“Daddy, what does your shirt say?”
This was a question from my 5-year-old daughter the other night as I was carrying her upstairs to bed. That evening I happened to be wearing one of my Texas Longhorn football T-shirts, of course. “Carleigh, it says ‘Dream it. Plan it. Do it.’” I pointed to the words with my free hand.
“Daddy, I like that.” And she snuggled her head against my neck. “I like it too, Carleigh.”
Fast forward a few days. Last night I had the occasion to meet with several members of Masten Space Systems over beers while we talked about numerous topics concerning entrepreneurial space and NASA. I was drawn to the conversation centering around a powerful vision of providing reusable and affordable access to suborbital space for education purposes, a path for getting there based upon “build a little test a lot”, and measurable success to date. Dave pointed out how the model for this approach is actually one with which human spaceflight is familiar: Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. See what they are about for yourself: http://masten-space.com. The seven (!) member outfit has flown a number of demonstration flights and has even won one of the $1 million Centennial prizes. “Dream it. Plan it. Do it.” applies to Masten Space Systems in every aspect.
These two apparently unconnected experiences bring me to the Thoreau quote at the top of this entry: “The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
As Paul Spudis has repeatedly pointed out, many in the human spaceflight community are confusing the ends with the means. I view the confusion as a variant of “looking at” the situation instead of “seeing.” I’ve written about concerns of leadership with the rollout of the President’s budget and follow-up actions; that is also a form of “looking at” instead of “seeing.” The debate of robotic exploration versus human exploration and Constellation architecture versus other options is also “looking at” instead of “seeing.” I can go on and on.
As I consider a way to move forward, I see a path based upon the simple phrase, “Dream it. Plan it. Do it.” Here is what I mean. One of the first steps we need to take is to “Dream it.” Imagine a vision built upon convergence, in which we see the direction, can envision the reward, feel the inspiration, can vividly picture the end state, and know with certainty that it will happen eventually. Direction, reward, inspiration, vivid, and eventual. DRIVE. My version of the foundation of such a vision is one I’ve shared previously: a sustainable human presence in space, in which any of us can go to visit – even to live. Now how cool would that be? Next is “Plan it.” The path must be built around specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound goals and objectives. SMART. Redirect the argument over capabilities versus destinations and the “us versus them” mentality into the definition a path built upon SMART goals and objectives. Finally is “Do it.” Execute the plan in collaboration and partnership with other government agencies, commercial and entrepreneurial efforts. Think bigger than NASA. Prove that a routine and affordable presence in space is attainable in a timely fashion.
Dream it. Plan it. Do it. Let’s get on with it.