry Association, Silicon Valley Space Business Roundtable, Space Angels Network, Space Florida and the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

“Ensuring U.S. Leadership in Space” is a national space policy guidance document, crafted by the above-named organizations, in order to communicate positive, forward-looking analysis of the importance of the exploration, development and utilization of space to all aspirants to the office of President of the United States, and to other current and future elected officials. Released in an event at The National Press Club on March 4, the White Paper is already in the hands of all the major presidential campaigns, as well as all 50 U.S. Governors and Lieutenant Governors, and is weaving its way through the labyrinth of Capitol Hill.

You can download the White Paper here.

While providing a strongly positive analysis of “Enduring,” what Cooper singled out as most extraordinary was the collaboration of the 13 advocacy groups toward a single work product, with a unified voice, advocating broadly for the future of the entire space community. He speculated that it just might be the space community’s “E Pluribus Unum” moment.  (I’ve added the “astra praeter.”)

I hope he’s right.  

As a community, we’ve always been hyper competitive, even when we’re trying to collaborate with one another. I’m no social anthropologist, but I ascribe a lot of this winner-take-all mentality to the Cold War environment from which we were born. To a great extent, the community was initially shaped by a cold warrior class. We were taught to believe that space was a zero-sum game, and there were only win-lose scenarios.
Today, we mostly know better. Yes, there are still win-lose scenarios, but it is possible to shape many of them into win-win scenarios. A victory for a large government program is not a defeat for commercial spaceflight enterprises. Positive developments in the satellite sector have positive spillover for the space science sector. Human exploration and robotic exploration are complementary and mutually advantageous. We are massively interdependent upon one another. It is no longer useful to strictly describe one’s self as a space technologist, or space scientist, or space engineer, or space policy wonk, or space innovator, inventor, lawyer, entrepreneur; nor as a spectrum person, GeoInt or PNT person, researcher, academic, economist, new space, old space, upstream, downstream or what ever other “apart” descriptor you want to use.

We are all space people.

We are all in this together.

And we need each other if, as a global enterprise, community or movement, we are to succeed.

I’ve often heard this described as “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And it is certainly true. One of the us-them arguments that has always made me nuts is when people cry that funding this exploration program or that Earth observation program “takes away” funding from “pure science,” whatever the hell that is. At least where government space programs are concerned the data is conclusively against that assertion. Historically, when the government is of a mind to fund research and development, all government research and development benefits. So the metallurgists should be cheering for the molecular biologists, who should be cheering for the deep space endurance researchers, who should be cheering for propulsion scientists, ad infinitum.

To repeat, we are all in this together.

But, since we’re space people, we need a spacefaring, rather than seafaring, analogy. I heard this wonderfully expressed by my friend Sandy Magnus of AIAA, whom, during our event at The National Press Club, described a “bubble of space exploration and development” that includes all sectors of the space community, and which is expanding further and further from Earth’s surface and deeper and deeper into space. It is a bubble in which there is room at every conceivable altitude, orbit or trajectory for civil, commercial and national security space programs and actors. For local, national, regional, international, global, interplanetary and interstellar programs. For every size, scale and manner of commercial, industrial, academic, public, private and government space endeavor.

A huge group of us will be gathering later this month for the 32nd Space Symposium, in Colorado Springs. The Symposium has always been a “big tent,” where every person and organization that is part of our amazing enterprise is welcome, and none are excluded. Besides being the largest and most important annual conference for the global space community, it is also commonly regarded as the annual space family reunion. Every root, stem, trunk, branch, leaf, blossom and nut from our space family tree is welcomed.

It’s an approach we all need to take more often, as we pursue our organizational missions all throughout the year. We’re all part of that ever expanding bubble of space exploration, development and utilization.

The View From Here is that we are strongest when out of many, we are one. To the stars and beyond.

E pluribus unum – astra praeter

Looking forward to seeing you at the 32nd Space Symposium.

This article is part of Space Watch: April 2016 (Volume: 15, Issue: 4).