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NASA to Go Commercial? 210

Posted by michael
from the non-refundable-ticket dept.
jeffy124 writes: "CNN has an article about NASA possibly selling space. The idea comes from Russia, where they have have sent into space Pizza Hut pizza, talking picture frames, and magazines. The proposal includes ties with the entertainment industry, tourism, NASA merchandise, and hiring a nongovernment organization to manage the US areas of the International Space Station." If anyone has a link to this NASA draft document the article talks about, please post it below.
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NASA to Go Commercial?

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  • well, the big white sides of the shuttle are exelent for bus-type posters
  • plus a comment - since the public doesn't seem to be behind NASA anymore, the private sector is the only way space will ever be explored. It's sad, really.
    • by Wakko Warner (324) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:18PM (#2400616) Homepage Journal
      What possible benefit can we, the public whose tax dollars support NASA, see from space exploration? Obviously, someone has decided that the money would be better spent elsewhere, and the only people I see complaining are the occasional Slashdot user.

      Obviously, if we all wanted it, we'd be pissing away billions of dollars on space exploration, which so far has netted us a handful of rocks, Tang, and Astronaut Ice Cream.

      Sad? Hardly. Unless you can't live without Tang.

      - A.P.
      • It's done more than that, it's also given us countless hours of quality PBS and Discovery channel programming, and Velcro! Can you even truly imagine life without Velcro?
        • Years ago, I saw a WWII Luftwaffe flight helmet liner that was secured with something that sure seemed to be Velcro. It was at some kind of flea market, over 10 years ago, but I remember the guy pointing it out.
          Anyone else seen anything like this?
          (And No, the guy didn't have any Gestapo 'Täng' for sale...)

          Cheers,
          Jim in Tokyo
          • I would guess that maybe someone had replaced the strap???
            • I really don't think it was a replacement - that was the odd thing.
              That's why I was looking for confirmation from someone more familiar with that sort of thing. It's always kind of lingered in the back of my mind.
              Cheers -
              Jim
          • Entirely possible on a German WWII helmet liner...

            http://www.velcro.com/about/history.html

            History

            In the early 1940's, Swiss inventor George de Mestral went on a walk with his dog... Upon his return home, he noticed that his dog's coat and his pants were covered with cockleburrs. His inventor's curiosity led him to study the burrs under a microscope, where he discovered their natural hook-like shape.

            This was to become the basis for a unique, two-sided fastener - one side with stiff "hooks" like the burrs and the other side with the soft "loops" like the fabric of his pants. The result was VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners, named for the French words "velour" and "crochet."
      • Re:Why's it sad? (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah, that's right! Who needs knowledge if it doesn't get you something? I'm sure nobody really cares about what else there is in the universe, or where we came from in the first place.

        We explore space to gain knowledge. Not all of that knowledge is of immediate or obvious use.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Faster computers sooner, improved radio, jet, fuel and video communications gear. Cell phone access andtelephone/data service anywhere in the world. Microwave ovens. Improved tools, industrial processes, robotics and just about every other damn thing since 1960 has been improved indirectly or directly from space research and expenditures.

        • That is one good one...You have addressed things very clearly and detailed in the first 2 or more sentences...They are good for mottos I guess ;)
        • Nice try, and I wish it were so, but it ain't. You do more harm than good when you wrongly attribute things, because one error ruins your entire argument and strengthens your opponents'.

          The space program did later help push technology to integrate circuits, but such advances were already underway, and TI was the leader (IBM was doing it's tech-stifle shuffle back then). Improved radio comms helped NASA, but NASA didn't drive it. You see this in Gene Kranz' book, "Failure Is Not An Option".

          NASA was created after the Bell rocket planes did their thing. All jets used by NASA came from the Air Force, who got them all from contractors like Martin, Lochheed, Marietta, Boeing and others. Advances in aviation were fueled and funded by the COld War. NASA was a recipient, not a donor.

          Microwave ovens came outta WWII, when some guys noticed a few weird effects of the microwave transmittors used for radar. That's also why the first microwave ovens were called "Radar-Range", an Amana trademark.

          We have a lot of technology and improvements that were developed specifically for the space program. This is a good thing. But there was a reason we spent so much money: we were scared shitless of the Soviets, who were also scared of us. Pure research is a wonderful thing, but it's expensive as hell and we have other priorities. Almost every twit here who didn't pay taxes last year was complaining that he didn't get a refund cheque -- so not even the geeks are willing to pay higher taxes in the hope that some of that money will go toward NASA and other similarly geeky and way cool programs.

          I have no problem with crappy logos on the shuttle, as long as the advertisers don't start trying to control missions, requiring X amount of airtime displaying their logo, renaming of items and anything that might in some way interfere with the actual science. I wouldn't even mind if they modified the already tedious and annoying end of countdown speech: "...three, two, one, and lift-off of the Atlantis Space Shuttle on its 43rd voyage in space to blah blah blah." It's so crappy now theat adding "sponsored by Roy Rogers Restaurants" after the word "shuttle" wouldn't make it worse. Adding a 30-second radio spot would be another matter.

          It would be good to get this kind of cash infusion, but it could be the start of NASA becoming another agency that is supposed to be self-sufficient and run like a business instead of a governmental agency. Look what that's done to the Patent Orifice.

          woof.

          This post was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Official French Fry Pages [tx7.com], providers of information about certain cooked potato products, and by viewers like you.

      • by Toodles (60042)
        I highly recommend a book called "The High Road" by Ben Bova. Unlike most of Bova's work, this isn't fiction, but more of an essay regarding the need for increased investment and work towards space travel. No pictures available, the book is out of print, so an amazon.com link is kinda pointless.

        Even when the book was printed (1981), drastic cuts in space funding were evident. Remember this is BEFORE the Challenger incident! Many different sources are cited in this book to back up his facts, but I will still try to not stray from the obvious.

