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Interview of Peter Glaser by John Elder on 1994 November 1,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Some of the topics discussed include: his Jewish childhood and early education in Czechoslovakia; his family's escape from the Nazi takeover; his education as an engineer in England; fighting with the Czech army during World War II; his return to Czechoslovakia after the war; his emigration to the U.S. where he earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Columbia University; his employment as a consulting engineer at D. Little in Cambridge, Mass. where he spent his career; his resolve to obey the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm;" Cryogenic insulation; lunar surface research and experiments; von Braun rocket team; space solar power; thermal imaging; Krakatit (the book).
This is December 1, 1994. I'm interviewing Peter Glaser, I'm John Elder.
Did I say December?
I'm sorry. November 1st. And I said that I have been reading a bunch of articles that I'd collected and that he had given me about — mostly about solar power, and what magazines they appeared in, which brings up the following story.
Whenever you come up with something which is sort of far-fetched and not in [phone rings loud] the nature of water going downhill —
— you will find lots of people who have only a dim idea of what I'm talking about. But a very strong opinion why it won't work. And what interests me, and I guess you mentioned the articles; I haven't done the research myself by trying to recall all of those articles. But any new idea is grease for the mill for people who either have their own ax to grind, who have ideological beliefs, who have very strong opinions what is right for humanity. And it would be an interesting study for somebody to just go and look at all the articles which have been written with negative — sort of reasons, why this shouldn't be done. I remember Mother Jones' article was which is worthwhile reading because it was a purely political polemic —
— that this would be controlled by the big cooperations. And that, in spite of my making the points that this would be international and are controlled by most of the world's countries, which that was my view. And this idea, of course, runs counter to the way that the [???] is not owned by Hughes Aircraft or Hughes Aerospace. And then there were a lot of people who were internationally saying, "Well, that's a subjugating of the third world countries by the developed countries." So these are the whole series of that kind of views, which I feel, well, it's the opposite, that I felt I was really working on to provide energy to these countries, which, otherwise would have trouble. And then there are people who feel that society will lose control over this instead of the technical problem of a new kind of thing that unless it's controlled will do unknown damage. And that, again, flies in the face of just about every new technology that we have developed. So, I think that kind of thing ranges from individuals with — who have hardly ever read anything about it, and sort of spout their own opinions. To even learn a cannon is like our National Academy of Sciences, which was asked by the Department of Energy to write a critique. And that's the worthwhile reading because, essentially, they cut off the SPS reference system. That was it, and thou shalt never think beyond it.
And so that — and it did a lot of damage because of that critique was negative and several of the people just felt this is the wrong thing for the nation to do. And I'm not saying that they aren't justified to their own opinions, but I recall one thing that — well, the statement of solar cells will always be too heavy, lower efficiency, and you can't produce enough, and all that kind of stuff. And that was perhaps true in the thinking of the 1970s, but certainly is not the way I think we can go with them from solar cells, and if you can things on a chip then why can't we do things that way?
So, the gambit of our position is very broad and the favored one is, well, it to lift all of these things will cost too much, you know, five to ten thousand dollars a pound. You know, you're talking trillions of dollars. Without looking at the fact that in the early days of the airplane, I guess to fly across the Atlantic, would have been per person, a hundred thousand dollars, or whatever it would be. So I find that this is typical of the way any new concept has to go through this kind of — let's say, gauntlet, until enough people have taken the trouble to really look at it and see for themselves whether this is a positive or negative thing. And I am pleased that this is being done both in the US and Japan and Russia and the Ukraine and where is this China and India, and that there are places which have to weigh, "Does this make sense under certain circumstances? How does it compare to other options?" So, I think this in itself would occupy a lot of study and effort to see how new ideas are treated, and only those ideas which are a zilliant [?] enough, certainly can exist.
Yeah, I also wonder in a certain sense, what difference a lot of this makes, because —
Well, to me personally? None at all.
