Space Access Update #113 01/04/06 
                 Copyright 2006 by Space Access Society 

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We'll get back to talking about the rest of the world shortly, in our 
next Update.  This issue will be strictly about us, Space Access Society 
and its founder and longtime Executive Director, Henry Vanderbilt.   

I am going to drop tradition now and forego the editorial "we".  The 
collective speaking-for-Space-Access-Society "we" will still pop up as 
needed, but for reasons that will shortly become clear, I want to get 
into practice clearly distinguishing my curmudgeonly personal views from 
the carefully considered collective positions of that enigmatic virtual 
organization, Space Access Society. 

Yes, all you colleagues, fellow-travellers, supporters, and seeing-what-
those-loons-are-up-to-this-time readers out there, after thirteen years 
as Chief Cook & Bottle-Washer of this outfit, I am moving on.  When I 
got into this movement twenty years ago, my main ambition wasn't to do 
policy and politics - I wanted to build spaceships.  Policy and politics 
was a means to an end.  The time has arrived for me personally to go 
help bend metal and burn propellant.  More on that in a bit. 

Somewhat paradoxically (at least if you've assumed all there is to SAS 
is the highly visible bit, me) this will mean that SAS's Updates will 
come out more regularly, its website will be better maintained, and its 
annual Space Access conference (April 20th-22nd in Phoenix Arizona, we 
should have a hotel contract to announce within days) will continue to 
improve and grow. 

So, how does SAS achieve these things while losing its Fearless Leader? 
What happens to SAS, post-Henry?  We, the ongoing confidential and 
somewhat arbitrarily self-selected discussion group I will be handing 
executive authority back to, have spent a lot of time thrashing that 
question in recent weeks, and come to a number of conclusions.  

First, we don't think it practical to find one person to replace me.  
The list of people we know with the variety of skills involved willing 
to do the job for (in a good year) something approaching part-time 
minimum wage is, uh, short.  The danger of losing focus and diluting or 
diverting our viewpoint in going over to a traditional non-profit with 
fulltime paid staff seems acute; none of us has the time and energy to 
guarantee such against agenda drift, bylaw-twiddling, donor-catering, 
and other such time-honored diversions of space activist energies. 

Second, we've concluded that SAS does need to continue.  Its key 
products - its optimistic viewpoint that radically cheaper space 
transportation is both highly desirable and possible without radical new 
technology, its hard-headedly realistic views on how to actually get 
there from here, and its annual conference where players in this new 
field get together, brainstorm, trade information, and make deals - are 
useful enough not to abandon lightly. The approach we've been pushing 
all these years is finally gaining acceptance and showing signs of 
working, but we've seen the revolution "unstoppable" before.  It's too 
soon to declare victory and throw a dissolution party.  

The answer we've come up with is to go even more minimalist-virtual than 
we already are - to identify the essential tasks, slice them up among 
our various selves finely enough so we can all go on making our various 
livings, and carry on.  The result should be an improvement in most 
things we do. I've been more than a little distracted in recent years, 
and have tended to let slide all but the highest-priority items.  Again, 
more on that in a bit. 

The chief downside we can see is that absent a single executive able to 
make policy decisions on the spot, we are likely to move more slowly and 
deliberately in anything short of a major crisis.  This is not 
necessarily a bad thing, we think.  In general we think being right 
trumps being first in this field - we're in this for the long haul. 

Practical details: I will be winding down my involvement and handing 
off various slices of this job over the coming weeks. 

 - SAS will stop accepting donations and paid memberships immediately - 
the annual conference should cover all our reduced expenses for now.  
Our - my - heartfelt thanks to all the people who've supported SAS with 
membership dues and donations over the years.  We couldn't have gotten 
this far without you.  As for new memberships, Space Access Society is a 
state of mind as much as it is anything.  If you believe radically 
cheaper space access is both hugely important and near-term possible, 
you're one of us.  Pay your dues by doing what you can to advance the 
cause as the chance arises. 

 - Contact with Space Access Society will be via email; the office phone 
will be gone shortly.  There will at some point be several email boxes 
on the website for various departments - Press 
Inquiries, Conference Questions, Letters To The Editor, Mail-List 
Signup, and others as may become needed.  For now use the email for all of these.  We will retain 
the paper mailbox at 5515 N 7th St #5-348, Phoenix AZ 85014, but it will 
be checked infrequently other than right before the Space Access 
conference, as we intend to use it mainly for conference registrations 
and business.  All other contacts are best made via email. 