        1. Satellites. Sat phones, many nodes of the Internet, GPS systems, XM radio, spy satellites, anti-spy satellites, the Star Wars program (Think Reagan, not Jar Jar) all owe their existence to satellites. You can complain about those all you want, some are pointless, but all have been put with the idealistic thought of making life better in general. Some fail, and some are to make money, but I am glad all of them are there.

        2. Secondary technical innovations. Velcro, Most plastics, and tertiary technical advancements for such things as bone marrow transplants (Remember the old commercial with Jesse Jackson, specifically to rally support for the space program, citing bone marrow transplants as one of the effects of earlier space exploration?)

        3. Energy. This is the one that bites my tail most that SHOULD have been done in the 70's, and still should be done. A Solar Power Station. The idea is a large satellite, positioned so that it is never blocked from the sun, could gather and redirect the energy to a large array of solar power cells (we're talking a few dozen square miles worth, but well worth it). Environmental impact would be nill, and the land could still be used for grazing by livestock. Just plop the array of cells into some flat section of New Mexico or Montana, and be done with it. The power that could be produced by such a station could easily be twice that of the energy produced by imported and domestic oil gathered at the same rate. While I would recommend reading this book for the full explanation, this link [ucsb.edu] will take you to a PDF with an excellent overview if you cant find the book. Imagine, free, practically limitless energy available. The electricity could be used to separate water into hydrogen and water, so even transportation would benefit.

        4. Economy. Every dollar spent into the space program would change hands an avarage of 8 times before 'settling'. This is a matter of spending money to make money. It creates jobs, technology, and even patriotism.

        5. Survival of the Human Race. As unlikely as it may seem, the Earth is our biggest Single Point of Failure. If anything happens to the Earth in a manner that makes it inhospitable to human life, the race will end. We must, for the survival of the species eliminate that single point of failure. Asteroids, nasty bacteria(e.g. Ebola), greenhouse effect, are all problems whose affect on the race could be limited if we got rid of the single point of failure. However improbable, they are still possible, and the human race must overcome.

        6. Moon exploration. Boy, I'd love to get my hands on a killogram of diterium(Hydrogen ion +3?). There's only a few metric ton naturally occuring on the planet, almost all in the oceans. But, its on the surface of the moon, and the lack of atmosphere makes extracting it from the dust (notice I didn't say 'soil'. Just the dust, no more than 2" deep, would yeild enough diterim to satisfy a huge energy consumption for an enourmous amount of time.

        There are more, but I grow tired of typing. Space exploration is not for short sighted people. It has produced amazing results for the entire human race, and as pessimistic as it may sound, failing to properly support it by the Americans is both bad for the U.S. as a whole, and failure by the world to investigate further is accepting the eventual end of the human race.

        Toodles
        • In addition to Ben Bova's piece, I also highly reccomend "The Overview Effect" by Frank White, which explains the transformation that happens in a person when they see the Earth from orbit or from on the way to the moon, as told in the astronaut's own words. It completely changes your life, your perspective on how you see the world. Seeing the earth as a single object creates incredible clarity of thought and foresight.

          This is a very HIGHLY under-discussed side-effect of space exploration. Dennis Tito was the latest person to be profoundly amazed at this perspective.

          Here is a link to Amazon's page:
          http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563472600 [amazon.com]

          I reccomend checking Amazon Z-shops (click 'buy it used') because the street price is astronomical (pun intended.) It's published by an institute that normally does high priced scientific journals, and they haven't gotten the idea yet that even the common man need to read this book.
        • I guess you meant that:

          Deuterium is a stable isotope of the element hydrogen. An atom of deuterium consists of one proton, one neutron and one electron. About .015% of natural hydrogen is composed of deuterium.
        • An excellent book which provides many reasons (and how-to's!) for human space exploration is "Entering Space: Creating a Spacefaring Civilization" by Robert Zubrin (of "A Case for Mars" fame).

          He actually spends a little bit of time showing why the Solar Satellites you mention in 3) won't be feasible for quite some time.

          That being said, it is an inspirational read which I highly recommend.

      • There is some truth to what you are saying.
        However, let's not forget that space exploration is what brought about the unification of multiple countries in a joined effort to build the ISS. (very noble thing)
        More importantly don't forget NASA's next step-->MARS
        I believe that the general public really wants humans to go to Mars. Why ?? Simply because it is there and reaching it has never been done.(something similar to what Hillary said prior to taking on the Everest) For those who want to look deeper into where we come from and where we're going this has to be a step in the right direction.
        Look at all the mass following of Sci-Fi space exloration (eg Star Trek), you can't say people don't want space exploration. What people want is space exploration without the associated costs !
        Also, I wonder if Enterprise paid NASA to use the shuttle and the NASA footage on their title scene.(or it may just be the other way around !) Well, better start putting your kids into space engineering school so they can be picked as part of the 1st crew to go to Mars in ~20-30 years.
    • Sad? Hardly. Most of the benefits of space exploration/research could translate into commercial gains (new materials developement, etc). Other than military uses and national pride, I see little reason for goverment to be the main driving force behind space exploration.

      Of course, there are exceptions: imagine an ad-sponsored GPS system. Or weather satellites with the equivalent of pop-up windows.
      • Of course, there are exceptions: imagine an ad-sponsored GPS system. Or weather satellites with the equivalent of pop-up windows.

        I'd rather see ads on a free commercial product than have the government spend 4 times the amount of money with MY tax money to do the same thing.
  • If thats what it takes for someone to fund them i say go ahead and do it. there is many things the government isnt so hot at. kudos to nasa for trying to find a way to fund itself instead of just collapsing.


    i to hope i can some day vacation in space!

    • by grammar nazi (197303) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:32PM (#2400660) Journal
      I always thought that Nike should hire NASA to dye a large part of the moon's surface with a swoosh(tm). Since the same side of the moon always faces the earth, then the entire world would be able to see the Nike swoosh(tm). This marketing would reach out to the entire world in an effective way for Nike.