Well, no, to the progress of the idea. Because I think one of the critics you mentioned, I think is right. It is out of the hands of most people.
And as a consequence it doesn't matter whether they like them. It won't be whether these people like or not that determines whether it gets done or not.
Well, if we have a national and international communications system, is that controlled by individuals?
No, not at all.
That's the same kind of thing.
I mean, the thing is — so you can say, for example, nobody ever asked the public whether they wanted the kind of vast phone system that they now have. Basically they just did it.
For better or for worse.
For better or for worse. So, does it matter? Do you think — I mean, in other words, does it matter whether these —
Well, let me say, I certainly — as an individual was aware of these objections, and to the best of my ability, I tried to show how we can deal with them. I find it is educational to say nay-sayers, because that sort of provides some other sorts and ways to deal with them. So, I think that is useful. Now, destructive criticism — you know, when you say, "Well, it will never work because human brains cannot, you know, deal with this kind of —" I mean that I cannot — it's like today in the Science Times, they talk about the cosmological constant, which Einstein felt was a terrible mistake he made, and may perhaps be the only way to explain the universe. So, one never knows what a real kind of problems are that we don't know about yet. What I believe is going to be happening as more and more people begin to realize that this option is worthwhile studying. Then they can focus on some of the details of the technical or economical societal, and see how those compare with the other options that we have. And I'm not saying that space based energy is the only option; it's one of the options. And what I have maintained all along is that we need to examine several options, rather than leaving it sort of somehow miraculously that the one option we think is good, that's the one we'll forever go with.
Did any of your — did you ever meet with an opposition that you decided might actually be right, and you'd have to change your tune a bit to —
Well, I think the opposition actually helped me. Because obviously, I was just one person thinking about these things and then by thinking — you know, is that, you may be right, let me think about. It helped me define better — for example, I never felt that you should go today announce they're going to build a solar power satellite system, consisting of X number of satellites to provide a [???] of power. I think that was just impossible, nobody ever said, "But you're now going to build — I don't know how many 747s there in the world." You know, the Wright brothers said, "We're now going to build X 747s to transport people all around the world." And that isn't the way technology development works. You go, and that's why I introduce the concept of terracing.
How do you go from one step to the next? And how do you get the most out each step to let you get the most out of each terrace?
Was there anything that you ever, say, said or wrote that you subsequently decided was just wrong? You had it wrong?
I think I really, perhaps was not wrong, but I didn't have enough information in some of these areas. For example, I did not at first expect that the environmental groups would be opposed to it for ideological reasons. Because of the, you know, small is beautiful, primarily. And I felt that the people who should have been most supportive were the environmentalists. Because all the other things, you know, when I said, "Well, this is an option which allows us to go without all the dangers of nuclear power." Now, remember, I was at an institution where nuclear power was started in it's infancies, and there were quite a few people at Columbia who, you know, were somewhat nervous about some of those things. We didn't know enough about nuclear power, and I felt, "Well, I'm not saying we shouldn't use nuclear power as an engineer, I'm sure I can design a safe nuclear power plant." But there are all these other issues that you are now understanding and that's why we're not building many nuclear power plants, although there is a large group of people who — and I feel that it's partly sort of the feeling of guilt. You know, we were in — and we killed a lot of people. And in order to get over this, we're saying, "Well, we now want to use the peaceful uses of nuclear power." Whether it was to dig big holes in the ground and all that kind of stuff. And I always was sure that somewhere perhaps we can develop nuclear power on a global scale, but I have never seen anybody really deal with the real issues. And that is, how do you do it really safe? Unfortunately, anything done by human hands — only God is perfect. Man is not. And thus if it's imperfect, there is very little margin for error. So, I felt that this one sided focus on nuclear power and exclusion of every other option which was — they felt attacked because I talked about another global option, and