Dream It. Plan It. Do It.


“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.”
–Henry David Thoreau

“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.

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4 thoughts on “Dream It. Plan It. Do It.

  1. I love this statement Joe: “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.” It gives a sense of tangibility to the concept of a vision.

    I appreciate your continued stand for the possible in the face of the probable.

  2. There’s an old saying that goes “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” … but planning and execution are two different things. I don’t think the people decrying the change in direction don’t have a vision or a plan. I think they’re stuck in the “one true way to space” mode and don’t want to look at anything that isn’t “their way” – mostly out of reasonable belief that there isn’t funding for multiple paths.

    And that’s the key to the “flexible path” … there isn’t money enough to build a functional space using civilization … at least not with one-use vehicles. What they seem to miss is that developing a fully reusable single stage to orbit vehicle means you’re operating costs are governed by the cost of your propellents, not the cost of building another vehicle. If we can help them see this key point, it’ll dawn on them that the money saved in launch costs can be used to build infrastructure on-orbit that will support going multiple places in space, and doing it affordably.

    As Heinlein so aptly pointed out, LEO is half way to anywhere in the solar system. We need to start exploring from LEO, not from the surface. We need to have the capability of getting to LEO for 2 or 3 orders of magnitude less cost than Shuttle or Constellation can give us. But weening off the government “works program” teat is not going to be fun. Withdrawal symptoms will be painful.

    If we’d learned from DC-X 10 years ago and done X-33 as an X program not a crap shoot (choose the *fewest* new technologies, not the most!) we’d likely have had a working SSTO vehicle and no lapse in launch capability. But we didn’t. And we’re paying for it.

    • Thank you for the comment. Your point about getting to LEO for 2-3 orders of magnitude less in cost is why I’m pulling for the commercial efforts to succeed.

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