      Of course, most people would be against this, but Nike could find a way to label those people as communistic or something.

      • I think Nike got their swoosh from the greeks....
        • From dictionary.com:
          Nike n : winged goddess of victory; identified with Roman Victoria

          swoosh (swsh, swsh)
          v. swooshed, swooshing, swooshes
          v. intr.
          To move with or make a rushing sound.
          To flow or swirl copiously.

          symbol (smbl)
          n.
          Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible

          To sum it up:
          Nike swoosh symbol is Victory Swirling Invisibly

          • Nike is a Greek goddess, I visited her temple when I was at the Acropolis. Victory happens to be the roman goddess (but we all know romans stole 95% of the stuff they had from the greeks anyhow...).
      • by Anonymous Coward
        'course the bloody thing would be upside down as view from one hemisphere.
  • This could be good as long as it doesn't jeopardize what NASA is trying to do. Though, just that NASA HAS to do this for funding is scary, NASA should be fully funded... People don't realize the good that comes out of space exploration/research.
    • I don't think it's a matter of people not realizing its potential as much as politicans not agreeing what "full funding" means. Where do we draw the line between necessity and waste? Apparently, NASA wants to expand on what is necessary and continue to explore what is possible. I like space experimentation, so all the power to them...
  • They just have to be sure they don't start doing what the big corporate sponsors want instead of what the public or nasa people want.

    Money has a way of changing things.
  • This is a freeze dried big mac? finaly! something in space that tastes just as good as it does on earth!
  • Is this worth it? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UserChrisCanter4 (464072) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:17PM (#2400614)
    I don't really understand how much this could help NASA. Ask the average Joe-on-the-street when the next Shuttle launch is and I doubt he could answer you. Shit, I can't answer you.

    NASA started losing its appeal to the everyman around the late 80's, following the Challenger explosion. Everyone knows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, but I doubt the average Joe could tell you the name of any of the people crewing the shuttle right now. I know I can't without a little Google searching.

    So really, how effective a marketing scheme will this be? Who's turning on the television to see the ads plastered on the side of the Shuttle prior to launch? What Newspaper prints a front page story about the shuttle launch? What kind of exposure would a Playstation 2 ad get on the Shuttle versus the kind of exposure it would get during the Superbowl, or the World Series, or a "Very Special Episode of 'Felicity'"?

    I think it's wonderful that NASA is seeking out private funding, since the powers that be are no longer interested in the space program. I just have to wonder what kind of revenue a space shuttle advertisement would bring, and if that revenue would be any more than a drop in the bucket compared to the total cost of operating the shuttle.
    • by or_smth (473159)
      I'd really have to disagree with this, I think the reason that the public doesn't know anything about the space missions now is because it isn't thrown in there face at all. Nobody advertises anything with space, unless its as some stupid joke. Getting a little publicity during the superbowl could really make people go "wow, I forgot about that".
      • Well that and the fact that since space launches happen twice a month now it's no longer a big deal.

        Back when there was one launch a year then it was a big deal when the launch time came. But it's like anything that is commonplace now. The car, internet, PDAs, really small telephones, all of these were huge public interest items when they were new, but now that they are commonplace it's not that big a deal anymore.

        I know that I watched, over the web (on a 56kb modem too!), the launch of the latest mars probe, that was cool to watch, but otherwise yeah it's neat that there are 2 launches a month, but it's commonplace now.

        I really really think that NASA should just get into the space tourism game. There is apparently no shortage of people willing to pay $20mil a pop to get into space, and right now I think that every penny will count. Sure, it isn't going to help their $5bil cost overrun, but it's not like they're doing much good up there in space right now anyways. It has been stated many times that you need to have 2 people just to do the day-to-day routines of the space station, and most of the time all 3 crew members are busy just housekeeping. They've said that they will need to be able to have 6 people up there in order to actually accomplish much science, and now that they've cancelled the extra crew habitation quarters....

        I think one thing that NASA needs to do is start ADVERTISING. Throw it into the public's face (as you said) about everything cool that they are doing, and everything that they will not be able to do because of budget restrictions. This will be required if they are to get the public support required to get back on their feet.
    • For myself, and I think many Americans, NASA lost its appeal when it launched the Shuttle program. Even in school I knew it was going to be one big expensive beaureucratic bog. I remember specifically asking them for pictures of the Moon and Apollo for a class project, instead they sent me pictures of the Space Shuttle and some letter saying it how this is really what I wanted.
      Decades later I don't feel the space program has moved but a teeny tiny bit because of the Shuttle. Oh, some of the cheap projects like DS1 and Pathfinder were great, but all the Shuttle stuff (and now space station) is garbage. The Shuttle cost more than it would have cost to keep using the older non-reusable rockets.
      With the Shuttle, NASA tried to make space part of everyday, but instead it got the "humdrum" part right, but missed the everyday part. The Shuttle is virtually useless, and completely uninspiring.
      NASA should have gone for a moon base instead, we'd be much further along with technology I think.
    • by mercy (65139)
      NASA started losing its appeal to the everyman around the late 80's, following the Challenger explosion.

      Actually, I don't think that's a causal relationship. From what I've observed, it's the _lack_ of recent explosions that's created the atmosphere of the ordinary. When you can pull off ten straight launches that look like duplicates of each other, there's nothing to catch the public's interest. (See the recent state of air travel for another example of the unusal creating interest...)