it isn't just nuclear, it's a fusion as well. For reason the physics community really felt very — and they tried to have every argument why this is arrant nonsense. And, well, here we are today after nearly 30 years and it isn't considered arrant nonsense. So the fusion community, the nuclear community, on the one hand each was a technical reasons — I'm not sure if they were technical or they had personal reason basically. And I'm not saying that we should go ahead and do this, but what I've been saying is that here's an option which deserves to be looked at. Now, I approached the National Academy several years ago, and said, "Look, you wrote this report. It isn't the most stellar piece of work you've ever done. Why don't you revisit it? Because you said it should be revisited." In that critique, it said, "Well, you should look at it after five or ten years, and see whether R&D has progressed, and whereas technology is economics, etcetera." Well, essentially, the National Academy said no, they don't want to. Nothing new has been done in this field. Well, I think that was astounding to me, because obviously a lot of new things have been done. All the work of the people who are interested in going to the moon and getting lunar materials, advances in rocketries, advances in materials. I mean, solar cells of 1960s are quite obsolete, as opposed to the kind of things that the National [???] Energy Laboratory talks about. So I think that there is a polemic here that has not been really looked at adequately. Why is it that the National Academy does not want to have another look? Why does DOE does not want to have a program — I don't care what [???] it is, but there is nova — no program at all. And, in fact, you can't talk about it in DOE. And NASA, you can't talk about for other reasons. They're afraid somebody will again hit them over the heads. You know, it's an energy program, not a space program. And you know, the National Space Society is obviously one of the societies and the AIAA and encouraged, they now have agreed to look at this again. In fact, we have a meeting in Washington November 9th, and it will be a meeting in Hawaii. This is sort of a [???] meeting of the International Activities Board of the AIAA. The IEEE, as a committee which is looking at this, and particularly the safety of microwaves. So, the Japanese have been looking at all of these aspects. And the Russians and the Europeans. So, I feel that this is not just, you know, why is it that still in the US some of these people are not willing to say, you know, all they know, well, we did some work in the 1970s and the world stood still, since then. And it really has not. And I think that, I feel, is a problem for the United States, not now. It will be a problem in a few decades, because if we have no research on going, whereas other countries do, and if there will be a program it will be not led by the US. This economic impact on the US, which I think not yet taken into account.
Although the US has a — can sort of do spectacular feats of catching up.
Well, that is true up until a point.
It just costs a lot of money if you want to go and make up for lost time.
Yeah. But we have a kind of tradition. I don't think people decide, but, I mean, there's a sort of — there's a lot of successful, very successful examples.
Like the space raisin [?] lake [?] —
Getting into giant wars in the middle and winning them.
You know, there's a [???] which says, "Be successful in business. You want to be a successful second." Well, I think there are a number of people in business schools who now realize that the days for being a successful second have just about gone. I might sight you an example, in your field of IBM and Microsoft.
In our field IBM could be a successful second.
No, I'm thinking of soft —
— they have to pull the OS/2 Warp.
And so, it's a very complex issue. And whoever the countries are that will be working on it will be somewhat ahead. Now whether you can make up that as more dollars, which I think you probably can, but once you have sort of ground swell of people who know what they're doing, or continuing to do it. You know, we can — like Kennedy said, "Land a man on the moon in ten years." It's a fairly expensive way of doing things. Well, I just felt I wanted to share some of these with you because we haven't discussed this before.
No, no. This is interesting how this came up, too. Well, I'm just curious now, you said that you approached the National Academy of Sciences, what exactly does that mean? What did you do?
Well, actually, let me submit more, if you want me to enlarge upon it.
The Department of Energy had a congregational mandate, just about, to look at the Solar Powered Satellite. And the program manager, at the time —
Back then, was — that was in 1975, '76 was Fred Koomanoff. And he correctly realized that the - oh, and NASA was sort of in support role to DOE. The technologist had to come up with his reference system, and it's only purpose was to provide a basis for making some of these other studies, not that that's going to be built.
