P.O. Box 1041

                                                                                                Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15230-1041

                                                                                                Telephone: 412-561-7876

                                                                                                Electronic Mail: < gaw@planetarium.cc >

                                                                                                Internet Site: < http://www.planetarium.cc >

2009 August 21


President Barack H. Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington DC 20500-0001


Dear Mr. President:


First, let me congratulate you on your historic election last year and inauguration this year. Attached is a precise chronology of the major events of your inauguration on January 20. As I watched the inauguration events on television, I used a clock, updated each evening by radio signals from National Institute of Standards and Technology long-wave radio station WWVB, to record the precise time, to-the-second, of each event. Assuming that the delay in receiving the television network signals from Washington on January 20 were close to negligible, this chronology should be accurate.


During the 1980s and early 1990s, I served as Astronomical Observatory Coordinator, and a Planetarium Lecturer, at Pittsburgh’s original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.  As you may know, precise time is essential for astronomical observing. Hence, I have gotten in the habit of setting my watch and clocks with precise time.


In May, I read of your direction for an independent review of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and their current plans for future manned space flights. Last month, I read that the Apollo 11 astronauts urged you to continue plans for a manned landing on Mars. With this letter, I would like to offer an alternative view. While a manned trip to Mars would be great, other space priorities may prove of greater value to our nation, for the immediate future.


Many consider space exploration, unto itself, as important, due to mankind’s desire to always explore the unknown. This is all-well-and-good, but with very limited tax dollars, our nation’s priorities in outer space should concentrate on missions which provide more direct benefits to the people on our own planet.


Climate change, disappearing wildlife habitats, and other ecological problems are driven by an ever increasing world population. Resources to support this burgeoning population are dwindling. The future of a manned space program should concentrate on finding new resources to support our planet’s population.

Further, a manned space program should emphasize the establishment of space colonies beyond the Earth, necessarily starting with the Moon, as well as manned space stations, to at least partially relieve population pressure on our planet.


I am not suggesting that NASA or the United State should take on such a huge project on its own. NASA has done a fabulous job over the last half-century, providing the basic research needed to explore outer space. This is what NASA does well and should continue to do.


However, NASA, even combined with all of the world’s other national space programs, does not have the resources to initiate such a space colonization effort—at least not as quickly as I believe it needs to be implemented. Moreover, with other pressing national needs, governments cannot provide their space programs with enough additional resources for such a sustained and long-term effort.






President Barack H. Obama                             2009 August 21                                   Page 2 of 2




A new strategy is required. I propose that the United States of America promote an aggressive, manned, commercial space program. Only by convincing the commercial sector that there is profit in investments in such a program could real, enduring space colonization begin.


There are several entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, who are working on commercial space projects. However, as of now, the capital available to these entrepreneurs has been limited. What I propose will require much larger capital investments, necessarily by large corporations.


How do you convince large corporations to make such large investments? In the mid-nineteenth century, when Congress wanted to develop the American West, they enacted specific incentives to such development such as the Railroad Land Grant Act of 1850 and the Homestead Act of 1862. Similar incentives could be one answer.


To make such incentives for outer space development will probably require the amending, or complete rewriting, of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 (which is vague on commercial space activities). Without a new or amended space treaty designed for the needs of the twenty-first century, which provides for property rights on celestial bodies, outer space development will continue to lag.


A successful, aggressive, manned, commercial space program would actually increase scientific access to outer space. With such an effort, over time the price for human access to space will come down. Once the price comes down, then a manned mission to Mars would become economically feasible, by either commercial interests or NASA.


I understand that this will all take time. However, this is all the more reason that we should begin as soon as possible. It is a matter of priorities. Space colonization efforts on the Moon and on space stations, no matter how long they would take, should take priority over an American flag photo-op on Mars.


Enclosed is a copy of a short essay I wrote, in June of 2005, for the Planetarian, the quarterly journal of the International Planetarium Society, regarding my proposal.


At your convenience, I would be happy to talk to you, or your staff, further regarding this proposal.


Sincerely yours,




Glenn A. Walsh




Attachments:       Precise Chronology of American Presidential Inauguration: 2009 January 20

                                Article from The Planetarian, Vol. 54, No. 2, June 2005