      I can only hope (since I'm a cynic enough to believe that advertising will reach everywhere, eventually.) that the ad execs will push the space program further than they've managed to go with congress weighing them down. (Putting a logo on the moon has been a dream of businessmen since Tharg started his first Sharp Stick Emporium many years ago.)
  • by TheDarkRogue (245521) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:18PM (#2400617)
    hmm, If we keep taking ideas from russia soon we ill be able to buy a shuttle on ebay or for a bit less a trip into space, with training. Good old Russia.
  • by Migelikor1 (308578) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:19PM (#2400620) Homepage
    As a big supporter of private access to space, this does not seem like such a good thing for the american public. NASA started off as a wonderful, if costly, employment plan that showed the Russians we had ICBMs, but is now charged with maintaining their own finances. That's all well and good, but NASA still has government beaurocracy and inertia holding it back. Small private companies, attempting to develop reusable access vehicles, are more likely to be efficient and innovative in their approaches than the dinosaur that is most of NASA (admittedly, some of the departments are quite good, like the recent jury rig to survey a comet.) In order to get funding, those companies were going to need investment from large companies, which would go into developing their businesses. I fear that NASA has beaten them to the punch, and the investment dollars will be thrown at the beaurocracy to dissapear.

    P.S. Before anybody whines, advertising is a form of investment like any other. You give somebody money, and hope you get more back while they use it.

    • Just privatizing/commercializing something doesn't often solve the problems inherent in it - NASA with or without advertising has a large bureaucracy, which is both a resource (lots o' talent) and a disadvatage (lots o' paychecks).

      Selling advertising, while retaining a government near-monopoly on space exploration, won't help the resource/advantage equation get better.

      COMPETITION would - allow NASA to advertise, sure, but ALSO allow other private space-exploration ventures the same regulatory advantages NASA has.

      This doesn't mean that I want the private sector to win (I think there's been a lot of benefits to the government having a serious space presence). However, by introducing competition, "Winning" for the NASA bureacracy would change from "getting a Congressional appropriation" or "retiring successfully with a Federal Retirement Account" to "kicking those upstart private space jockeys ass" - a much more powerful motivator.

      And if NASA doesn't win, at least somebody will, and space will continue to be paid attention to. After all, in the current model, if NASA "loses", their funding dries up and they shut down.

      So, Go Team NASA! Beat the corporate space guys!

      paul
      • Problem posed:
        $=Attempts
        Investment=$
        Advertisement=Investment

        Advertisement goes to NASA
        Advertisement doesn't go to upstarts

        Upstarts, via chain above, can't make attempts. Fail, due to being broke. NASA continues to be big and antiquated.
  • by tcc (140386) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:19PM (#2400622) Homepage Journal
    That's the most brilliant idea that I've read in weeks... sending the entertainment people in orbit!

    Send the people behind RIAA and MPAA into space, you'll get out full undivided support!

    Oh and don't send too much oxygen... you know, it costs 1000$/KG so, you can try to save on that issue... especially if you are commercial, you must turn into profits... just a suggestion :)

  • Strangling the competition at birth.

    Safety my arse.
  • Better Idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by SMN (33356) on Sunday October 07, 2001 @11:29PM (#2400654)
    Yes, many technological devices and mediums rely on commercial advertising -- look at TV/Radio, Newspapers/Magazines, the Internet, etc. Yes, NASA could benefit greatly by doing the same.

    But if we're going to take a cue from history, let's point NASA toward the real profit from technology lies: Porn.

    No, really, think about it. Early photographs? Porn. Videos? Porn. DVDs? Why, Porn again! And don't even get me started on where all the "innovations" in Internet commerce and advertising have come from -- we may all hate the X10 ads, but they're using both innovation AND implied voyeurism to make a profit.

    Now, just imagine what NASA could do by selling Space Porn. I'm sure that millions of guys across America would be "curious" enough to pay a few bucks to see sex in space. And any modeling company would love it -- no mode need for Wonderbras for lift, since there's no gravity to make them fall. And they'd bring about a whole new wave of public interest in space travel and technology (surely this would be more effective in creating public interest than the proposed return-to-the-moon plans)!

    Let's face it -- a little Porn goes a long way toward the technological advancement of the human race. Abandon your silly preconceived morals and let the avarice take control.

    (Moderators: With any luck, this will be funny. But it might be a troll. I'm honestly not sure =)

    • It popped up in conversation one day, and I really have wondered about this, and please please please don't take this as a troll, but has anyone from earth had sex in space yet? I mean, what stops 2 scientists from going into the payload section and having a quickie? Scientists are humans too, and have the same urges as everyone else. Has there been any documentation of intercourse in space, of any country?

      (Moderators: I Understand that this is a dangerous thread to reply to, but I really am slightly curious, I am honestly not trying to troll)
      • The payload section isn't pressurized, and the habitable area in the shuttle is pretty small. I doubt they'd be able to get privacy without special request to the rest of the crew.
      • I think someone asked a NASA head honcho this very question once and they pointed out that there have been astronauts of both sexes going up for several years now and nobody on the ground asks 'official' questions about it. So it's kinda up to your imagination.
    • Well that would explain the following two links:

      Nasa [nasa.gov]

      And this:

      Lena [cmu.edu]

      For those of you unfamiliar with the Lena Image,(or Lenna, if you like,):
      To test image compression technologies, engineers use a standard picture to compare the results. What did they use? A scan of a 1972 Playboy centerfold, of course!

      Cheers,
      Jim in Tokyo

  • Hipocritical... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Millyways (262662)
    It was less than a year ago that the USA was putting up such a fight about Russia commecialising space by flying the worlds fist space tourist to the ISS and now they are preposing commecialisation along a very similar direction.

    I think the USA was scared off the whole space tourism thing by the Challenger disaster which also happened to be carrying the first non-astronaught to ride on the shuttle. If this new proposal can bring more funding into NASA it could be a big bonus not only for space bound activities, but for the R&D that filters down and eventually end up enhancing our lives.
    • Re:Hipocritical... (Score:2, Informative)

      by paul7e (17646)
      Minor point - Senator Jake Garn (R-UT, but did I really need to put in the R when I said UT?) was the first non-astronaut to ride on the shuttle - from NASA's web site: "Senator Garn flew as a payload specialist on STS-51D Discovery (April 12-19, 1985)"

      But as a Senator, and retired Navy Pilot and Colonel in the Utah Air National Guard, he wasn't necessarily the first _civilian_ in space; which is what they were trying to put up on the Challenger.
  • To demonstrate the superiority of Communism, the soviets sent a bunch of spacecraft to the moon and painted it all in red, for everyont on earth to see and admire.