Now what the National Academy later did, take the SPS reference system and said, "Well that's what we're going to build." I mean that is like saying, "Well, the early airplane, the DC3 and that's going to be what we're going to fly across the oceans with 400 people." So, Fred Koomanoff correctly understood that this is not a technical problem. And sixty-percent of the $19 million funding over three or four years was spent on doing the environmental and societal issues, and he did announce then in [???] by organizing all of that. The SPS references was used for the purpose that you'd say, "Well, that's how it might look, and that's how big it might be, that's how much power. Five Gig-a-watts then onto Earth." And he felt that it would be important for the National Academy to critique it. You know, what he was doing, and gave them some money to do that. Well twist is they sort of critiqued the SPS reference system. Which there's no relationship to what eventually would have to be done. And they critiqued the economics, which, of course at that time, was somewhat speculative. So, I think the National Academy for certain reasons that I didn't quite understand, sort of went off on his own. And I think the report had a lot to do with the demise of the DOE program. You might have to talk to Fred Koomanoff, he's still at DOE, and, in fact, in my book on Solar Powered Satellites, he has a chapter on this particular topic. You know the environmentally [???]. So, that in itself, I think, would be an interesting study from the social logical point of view. In fact, the National Academies — sometimes National Academies are not really the well spring of new ideas.
So, what happened with your second round with them?
Essentially, I —
What exactly did you do?
I wrote a letter to the chairman of the specific committee, and suggested, "Look, it's been —" I think that was a dozen years after this thing happened. "— wouldn't it be nice to have another look, because there's been advances of the countries I work [???]? And the technology, in my opinion, at least, has advanced." And he took it up with various people, and they decided, no it hasn't advanced. So, you know, it's — that was I don't know how they arrived at that opinion. [laughs]
Don't you know these people?
Some of them, but, you know, I don't know — I don't know who really calls the shots. And you would have to go and speak to the National Academy or somebody to find out what — not only what the official reason was, that's — you know, staten, you know, the solar cells on the [???] or whatever the technology is and that the government hasn't supported more work on it. So, you know, it's a vicious circle. You can easily say "Well, the technology hasn't advanced, because the government has put any research funds in it." And yet, in the original critique, they actually said there should be a re-look at this at various periods. Well, I said, "The period is longer than you said, well, why don't we look at it?" So, if you like, this was a good example of the politics of a micro engineering project. I'm not surprised —
The problem is that the engineering is macro but the politics are still micro.
That's it. And it is not unusual with micro engineering projects that you have this kind of dichotomy. Napoleon already wanted that English Channel. In fact, when was it, in 430s when they started to dig something, now there was — they couldn't get — it had nothing to do with technology it had to primarily do with the agreement between the UK and France. And getting the financial support and so on. And the channel, you know, will make a tremendous difference I suspect, in the way that Britain will be part of the European continent. So it's that took from Napoleon until now, and couldn't have been done in Napoleon's time. And I'm not saying that we can now build solar power satellites, but there are many things we can do to develop wireless power transmission along the lines that we have discussed with the aircraft, to power the satellite and so on.
Let me ask you another thing that I — I had a couple of things and they aren't particularly related. One of them that we — because we haven't really talked about them at all, is Girard O’Neill.
And what your experience of and with him has been?
At first I felt he was —
Well, I would say we have mentioned him one time, but we never had taken him up as a subject.
At first I felt that he was a bit too far out, in terms of colonies.
What was your first knowledge of — how did you first know who he was and what he was up to?
I think I was invited to speak at one of those space manufacturing meetings in Princeton. I felt that the thing — the colony was certainly very important concept. And it was — the thing that was missing was any large number of people getting together in a colony and we have examples of it not too far from here in the fruit-lands [?]. There has to be a justification which is economic as well as spiritual, and I felt that in the early days this colony failed to have really a good economic basis for doing what it was trying to do, although I think he was on the right track. And he and I then, you know, I had a chance to talk with him on many occasions. And then he said, "Well, we're going to have space power associated with colonies." Well, that's when we started to work —
Well, meaning what? Meaning exporting power to earth?