 - I will continue to work for SAS in one capacity: Organizing the 
annual Space Access conference.  That's the one part of this job I can't 
hand off right away - there are a lot of non-obvious details involved in 
putting a conference together successfully - so I will end up doing it 
for a while longer.  But I will be SAS's Conference Manager only.  I 
will not speak for SAS in public or make on-the-spot policy decisions 
for SAS anymore.  Come the conference I will likely stick to technical 
and schedule work while someone else MC's.  If you don't like your 
speaking timeslot or Registration has lost your badge, talk to me, but I 
will no longer be the go-to guy on SAS policy questions.  SAS will come 
up with official spokespersons when needed, but in general, the SAS 
policy contact point will be the website email. 

A question that's bound to come up, sooner more likely than later: 
Impartiality in running the conference.  I will soon be working for a 
player in this industry.  My soon-to-be new boss approves of the 
conference enough that he's agreed to allow me to go on running it on 
the side, and will even donate some of my company time as a form of 
sponsorship of the conference.  Other companies are invited (and 
encouraged - easy terms, no money down, talk to me and we'll make a 
deal!) to be conference sponsors also.  All sponsors will be listed 
equally in the program and in all publicity.  If anyone has a problem 
with scheduling, I will as always do my best to work it out 
satisfactorily.  And if anyone has a problem with who is or is not 
invited to speak at the conference, I can but assure them that I will as 
always do my best to put together as interesting, informative, and 
useful a conference as possible, that I will under the circumstances 
bend over backwards to see that dissenting views are represented fairly, 
and that all such issues will have been run past SAS's core 
decisionmakers; none will be the result of my prejudices alone. 

                                Why Now? 

It has been over thirteen years since I and a group of like-minded fans 
of Radically Cheaper Space Transportation founded Space Access Society, 
in order to promote development of RCST, ASAP.  We had come to realize 
we were a tiny minority, both in believing RCST possible in the near 
term, and in having a coherent program to achieve it.  We had also 
realized we could be a tiny minority and still be effective, given sound 
ideas and appropriate tactics.  Minority pressure-group tactics, plus 
"There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets 
the credit"...  But important issues were falling through the cracks 
because we all had lives and jobs; our viewpoint needed to be more 
consistantly and persistantly put forth if it was to have any chance of 
catching on. 

Space Access Society was our answer.  After I'd been agitating for 
*someone* to do it for over a year, I ended up being the one who got 
laid off and suddenly had the time, back in 1992.  I called for 
volunteers, eveyone else took one step back, and there I was... 

The intent of SAS has never been to empire-build; in my tenure I've 
always kept to the minimum structure necessary to do the job.  Indeed, 
when I first started, SAS was designed to be disposable, on the theory 
that in five years we'd have succeeded, SAS would no longer be needed, 
and I could get a life again.  Hah.  I have, ahem, learned a bit about 
patience and persistance since then. 

It's just as well that I'd never forgotten how to live like a starving 
student - things were tight.  Most everything we could have done to 
raise substantial extra money involved compromising the mission, doing 
things I hated and/or wasn't good at, or both.  We more or less got by.  
But a few years ago, I decided I had better not go on ignoring how deep 
into a high-interest hole I'd fallen.  So I started working my way back 
out, which cut seriously into the time and energy I could put into SAS.  
I like to think I've still managed to cover the most urgent essentials 
since then, but I haven't been happy with how I've been doing this job 
for a while now. 

I recently realized that I've personally outlasted the entire L-5 
Society, that it has been one hell of an interesting ride with any 
number of truly fine people, but that I am seriously overdue to move on. 
SAS has become overly identified with me in any case; it's always been 
far more than one individual.  And finally, after twenty years in the 
trenches, I'm exhausted with politics.  I look forward to backing off 
from the ongoing policy thrash and bending metal instead. 

Did I mention I'll be going to work for a rocket company in the near 
future?  I'll leave it to my new employers to make whatever fuss about 
that they think appropriate when the time comes.

It's been a long strange road for the six-year-old boy who, watching one 
of the Mercury-Atlas countdowns on the family black-and-white, heard the 
announcers say they threw the $10 million rocket away every flight, and 
thought to himself "they're never going to spend that much to send me up 
there".  Twenty-four years later, I started working to change all that.  
Forty-four years later, I have a chance to go build affordable 
spaceships.  I'm going for it.

God bless you all, especially those of you who'll go on laboring in the 
political vineyards.  Nobody appreciates what you do more than I. 

                                    Henry Vanderbilt
                                    7:56 pm mst, January 4th, 2006 


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 "Reach low orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the Solar System" 
                                        - Robert A. Heinlein