Sunday, April 18, 2010

Space Marines: Really

"The Very Real Plans to Put Marines in Space"
Popular Mechanics (undated, probably on or shortly before April 15, 2010)

"When then Marine Lieutenant Colone Roosevelt Lafontant first started pushing the idea of a space plane for the U.S. Marine Corps in 2002, skeptics didn't even bother to suppress their laughter. But now, with a Concept of Operations (CONOPS)—a formal military document that lays out how a particular weapon system would be used—and a completed, but not yet released Pentagon road map for the technology, people are beginning to take note of the Small Unit Space Transport and Insertion, or SUSTAIN, the notional concept of a Marine space plane.

" 'Then the laughing subsided,' says Lafontant, who now works at Schafer Corporation. 'People were really talking about it, and then it got serious. Then we finally got a CONOPS; the laughter stopped completely, and people started jumping on the technology bandwagon.'

"After decades of unsuccessful development, military space planes are finally getting some respect. On April 19 the U.S. Air Force plans to launch the X-37B, an...."

As one of the comments on this article pointed out, the X-37B is old news. What's new is that bureaucratic business-as-usual has given way to serious development.

This is idle speculation on my part: but I wonder if someone cornered a brass hat and explained that it was either a matter of backing development of something like the X-37B, or renting spaceships from Virgin Galactic or Bigelow Aerospace when the things were needed.

I've suspected, from time to time, that some of America's senior military - and civilian - leaders are still adjusting to a world where the cavalry has wheels. And sometimes flies.

That's an exaggeration, I hope: but not, I sometimes fear, by much.

Anyway: the Popular Mechanics article gives a pretty good 'behind the scenes' look at what promoters of the X-37B project deal with. I see it as a sort of confrontation between people who think that moving the Marines into the 21st century is a good idea: and folks who don't realize that things have changed in the last several decades.

It's probably hard to keep up with things, when you're a busy executive. There is, seriously, an incredible amount of fiddling detail that people in leadership positions have to deal with. That can, I think, be a distraction.

Take me, for example: I'm pushing sixty, so if I'd pursued a 'success track,' I might have lost track of what's current, back in the early seventies.

That 'career-minded' alter ego of mine might be very surprised to look up from his desk today, and see that America has seven spaceports (so far). (January 19, 2010) And that a mid-seventies proposal for orbiting solar power stations is finally getting serious attention. (December 2, 2009)

Can't I'm sorry I made the choices I did.

Related posts:
A tip of the hat to USMC, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this article.

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