    Then the Americans plotted to bring Capitalism to its final victory: they flew up there with a bunch of white and painted the Coca Cola sign onto it.

  • Commercialization(is that right?) is how our country...how our world works.

    It's surprising NASA has gotten as far as they have with just government funds. Ofcourse, how much money is in space? Just advertising for now but I guess someday mining will come into play and eventually other things. Space exploration can't always be something left for a handful of government employees.
  • by manon (112081)
    So what is the price for one m^3?
    I always wanted my own spot in space. You know... to spend my old days.
    I'm going the full monty with this :)
    I want my cubic meter of emptyness!
  • by jpm242 (202316)
    How about setting up a bed & breakfast in the ISS?

    "But the brochure said that the window offered a view *towards* the earth!"

    JP
  • by nexex (256614)
    Just imagine, your out for a nice weekend camping trip and instead of that unsightly milky way blocking the view, you are greeted by familiar images of Coke, Intel, Tommy Hilfiger, and of course Microsoft. *This sky brought to in part by...*
  • Commercialization is probably an OK thing...so long as they don't decide to rename the station "Invesco Space Station at 241 Miles High."

    (Colorado residents will get this joke instantly)

    Eric

  • This slashdot article [slashdot.org] (Private Rocketplane Test a Success) suggests:

    The primary goal is development of reusable launch technology that leads next to a high altitude sub-orbital rocket vehicle for space tourism, rocket racing (e.g. vertical drag racing at air shows) and the X-Prize competition.

    I can just see it now... rocket races televised around the world, with each rocket as coated with advertising as currently exists in NASCAR? Hey! maybe they''ll call it NASACAR racing? ;^)

    But seriously, auto racing has sponsorship from the major car manufacturers. There's bragging rights at stake when Chevy beats Ford at NASCAR, or Ferrari bests McLauren at Formula 1. As commercialization of space proceeds, I suspect commercial rocket ventures will similarly sponsor racer's rockets to "boost" mind share in the marketplace.

    • The Onion [onion.com] has already come up with that idea, in their article "NASA and NASCAR merge". Unforunately, I can't find it in their archives :(.. I can remember a very funny photo of a space shuttle, covered with NASCAR-style ads, racing along with other cars.

      If anyone has the link/cached version, I'd love to see it again.
  • From the article

    All this from a space agency that forbade its astronauts from hugging Tito on camera during his weeklong visit to the international space station, and which for years balked at even giving a name to the orbital complex. (It's now called Alpha thanks to its gutsy first commander.)

    That is the most idiotic thing I've heard in a long time. If you were not a proponent of privatising space exploration, you should be after reading that paragraph.

    Nasa's budget for 2001 is 14,035,300. [nasa.gov] Yes folks, that's 14 billion dollars. Take a significant fraction of that- Say 3 billion dollars and offer it to the first organisation that puts people on Mars for over a month and returns them.

    Privatise the space station and make it pay for itself via advertising and space tourists. ("Yum, nothing tastes better than a hot Domino's Pizza in 0 gravity, and it still arrived in less than 30 minutes!")

    Replace the aging white elephant space shuttle with cheaper heavy lift boosters.

    Use the rest of the money for holding up core Nasa programs like the Hubble.

    Just my two cents... flame throwers- Ready... aim...

  • "When space travel ramps up, it'll be the corporations that name everything. The IBM Stellar Sphere. The Microsoft Galaxy. Planet Starbucks."

  • Here's the report. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ectoraige (123390) on Monday October 08, 2001 @12:18AM (#2400746) Homepage
    As per your request, here's the report [spaceref.com].

    Old news, was released Sep 24, here's Space.com [space.com]'s report from the following day.

    Oh, and this would've been posted earlie, but I couldn't log in, what's up with that?
    • I'm just after the karma now... Nasawatch [nasawatch.com] has a rumour about shuttle commercialisation too... no background there so here's the text:

      Word has it that Ron Dittemore, Space Shuttle Program Manager at JSC, will be holding an all-hands meeting today to discuss "shuttle commercialization". According to NASA sources, Dittemore will be discussing an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) concept that has
      been developed that would operate the Space Shuttle program. This concept has been under development for the last 9 months. Dittemore will
      reportedly pitch this concept as being seamless as far as civil servants are concerned with equivalent benefits, significant sign-up bonuses, and guaranteed job security. Dittemore has reportedly expressed personal interest in heading this new organization.

      Behind the scenes there is little interest among Dittemore's crowd in actually saving the government money. Rather, this is simply seen as a way to lower the number of federal employees involved in America's civil space program.

      Update: Note from someone@jsc.nasa.gov:

      "Mr. Dittemore spoke about a "concept" where a private company would run the Space Shuttle Program. It was not commercialization, but "privatization". It has nothing to do with saving money. It will probably cost the government more money. He said it was in the interest of safety.

      Since NASA cannot hire new people and grow them to be managers/engineers, there is no one to run the program safely in the future. That is true since most of the shuttle program folks came from MOD which is mostly all contractors now. This "concept" will work only if all the right people
      with the right job skills needed to run the program safely, accept the offer to move over. Highly unlikely. We are talking about mission operations, flight design, flight directors, astronauts, program/project managers, ground operations, aircraft operations, launch operations, etc. Only the civil servants in the Engineering Directorates appear to be spared from this excercise in futility. He said it would happen in 2 years. That's unbelievable, the way the government works!"
  • So can we look forward to NASA taking it upon itself to sell chunks of outer space as real estate?

    If so, how would it work? Would each country 'own' the outer space directly above it?

    And who would own those areas of space above international waters?

