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Testimony of W.F. "Mitch" Mitchell given at a field hearing on "President's New Space Vision" Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

Status Report From: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
Posted: Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Given at a Science, Technology, and Space Field Hearing - President's New Space Vision Wednesday, February 18 2004 - 9:30 AM -

The Testimony of Mr. W.F. "Mitch" Mitchell President, Altair Development Corporation

Thank you for this invitation to share my views on the President's new space policy and to introduce NEO Safety International's efforts to help achieve the President's space goals.

I applaud the new space policy. This new direction and vision for the nation is long overdue. Having a clear picture of where to go and what to accomplish is the first step in any challenging new endeavor. I believe the President's bold vision is a worthy and honorable undertaking and that our great nation has the talent and the resources to make it a reality.

However, critics of the space policy abound. Even some staunch GOP supporters are having difficulty supporting the policy given the current large military budgets needed to fight a world wide war on terror and the precarious status of many of the nations social programs caused by large budget deficits. The bottom line is critics say the nation simply cannot afford this expensive vision solely to satisfy our need to explore and fulfill our scientific curiosity.

I believe the critics can be quieted and broad based support gained by acknowledging a far more serious reason for our nation to be in space.

The nation must develop space to mitigate the threat of impacts by asteroids and comets.

Only now are we becoming fully aware of the true life and death danger posed by these impact threats. There is currently a large number of concerned scientist and international experts studying the danger of impacts from Near Earth Objects (NEO's). The attached Space Defense Manifesto is the result of a logical analysis of that body of work.

Most experts agree that it is not a question of "If", but rather "When", the impact of an asteroid or comet will cause a serious global disaster. The worst case scenario even predicts destruction of all life on earth!

The "When" is statistically just as likely to be NOW as it is a thousand years from now. Therefore, we have an urgent and compelling reason to act to protect ourselves, our children and their children from this danger of NEO impacts.

NEO SAFETY INTERNATIONAL is a privately funded corporation that was formed to facilitate and expedite the rapid development of a space based defensive system to protect the planet from NEO impacts. The business plan of the corporation is in the early feasibility phase. However, some of the preliminary aspects of the plan are;

  • Perform fast track reconnaissance missions to several asteroids to learn their exact physical, chemical and mineral makeup.
  • Capture one or more relatively small asteroids and convert the raw elements into rocket fuel, structural materials and shielding devices needed to build a larger material processing spacecraft. Use the asteroid derived interceptor and material processing spacecraft to intercept progressively larger asteroids and convert them into incrementally larger interceptors and space bases.
  • Use this building block method to build a reasonable number of space bases equipped with a fleet of NEO interceptors.
  • Strategically locate these bases at positions within the inner solar system to reasonably assure ourselves that we are capable of intercepting any and all threats from comets and asteroids.
  • The first material processing base should be built at the Moon's L1 Lagrange location and it should also facilitate the development of a lunar base. This base should also be used to stage the President's proposed Mar's missions.

The development of the space defense system will be very difficult and challenging. Nevertheless, developing this system is doable and is absolutely necessary. Some of the key ingredients needed to successfully create the new infrastructure are;

  • Use Apollo/Space Shuttle era "off the shelf" technology for all initial missions. New technologies will be developed as needed.
  • Acquire a large percentage of the total mass needed for fuel and building materials from the mining and processing of the asteroids themselves. Only a relatively small mass will come from the Earth, i.e. food, computers, spacesuits etc.
  • Finance the early missions by selling the science discovered on the asteroids to NASA and other interested parties.
  • Command and control of all the interceptors will be by an international military coalition.
  • Individual interceptors will be sold and or leased to the U. S. Military and the militaries of other nations working to protect the planet.
  • The bases will be a traditional real estate type development with sales and leases to the various militaries, NASA, other space agencies, industrial companies, commercial entities, universities, research institutions, medical facilities and individuals.

Many of the President's goals for NASA and the exploration of space can be enhanced by developing resources from asteroids. Byproducts of the defense system will be:

  • Availability of affordable and limitless quantities of radiation shielding materials
  • Large supplies of low cost water and propellants available in near earth orbits
  • A vast array of metals, glasses and other building materials will be "for sale"
  • Other yet unknown "finds" will help service the new space industry

The project will be financed as a traditional real estate development. Ownership of private property, minerals and natural resources will be an essential ingredient for success. NEO Safety International will assume the development and financial risk. Our corporation will sell and lease facilities to the US Military and NASA as anchor customers and tenants. An International Military and Space Agencies Coalition will be co-anchors. Other target customers are industrial enterprises, commercial entities, universities, research institutions, medical facilities, financial/ service companies and individuals.

A few ways that Congress can help in starting this project are:

  • Enact enabling legislation where needed
  • Provide Tax incentives to owners, investors and lenders
  • Direct NASA and the DOD to prioritize and cooperate to create this defensive system Help create a Mutually Assured Protection (MAP) philosophy with other nations
  • Insure that private property rights and intellectual property rights laws are extended into the solar system

Our motivation to master space needs to no longer be based on exploration for exploration's sake. We now have a moral imperative. We must develop space to insure our survival and the lives of all who will follow. I also believe that the act of developing this defensive system will also spark a new space industrial revolution that will pay for itself in the creation of new wealth in sizes unimaginable it today's terms.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and member of the Committee.

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