Yeah. From the colony. So I said, "Well, that — you're getting warm, so to speak."
Had you thought of that when you encountered — When the tape cut off on the other side, I was just asking, had you thought of exporting space power yourself when you first encountered O'Neill's ideas?
Actually, I did not, because the idea of the colony was to do many things there. It was a self- sustaining colony, and I didn't quite see the connection between power from space and a colony, because in my view the participation of people was not what I would have expected. Now, once you have things in geosynchronous orbit, I don't — that's not a place you want to be. And you'd have to protect yourself in very difficult conditions to go back and forth expensive and so on. And I felt his basic idea was very interesting, it's just that the place wasn't quite what I had. And I think he began to see that, and then when he was at MIT for sabbatical in '73, we'd had a number of discussions. I think it was at that time he then became interested in the solar power satellite. And I became interested in where I thought he was really very correct, is that it didn't make sense to build solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbit, but to obtain lunar materials. And then, you know, instead of having these big colonies floating around in space, he became more interested in the lunar colony. And there, I felt, he was perhaps on the right track, because you need the material from the moon to construct solar power satellites. I never visualized that we're going to take all of these commodity materials and move them to geosynchronous facilities, but then we have 50 and 100 huge solar power satellites, just didn't make sense.
How did you think it was going to be done?
Well, I had realized, after talking with Jerry, I really felt — and remember, I was living on the moon, already in 1968.
I felt that it would be far better if we could set up a manufacturing plant on the moon. And to produce these commodity material and lift it out of the 1-6G, rather than the 1-G environment.
But before you met him — before you could get this from him, how did you think all of this stuff was going to get up there?
Well, at the — my first thing was to build one.
Okay. I was not — again, I would say that I'm an engineer, and before I worry how many thousands of something, I want to see how that first airplane works. Okay?
You just didn't worry about — you knew it was a problem, but you didn't worry.
I felt that there were so many issues that had to be solved, you know, the opposition had a list yeah long, and they wouldn't even discuss how you would make a hundred. Okay? They wouldn't even accept that you could accept that you could make one. So, therefore, we'd have to first show that all the economic societal and all of these kind of things which DOE then started to really work on. They were not out of the ordinary; we had potential solutions to them. And it was at the end of this DOE program that I realized this is not the way we'll go. Remember, I met with Jerry in ‘73; I participate in just about every one of these Princeton conferences. I was the chair at sessions. So Jerry and I had — so I tried. In the '60s and early '70s I didn't worry how we're going to get the stuff up, because I figured, all I'm interested in is to demonstrate that it can be made to work. You know, I don't want to say that I'm equal to some of the nuclear guys. You know the experiment in the tennis court in Chicago. You know, that was the important thing. It showed that you could do something. And I felt what we've got to do is show that we can do this.
Technically in a way which is safe, responsible, etcetera, and then worry about all the subsequent steps. But I'm now of the opinion that I don't think I want to build the solar power satellite as the first step, I want to go through these terraces. So, Jerry then, really felt that this lunar colonization was very important. And you see the key to lunar colonization was the solar power satellite. And I fully agreed with him, because I knew that to lift things up from the earth was not only expensive, but even if we burn hydrogen oxygen, we'd deposit water weight in the upper atmosphere, and I don't know that wasn't the best thing to do either. And what if things don't, you know, work, and the problem with the rockets are not the most hundred percent reliable things. Nothing is, but certain rockets don't always get to where they are supposed to. So I felt that going to the moon was certainly the way to go. And prior to that I had met also a similar —
Wait, going to the moon was the way —
To obviate lifting things from the earth's gravitation.
Okay. Okay. I see.
