Most if not all people disagreed with my thoughts on bringing in various technologies in the last few posts about the architecture Doug Plata is laying out at spacedevelopment.org. On many blogs, and especially with many of the commenters on those blogs, I could dismiss their concerns almost out of hand and be right most of the time. On this blog, and with the known high quality of the majority of the commenters disagreeing with me, there is necessarily something else going on. Obviously I could be wrong with them pointing it out. Or there could be misunderstanding as I am not a professional writer that is crystal clear in laying out my ideas.
There is another possibility that came up in the email exchanges with Doug. How many of the disagreements spring from variations in the ideological base of the individuals involved. Life experiences and historical knowledge of space development does not resolve our differences. It can explain some of them so that we can move forward in developing ideas and eventually hardware.
Our viewpoints on space development could be viewed in the way a river develops. Most rivers in the eastern US grow on their way to the ocean. Rivulets, and creeks, and canals, other rivers, and lakes feed them up as they flow such that the river at the ocean is huge compared to its’ humble origins. In the southwestern US, some rivers have some of their vitality tapped off in so many places that the flow at the ocean is a fraction of the size of some upstream locations. Cities and farms and dams can reduce it to nothing in some cases. There are lawsuits about upstream usage before downstream availability.
Some of the discussion about space development mirrors river development. The question being if a given technology or suggestion is a tributary making the river bigger and stronger. Or is it a city or irrigation system draining the vital juices preventing the full flow to the destination. Much of spaceflight history is that of pet projects and congressional set asides draining the river en route such that the salt water flows upstream into the delta regions poisoning the freshwater plants that depend on the river. SLS is the current flagship for that view with the funds going to it and its’ precursors being more than sufficient for real progress if it had been properly focused. SLS could be seen as a city in the desert that built a dam that keeps the water from flowing to the downstream drought.
The various ideas I throw out could be tributaries or dams depending on the ideological approach involved. If funds are diverted from the main goals for endless toy development, potential dam. If they must fund their own way to the river, potential tributary. Whether or not the technology of a concept will work is important. Where the funding comes from, and which strings are pulled to get it is critical.
So in the recent discussions, who is right? There are a lot of variables that could make it either, both, or neither.