    And how would rents for space be calculated for non-geostationary satellites? Would the passes over India, say, be cheaper than passes over USA?
  • Imagine this, you look into the sky and see a giant billboard saying "Looking for female, preferably okay with multiple computers in house. I like to cook, walk, and sing." That personal ad could be seen by the entire population of the planet!
  • ...to sue Mc Donalds when a chunk of its advertising hits my back yard.
  • i think we should send dave thomas into space, ya know the wendy's guy, that way he can try to sell his awful greasy hamburgers up there, plus he's really annoying don't ya think ? And we can send other people who have outlived their stay on earth, such as ronald mcdonald, but please keep the hamburgler hehehe

    http://www.goodtimetickets.com
  • by Baldrson (78598) on Monday October 08, 2001 @01:00AM (#2400843) Homepage Journal
    Goldin put the space agency's chief of staff and White House liaison, Courtney Stadd, in charge of the commercialization effort last May

    Courtney Stadd took over the Office of Commercial Space at the Department of Commerce shortly after Malcolm Baldridge, then Secretary of Commerce, died after a fall from a horse. Stadd had previously been working at NASA.

    Baldridge had established the Office of Commercial Space in response to difficulties he had with NASA accepting private overtures at a Commercially Developed Space Facility (CDSF) aka the Industrial Space Facility (ISF) [friends-partners.org] -- a man-tended orbital laboratory, entirely financed by private capital -- which would have been in orbit in the late 1980s if NASA had merely signed on as an "anchor tenant" -- procuring space on the laboratory as a customer -- as would have been allowed by Reagan policy and later law.

    If you notice at this link [nasawatch.com] another individual with close association to Stadd is Scott Pace. Scott Pace has involvement in this story of the Baldridge-era Office of Space Commerce as well.

    The CDSF era was a time of misguided political activism on my part (I now know direct technology development to be far more revolutionary and threatening to the would-be "powers that be"), and I had sent a letter to the National Space Society's "Space World" editor. The letter concerned the appropriate division between private sector and public sector responsiblities. I made reference to patent law's distinction between technology (patentable) and science (unpatentable) as a guideline. Courtney Stadd had recently hired Scott Pace to work under him at the Office of Commercial Space. As someone who watched the tragic demise of the CDSF at the hands of NASA interests in teh wake of Baldridge's death, and who had actively supported the ISF, I complained to the Secretary of Commerce that I Pace should not be retained due to the potential conflict of interest represented by his participation with the various organizations surrounding the National Space Society. According to verbal reports to me, the letter of mine on patent-law-guided space commerce policy was being submitted for final publication when Pace appeared in the offices of the NSS where the editors of the NSS's "Space World" were making their deliberations. Pace rather boldly asserted that they shoudl not publish my letter and spoke of the fact that I was trying to get him fired in the same context -- as though that were somehow justification.

    In this light, it is interesting that Courtney Stadd is now in line to become Goldin's successor:

    Intrigue Swirls Around NASA Chief Goldin, Possible Successor

    By Steven Siceloff, FLORIDA TODAY posted: 11:10 am ET, 04 October 2001

    NASA Chief Rallies Troops After Terrorist Attacks

    NASA Spells Out its Space Commerce Agenda

    CAPE CANAVERAL - Two NASA memos issued last week look for the most part like any of the dozens that have flowed from the agency. But NASA Chief of Staff Courtney Stadd signed them instead of Administrator Dan Goldin.

    It is unusual for sweeping directives such as the travel restrictions released last week to carry anyone's name other than the administrator's. The incidental change offers a glimpse into the intrigue that has swirled around Goldin since last November's election.

    Agency observers and White House officials have long seen Stadd as an administrator candidate.

    Those views gained intensity in late August and September. Then the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 pushed the government into a war footing. NASA issues plunged to the depths of the White House's to-do list.

    Stadd holds considerable sway over NASA since he was appointed by the Bush administration, said Federation of American Scientists analyst Charles Vick.

    "I think a lot of responsibility is falling on his shoulders," Vick said. "This administration doesn't give a blast about NASA now, and didn't before the events of Sept. 11."

    Howard McCurdy, a space policy professor at American University in Washington, D.C., said Goldin faces an unusual situation: plural leadership of a federal agency.

    Instead of a single man at the helm, the White House has Goldin and Stadd to run NASA together. "This is a 70-year-old technique in Washington," McCurdy said.

    Vice President Al Gore was sufficiently interested in space during the previous presidency that a deputy NASA administrator was not necessary, McCurdy suggested.

    While not dismissing McCurdy's suggestion, Goldin press secretary Glenn Mahone said that Stadd's Chief of Staff position is next in line after the vacant Deputy Administrator slot.

    The new initiatives are not a sign of a power shift at NASA, but rather a sign that Stadd is comfortable with the agency and the role he has held in it since January, Mahone said.

    "It isn't any signal," Mahone said. "Courtney now has his footing in the agency. It's a growing process."

    But other NASA watchers said leadership at NASA has been diluted for lack of interest.

    "There is a growing perception that Dan is going to be an administrator for life," said John Pike, director of the Alexandria, Va.-based thinktank Globalsecurity.org. "This should have been taken care of in the spring. It's indicative of the unusually low priority that NASA has been accorded. Now it is even further from the front of the stove."

    The White House plucked Stadd from his commercial space business as a liaison between Clinton Administration holdover Goldin and Bush's staff. "There's certainly been a view that Courtney was providing the adult supervision during the transition to a new administrator," Pike said.

    Uncertainty is something agency employees have had to deal with for months. It faces a $4.8 billion cost overrun in the International Space Station program and shortfalls in the space shuttle program. The agency also must find a new director at Johnson Space Center in Houston and a new administrator.