And then Dave Criswell became interested in this idea and he made one more suggestion, which I thought was a very interesting one. And that is, to not build solar power satellites in geosynchronous orbit, but to actually build them on the moon, and you know some other people said, "Well, let's build them on asteroids." I really felt, you know, this is — you're all correct. You know, I don't know which is the best, because I've — we haven't done that first one up there to show that it does all the things you — because once you showing that then you can talk about the trillion dollar effort to get yourself set up on the moon, or whatever it costs. And I think eventually we're not going to build hundreds of solar power satellite in geosynchronous orbit. I think it's likely we will build them on the moon or asteroids and beam from there. And I think Dave Criswell had some very good ideas, and whether that's the way it will be, is certainly too early to tell, but what I think it shows are so many other ways that we have to look at, but nobody will curiously look at this until we can show we can do it, whether it's low earth orbit, or geosynchronous, whatever, makes no sense. Power orbit. We can do it and it's safe and it looks like another promising thing to do. And then we can go the next step again I have to come back. The secret of Kitty Hawk was a plane flying a hundred feet. He didn't have to cross the Atlantic. That came much, much later. And when Lindberg [?] crossed the Atlantic that was a tremendous feat, but look how many years it took after Lindberg before the first jets could — 707 — cross the Atlantic. So, you know, there's a progression of technology which I have felt we will have to go through and that is because I felt way, all along, my sense was that we've got to start now because it will take us 50 or 75 years to figure out what's the best way we're going to do this. And if we don't start, then if all the various problems will come to be so huge, you know, and then people will say, "Well, it's too late." You know, the ecology is going down and you know, the fish are dying out, and tropical forest are being burned, and we're running out of oil, and you know, once you get to sort of an unstable equilibrium there's no telling where we'll end up. And it ain't where I think we ought to end up. But, yeah, on the ragged edge, I believe, we may have perhaps a hundred years to go from where we are today to a sustainable ecology development, and all that. And I think more and more people are beginning to see that the sustain-ability, or however you want to define it, will have to be assured, or we'll have tremendous problems. Now, remember where I was coming from with solar power satellite. That was when King Hubbard's curve made it clear we're going to reach the top somewhere in the year 2000. And from then on, it's downhill with fossil fuels. We have reached the top. We have passed the top in oil; we have passed the top in gas. We are about to pass the top in coal. Nobody has really taken the trouble to understand what the implications are. Indeed, as we go on the down slope. How quickly will things go? What are the political, the societal impacts of the — and I think that that should be some bodies of learned and political people, better understand what will be happening. And if we don't like Rhombi [?], and Bosnia [?], and the Middle East, you know, this is not going to be an easy period. We are now going to spend trillions — you know, I don't know how many billions or hundreds of billions, to upgrade all of the port facilities in the Middle East. They aren't adequate to dealing with the oil and climates of the world. Well, for how long will we have oil? And then we'll go to whatever else. You know, and even coal isn't going to be around for that long, when we have 11 — 10 and 11 billion people. So I think that this kind of long arranged planning is not customary in today's society. And yet, in order to obtain options, you have to do such planning, because if the people in the know would say, "Well, we have 50 or 75 years to make the transition." Then I think the kind of things I'm talking about now, we really should be [???].
Do you ever feel, say cheated, that if this enterprise had gotten started earlier you would have got to see more of it happen?
Well, I have to talk to you again the [???]. And that is that you're — you have to start the tasks you're not enjoying to finish it. I feel I have done my job. I have started the task, I see this growing, and I see this growing. I don't have to be there to see the finished.
You don't have to, but wouldn't you like to?
Oh, I'd love to see.
Or even half way finished.
To look like it was going to be finished.
I think it is even — even if the DOE program, and the National Academy [???] and they could [???] a positive thing, we'd be much further along. We would not have a solar power satellite today, and probably wouldn't have one for another ten years. So, I'm not sure even under the best of circumstances that I would have been able to be at the ribbon cutting ceremony. But that's not — I don't feel bad about that.
