Sunday, February 16, 2014

Rand Simberg: From Flint To Outer Space

Flint Expatriate Rand Simberg has a new book out on exploring the frontiers of space called Safe Is Not an Option. Here's how he made it from the Vehicle City to the frontiers of space exploration:
I was born and raised in Flint (my mother was born in northern Michigan, but grew up in Flint), a son of a GM executive originally from Brooklyn (first at AC, then at headquarters in Detroit). I went to Flint Central, and then (after a couple years at Mott) to Ann Arbor and got degrees in astronautical engineering. Upon graduation, I moved out to southern California to work in the space industry. I've been an independent consultant and entrepreneur for the past couple decades.
I wrote the book because I've been concerned for years that our approach to safety in human spaceflight is needlessly holding us back from opening up the high frontier. It started at a Kickstarter project to just write a long essay on the subject, but it eventually grew into a book. I'll be trying to raise money to get it on the desk of every key policy maker in Washington.


  1. Two factors that perhaps are doing more to hold "us back from opening up the high frontier" than our concern about survivability:

    1. The socioeconomic perspective that available funds should be spent on improving the lot in life of the poor and disadvantaged.

    2. The sociotechnical perspective that the most important technical problems have to do with human interactions with the Earth environment, i.e. energy production/use and "global warming", food production, fresh water availability, disease and so forth.

    In those regards, if you think the High Frontier should have a higher priority, the ongoing privatization of space transport is an excellent step forward. Society via Congress doesn't set the priorities of independent space least, not directly. If some business-descendant of SpaceX wants to start an automated space-truck business between Earth orbit and a mining/energy production station on Earth-moon, I'd think they'd work out their own approach to risk for the people they hire to run the operations at each end, and just pay their people commensurately with those risks.

  2. Society via Congress doesn't set the priorities of independent space least, not directly.

    Yes, it does, actually. Right now, starting in October of next year, the FAA will be regulating spaceflight passenger safety. One of the recommendations that I make in my book is that the moratorium for doing so be extended indefinitely. Under the Outer Space Treaty, Article VI says that a States Party to it (i.e., the US, if US citizens are involved) must exercise "continuing supervision" of all off-planet activities.

  3. Well, apparently, people in Flint aren't that interested in spaceflight.

    Just one of the many reasons I left. But I still love my home town, no matter how depressing it is to go back.

  4. Space Isn't The PlaceMarch 16, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    ... in all fairness Houston and Huntsville are pretty depressing too...


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at