  • So what does it mean when a pizza pie hits the moon?
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Monday October 08, 2001 @01:25AM (#2400886)
    In a landmark licensing deal, Pepsico Inc (PEP) and NASA announced today that Pepsi has purchased the naming rights to the historic Apollo lunar missions. This agreement is valued at over $4 Billion and gives Pepsi exlusive naming rights to all events relating to the former Apollo program for the next 30 years. Pepsi's restaraunt partners are also participating in this deal.

    As part of this deal, "Tranquility Base" will be redubbed "Pepsi Tranquility Base (tm)". The Apollo 11 mission itself will know be known as "Taco Bell Run Beyond the Border 11 (tm)". Neil Armstrong's name will be officially changed to "Commander KFC".

    Further announcements will be made concerning the new official nomenclature for all of the other Pepsico/Apollo missions, as well as the plans for a new theme park in Cape Mountain Dew.

  • They must be running out of money again. Last time they just shot John Glenn into orbit as a PR stunt, now they realize they need something else..

    And imagine this: Learning and adopting capitalist methods from Russia?! Amazing!!! And I thought the US was capitalist...

    Perhaps, if it's done well enough, it could be an enterprise similar to other semi-public industries, such as transportation (Amtrak, etc.), where governmental 'aid' is subsidized by paying customers.

    There's plenty of value to be had:

    - Performing research missions sponsored by industry, or by entertainment outlets (such as the Discovery channel). They already do this with satellite launches.

    - Bringing back souvenirs (how much would you have to sell moon rock for to make it profitable?)

    - Space tourism, of course.

    However, NASA's culture is really not well suited for this - they're far too used to getting handouts from the government. It will, perhaps, have to fall on a private company to do properly. And I'm all for that.

    Enough of wasting my tax money on NASA. Let 'em pay their own way like everyone else.
    • I dont think it's in NASA's best interest as an institution or as a research facility to give up control of any aspect of the missions. Its still publicly funded research which should yield results to the gov't (and eventually to the people). If sponsorship turned into influence it might as well not even be NASA doing this research.
  • Actually NASA have to do this but my guess is that they dont wanna do this. The only reason they do this commercial thing is because they don't want Russia to get all the money from this market. Like that rich (American) space tourist that Russia sent out, NASA didn't want to send him out to a space station. But they sure would like the 20 million dollars he payed...
  • by corky6921 (240602) on Monday October 08, 2001 @02:03AM (#2400940) Homepage
    ...that I would happen to be surfing the humor sites today and find this [saunalahti.fi] picture of a space shuttle!
  • Trojan. Rockets are simply the best marketing vehicle for phallic shaped products. Now if you could just find a way to slide a 100ft rubber over the next cargo shipment to the ISS...
  • I'm really surprised no one has mentioned this as a fund-raising activity for NASA, yet. Sex in zero G, and what could possible be more romantic than the ultimate sunset or the ultimate moonrise? A week of no stress, no gravity, pampered and catered, and sex in zero G!
    • $fortune -m"LaGrange"

      Oh, give me a locus where the gravitons focus
      Where the three-body problem is solved,
      Where the microwaves play down at three degrees K,
      And the cold virus never evolved. (chorus)
      We eat algea pie, our vacuum is high,
      Our ball bearings are perfectly round.
      Our horizon is curved, our warheads are MIRVed,
      And a kilogram weighs half a pound. (chorus)
      If we run out of space for our burgeoning race
      No more Lebensraum left for the Mensch
      When we're ready to start, we can take Mars apart,
      If we just find a big enough wrench. (chorus)
      I'm sick of this place, it's just McDonald's in space,
      And living up here is a bore.
      Tell the shiggies, "Don't cry," they can kiss me goodbye
      'Cause I'm moving next week to L4!

      CHORUS: Home, home on LaGrange,
      Where the space debris always collects,
      We possess, so it seems, two of Man's greatest dreams:
      Solar power and zero-gee sex.
      -- to Home on the Range
  • by TV-SET (84200)
    an old joke :)

    In pre-computer age, just at the start of space exploration Americans found out that normal pens do not work in space and guys up there have nothing to write with. Huge R&D (few MegaBuck) took place and finally a gravity-independent pen have been developed. Production of one piece cost 500 USD. They worked very nice. The idea came in to sell few such pens to Russia... But the answer from the other side of the ocean was: "What for? We use pencils." :)

    • True, the russians did use pencils, but only for the first few short space flights. You dont really want lots of conductive graphite dust floating around your spacecraft and getting into the electronics, do you?
  • But seriously arent we (and NASA) losing sight of the fact that they have long been known as a beaurecracy out of control ? the level of spending inside NASA and the way in which projects bog down i red tape is the reason why JPL and similar organisations/Companies come up with innovations and cheaper proucts.

    Would anyone invest in a company that spends more than it can ever hope to make and is so used to the government purse ? Would NASA management make the Hard cuts in management and staff to make it a viable operation ? I suspect not, but then again they can always list on the stock marketm, i mean if a company with a sock puppet as their major drawcard can make a killing then why not NASA !

    (PS to the troll posters i am aware pets.com are broke but trust me their management arent !)
  • Surely there's more commercial viability to space beyond product placement! 2001: A Space Odyssey seemed to have commercial enterprises operating in space, along with businesses like PanAm and AT&T offering services along the way. I can't recall off the top of my head what kinds of businesses were being conducted - in a way, memory seems to recall that the station was like an ultra-neutral U.N. office, but that could just be fond memories.

    Someone should be reinforcing in our minds what benefits we are deriving from the shuttle program - Space Station Freedom is largely a product of those successes, but what other successes have affected our lives? Fixing the Hubble was a huge win for them, and the pretty pictures are nice, but the real benefit is, presumably, in other science being done.

    Part of the mindset is that many of these people are scientists. And, scientists generally don't have the patience or the time to explain theories they understand at the highest levels and the effort required to explain it to people who don't have sufficient background to even comprehend the questions being asked, let alone the answers being discovered just doesn't pay off.

