A Kickstarter Campaign Tailor-made for Space Policy Wonks

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SAN FRANCISCO — Space industry veteran Ron Jones is waging a social media campaign to revive an idea he initially conceived of in the mid-1980s: to publish a 100-year plan for human space exploration. “There are so many U.S., international and commercial players, it is important to show how various projects fit into the grand scheme, which will eventually lead us out into the solar system,” Jones said. 

Jones produced the original document, known as the Integrated Space Plan (ISP), in 1989 while working in Rockwell International’s Advanced Projects Group. His inspiration for the project came years earlier, however, when he was working as a Martin Marietta Aerospace Corp. systems engineer providing ground support for the space shuttle program at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. “The young guys I was working with had no understanding of how what we were doing fit into the bigger picture of the overall space program,” Jones said. 

When he was laid off in the wake of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger accident, Jones had time to think about the best way to show the relationship among space-related projects. He settled on a detailed flowchart, which he created in 1987 and 1988 using an Apple Macintosh computer supplied by his new employer, Rockwell International. At the time, Rockwell produced thousands of copies of the plan, which it used as a communications and marketing tool and distributed to NASA officials, policymakers in Washington, universities and aerospace companies, Jones said. 

“I wanted to show how each project fit together because people didn’t know,” he said. “Most people still don’t.”

In an attempt to remedy that, Jones is working with Jay Whittner, a partner in the Space Finance Group of Addison, Texas, and president of Kickstarter Coaching of Bradenton, Florida, to raise money and public support to produce an updated ISP by November. Jones, Whittner and a team of supporters launched a Kickstarter campaign in early June in an effort to raise $18,000 by July 27. They also advertised the project with television commercials that aired in Orlando, Florida, and Huntsville, Alabama, during the Fox series “Cosmos:  A Spacetime Odyssey.”

Money raised through the campaign will be used to purchase software, print posters of the updated ISP, publish it online and pay for the rewards the campaign promises to participants, including a printable version of the updated ISP for people who donate $15 and a fastener flown on a 1995 Space Shuttle Endeavour commercial payload for the first 18 people who pay $75.

As of June 30, $7,593 had been raised, or about 42 percent of goal. 

By publishing the new ISP online, Jones hopes to invite people to share information on space-related projects. “If you take the original ISP concept and make it available online, people around the world can see it and give input,” Jones said.

If the initial Kickstarter campaign is successful, Jones and his team may embark on a subsequent fundraising effort to defray the cost of creating an online database with more detailed information on space-related projects, such as engineering drawings and requirements. 

Scott Pace, director of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute in Washington, worked at Rockwell International when Jones produced the first ISP. He“I recall thinking the drawing program on the new Macintosh computers was really impressive,” he  said. 

Pace also lauded the idea of revising the plan. “I would be interested in seeing an updated plan simply because of how much has changed — and how much hasn’t — in 25+ years,” Pace said by email. “In particular, there are more private and international options today than there were back then.”

Nevertheless, the original plan was more of a wish list than a planning document because it did not take into account “any resource or technology constraints,” Pace said. “It’s a fun and educational document, but I don’t know how useful it would be for actual architecture or mission design work.”

Former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver also recalled the original document. “I liked it as a graphic depiction of the complexity and the audacity of our goals,” Garver said by email. “It gave us something to put next to our Mark Spitz or Farrah Fawcett poster.”

An updated ISP could, once again, show the “connectivity and overall scale of advancement of human exploration and development,” she added. “For me, the value is not  so much  in the specifics of what projects may or may not be necessary and the details and timing of what comes next in the plan. I am much too strong a believer in technology development, new discoveries, capitalism and markets to believe we can predict such specific progression.”