Because it's as —
As a micro engineering project, I know that all I can do is to have done the preparatory work. But there are many other people which will have to carry on this if it's worthwhile carrying on. As I believe it is.
Hmm. I think will be tough. I think it will be tough to have an idea much bigger than anything you can do, and to be dependent on other people to carry it out and it could all go nowhere.
Any projects of the size that I've been involved with for at least 30 years, I have no illusion. This is, you know, channel tunnel was an enormous undertaking, in which pales compared to what this is. You only have to get two countries to agree politically, you know, the whole political aspect. Here you have to take essentially the world to agree, because nobody owns space. The minute you want to have frequency assignment for the microwave beam you go through the ITU, and World Administration Radio Conference. If you want to beam geosynchronous orbit, you have to go through these for orbit positions. You know, I mean, that's — the thing that will have to be done is probably that people begin to understand not only here but here. Down in their gut, that there are problems that will not be solved the easy way. Small is beautiful. I fully agree to the fullest extent we should do things on a small scale. But Chumica [?] also said something unless you have to do something else, where it fits, that's usually left out. And then you come to global energy supply, you have to do as much — and I've said it over and over again, you have to use solar energy where it makes the most sense on earth, and then you have to go and where you use solar energy where it is available to us in space. You know, in this Sun Science Times, I don't know if you saw, there's a long article about how eyes have evolved. Fascinating. Absolutely fascinating. Essentially, the basic cornerstones of that go back to, I don't know, to the very earliest living species. And if you look at the proteins used, they're the same that we have in our eyes, which were in some sharks, or whatever they had, and therefore these things, you know, evolve. You know, our time scale is wrong for that evolution. And it may well be some of the things I'm talking about will take a long time, but that doesn't discourage me at all.
Hmm. Well, it's a good thing you're doing it and not me. [laughs]. I don't know. Did you ever read the Heinlein story, The Man Who Sold the Moon?
I've heard of it, I haven't read it. I've read some of Arthur C. Clark's stories.
Anything else about O'Neill? Any experience that you had working with him?
Yes. You know, I then became — I'm still advisor to the Space Studies Institute. I felt he was an exceptional person who had a visionary view of the world. And he — you know, that's why I guess very much that resonated to the same views. And he was charismatic as a speaker and a leader of young people, you know, he started the [???] Society. The National Space Society and joined and unfortunate not as activist as I'd like it to be. I guess that's why they asked me now to be a director of the society.
The National Space Society?
Yeah. I was elected for the next three years or something. And we have to being on the cutting edge, and Jerry was. And if you ask me now, there are several people perhaps still around, but not many Jerry O’Neill’s. So I think he made a major contribution, particularly in getting young people to look at space in a different way. It wasn't in a NASA owned space, so to speak. But it is a federal bureaucracy. Even more so today than it used to be. And battled, unsure, fighting for it's life. You know, that makes things very difficult for people who want to do things in space. You know, small is beautiful, now it's — one of the smaller, better, and cheaper. That's what we have to do because we're forced to do it. That's not necessarily the best way to do it, if you want to achieve the kind of things that I believe that we'll have to achieve. That is very useful to get a lot of data at the least cost. But, in a way, I would hope that we can develop an international community which would begin to work together on these kinds of projects. Because the only way I can see it actually happening is on an international basis. It's not going to happen because the US says. So when it — when the US can't own these things. I discussed — I think I mentioned to you this thing —
— of [???] Indian, secretary of the Indian Space Research, you know. Well, we don't want to be relying on an American company to give us either communications or energy. You know, we may be on the top of the heap now, but that's a tough place, and very uncomfortable place to be.
And nobody wants to admit that they would rather not be on the top of the heap.
Oh, it's exhilarating when you're at the top of hill, but, you know, there are a lot of people who would like to change places with you.
Well, I have another — another thing that came up, absolutely unrelated to any of this. So, I'll try —
[???] no problem. No problem.
