Jun 18 2008

The Worst of the West?

According to Kishore Mahbubani, formerly Singapore’s ambassador to the United Nations and currently a dean at the National University of Singapore, “…the West assumes it is the source of the solutions to the world’s key problems…In fact, however, the West is also a major source of these problems.” (Foreign Affairs, May/June, 2008.)

Of particular concern to those of us here at 21st Century Waves, Mahbubani insists that, “…the West has become the most powerful force preventing the emergence of a new wave of history…” But one doesn’t have to buy into his often entertaining and sometimes hyperbolic rhetoric to agree that, “The West has to learn to share power and responsibility for the management of global issues with the rest of the world.”

Around 1990, Otto Steinbronn and I, while at General Dynamics in San Diego, decided to try to imagine what a truly global space organization might look like. Otto had spent 12 years in Germany with the European Space Agency (ESA) as their Spacelab Engineering Manager, and I had just assembled a large team (including Asian and European companies) to support our Mars/Lunar work with NASA. The result appeared in Space Policy, “Interspace — Design for an International Space Agency,” (Nov, 1992). It appears likely that an Interspace-style organization will appear before 2015. (See The Forecasts)

Although our model seems complex it had only 3 key features:
1) Power would be shared equally among the 5 key players: Russia, Europe, Japan, and the U.S. (See Fig. 1); today we might add China. The non-core nations would select a country to represent them.
2) The main Interspace Organization would consist of 9 regional organizations that coordinate operations from Earth (Interlaunch) and LEO (Interorb) all the way eventually to Mars (Intermars); See Fig. 2.
3) Global space assets would be focused on Interspace programs that are developed and run using management structures like Intelsat or ESA. If there are many participants (e.g., lunar surface activities) the Intelsat-style organization is used (Fig. 3), but if there were only a few (e.g., for the interplanetary transportation system) the natural choice is the ESA-style of Fig. 4.

We felt the location of the Interspace Headquarters was of great symbolic and practical importance, and should be outside the 4 core countries. Although Singapore was an attractive finalist (along with Bangalore and Nairobi), we felt that Rio de Janeiro was ideal. Even back then, Otto and I didn’t want to be considered “the worst of the West”…

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