Okay. This is something that I haven't asked you about at all, and I haven't read anything about it, so I hardly know what to ask, but except that I've seen a few mentions of it, and that's the work that you've done for — I think it's like the climate control and stuff, in space craft.
Yeah, this goes back to —
I'm asking you tentatively, because I don't really know what you've done, I've just seen it mentioned in passing.
Yeah. I — we had an assignment; actually, it was for DOE, the Office of CO2 Research. And it was to — you know, CO2 as — was considered a problem, already in the '80s. And there was an effort by the various scientific types to develop the global circulation models. And at first it looked like this is a reasonably doable thing, and the National Center for Atmospheric research in Boulder sort of took the lead on some of the organized meetings [???]. And it became clear to quite a few people and certainly to me, that the thing that's missing is not the power of the computer, but it's the input data. There just wasn't enough data at the time, and so then DOE wanted to have some — you know, what the hell are we talking about, you know? What kind of instruments? What is a compliment of instruments that one would have? So, Arthur D. Little, and I was a program manager, put together a proposal which we then worked on. Essentially selection of instruments that we would use for this purpose. There's a thick report on that. And we laid out, you know, all the possible instruments.
To do what? To just know —
To make the measurements. Not CO2, but leaf index and the sea level and — now, I can give you [???] three, but it's a long list of instruments, and to start flying them so that inputs to these global circulation models would enable the people who knew how to manipulate these models, to do it not by guess, but by actually input data. And so we did actually, I think the first major tests in this global circulation modeling by looking at if you'd build a satellite, what are the instruments that you would have to do a number of major things. And —
Did you have to —
I had a large —
— think up instruments that didn't necessarily exist?
Yeah, or adapt them. I had some excellent people at Arthur D. Little in addition to some outstanding consultants from Harvard and various other places. And to try and shape a — you know, what's a satellite, sub-contractors were [???] Aerospace in Boulder and the Boeing Company. And I think we did an outstanding job for this report. And in fact, I was told that this was sort of the inputs to this planet — Mission to Planet Earth, which was sort of the major kind of thing.
And as far as I know, this was the first major report on the subject, and then the satellites began — you know, people particularly NASA/Goddard, then took this on as a major task.
When did you do this?
I think this must have been in the mid-'80s. I'd have to look up my memory fails me on these things, but somewhere in this — as I said, I don't have a library system that I can pull out the report. One of these days, I need to get it to that point. So, that, I felt, was a very important piece of work, and laid, you know, the ground work for a lot of the stuff that, you know, today is being done. You know, it's we were the first to really put this whole story together. As far as I know, that was — now, we did it for DOE, not for NASA, and then NASA sort of went with its own — I knew the people at NASA Headquarters, and Shelby Tilford [?] was Associate Administrator who was involved in these things. The NASA — it was NASA/Goddard really, that started doing these things, and flying satellites. And to this day — oh, Fred Koomanoff, was the head of the Co2 research office. And he did something very interesting, he invited the global circulation modelers in the — in sort of a meeting. And he gave the identical data to all of these guys. And the models varied all over the map. It was the same data, mind you. So, the reason that it's very hard to just have hypothetical models without data, which they can check the models. So I think this has progressed and we're beginning to understand more about Co2 and effects, and climate effects, and sea level, and the more you know, sometimes you feel, well, perhaps I shouldn't know that much. Because it's not a nice story, it leads you to be very concerned. And I think I mentioned to you that Green Peace organized meetings on this subject, and what was — there was one in September of '92, I believe, in New York, and was held at the College of Insurance. And the reason it was held there, the most — the people who were most interested in global climate effects, you may not guess right off, the insurance industry. Because they suffer the losses.
From hurricanes and other natural disasters. And thus, they have a keen interest in what is this global climate business all about? Because they don't want to go out of business. So, Green Peace, here's Green Peace, not a —
Not buddy, buddy with insurance companies.