    If the goal is to get us to colonizing Mars, then each and every experiment that moves us a step closer towards that goal should be pointed out, celebrated, discussed and dissected in light of that goal. Lately, it's felt more like the program is vaguely moving in some direction, but no one has a clear sense of what each experiment is moving us towards. Perhaps there are too many cooks in the kitchen...
  • They were upset the Russians got the first sale.
  • Why not? (Score:2, Funny)

    by MsWillow (17812)
    Didn't you people see the movie, Allegro non troppo [reel.com]? Remember where the spacecraft visiting a barren world throws a mostly-empty Coke bottle out the airlock just before takeoff, and how, to the tune of Ravel's "Bolero" [karadar.it], the micro-organisms in the liquid evolve?

    Maybe that's how our civilization came into being. It would sure explain why advertising is so pervasive these days :)

  • One potential problem with corporate involvement with scientific ventures is that the rational interests of the corporate sponsors (profit maximization) can potentially conflict with the goals of the scientific community (in its purest form, the pursuit of knowlege for its own sake). While slapping Nike logos onto shuttles and delivering Pizzas shouldn't pose any problems, a future corporate sponsor of, say a Mars mission may be tempted to fudge reports of the riskiness of said mission in hopes of gaining, say, first grabs on mineral rights. This paper [aaup.org] by the American Association of University Professors gives an overview of the problems involved in corporate research and proposes some solutions (be warned, it's kind of a dry read).

    Just a thought, and yes, I am aware that NASA as it presently exists is hardly a perfect example of an organization selflessly pursuing knowledge for its own sake.

  • There are two benefits of Nasa selling payload space, advertizing, and passenger tickets.

    #1 These should be sold "at a profit" to Nasa. This would move cash into the space program.
    #2 Having these services available at a premium price will help build a market for them. Building a larger customer base will make it easier for companies to move in and make a profit providing these services at a lower price.
  • With today's quality of 3D rendering, realisms can be achived that would not require the hurtling of great chnuks of expensive metals and composites into the air for it to come back down again later.

    Why not just spend some money in a rendering cluster, thereby promoting computing technology, and bringing virtual erality within out grasp?

    -sigh-

  • "quick buck" (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    The Russians -- ever on the lookout for a quick buck

    Hmm, what brilliant journalist mind thought that up? Funny, (stereotypically), russians spend all their money on weapons research, and (also stereotypically) americans spend all their time making more money under the "capitalist" system. So who is looking for a "quick buck"?

    This is not to start a flame war, but this is an atrocious piece of sh*t. It is intended to brainwash the readers into looking at Russians as little greedy bastards. And it does it with a casualness that is as admirable for its subtelty as it is damnable for its contents.

    Aren't journalists supposed to be "politically correct", which would imply not passing judgement? I'm not talking about normal human decency, that's way above their mental horizon, but simply conforming to their own particular brand of self-delusion?

    Or, (let's say it quietly), does this "politically correct" nonsense only apply to those whom we don't like?

    Again, save your stupid flames. This is not to insult americans. But stop and think about how comments like these make you look to the rest of the world.

    And I'm not putting my name on this. Sorry. I'd love to, but I don't feel like reading your spam. Furthermore, I live in this country, and with the forthcoming fascist surveillance, I would like to remain "below the radar"...not that I can't be traced, I know very well that I can. But I would like to at least retain the illusion. Isn't that what SSSCA is all about? :-)
  • Here's how I see NASA. No innovation, no excitement, no risks, no profits. Brilliant individuals with breaktakingly audacious ideas are sidelined on risk grounds until they leave in disgust, or worse, lose their drive and ambition and hide themselves in the beaurocracy.

    The shuttle is the world's most expensive launch system - probably. I say probably because NASA won't give (consistent) figures on how much a shuttle launch actually costs, especially as they refuse to cost astronaut training. They have budget overruns because they really don't know and don't care how much things cost. The reason why they don't care is simple: they don't have to.

    They currently have a $4 billion and some cost overrun. Think about that. NASA has spent (or allocated) $4 billion more than it has, only it's not sure where it spent it. The fuck? No company in the world would be allowed to do that. This is a big boondoggle even by government standards. Think how far $4 billion would go if spent on researching new technologies, rather than poured into supporting old ones.

    I don't view this $4 billion overrun as incompetence. I view it as theft. Theft from people who could have spent it on improving the future rather than maintaining the status quo.

    Here's my radical solution. Privatise NASA. Float it on the market. Let it keep all of its assets, gift it five years worth of funding, and wish it good luck. Cut it free of red tape, let it come up with its own projects and it's own standards.

    Let it decide whether the PR cost of never losing an American in space is really worth the financial cost, when airline pilots, train drivers, bus and truck drivers lose their lives every day and yet those industries find a way to keep going.

    We've been promised commercial space exploitation within the next ten years, for at least the past thirty years. It's well past time to put up or shut up.

    I propose this not because I think that we shouldn't be in space, but because I want us to get out there and stay out there. If space travel can be sustainable rather than a series of staggeringly expensive proofs of concept, then let's demonstrate that.

    • Hmmm.... the problem NASA faces is this:

      The American people who pay through taxes do not like to see people killed in a project as Spacetravel. After the Challenger accident there was even a cutback in fundings..

      The costs for spacetravel and asociated research is FAR more than that for Airliners, Bus, Truck and Trains... there is no way they can keep doing the nescesary reasearch if the only income is private funding.

      The current funding comes from commercial payload (satelites) and government funding. What they have to do is to find a balance between those... perhaps more commercial flights is the answer. Besides. The ISS is not a commercial project yet it does take most of NASA's budget.

      Anyway.. which BIG companies would be interested in space exploration? It does not see any revenue from it so why invest? The only thing they do see revenue of is putting more satelites in space.. as if we need more junk flying around there..

      NASA needs private funding for private projects and government funding for space exploration and research... that's the only combination which will work.. not one or the other... BOTH.
    • They currently have a $4 billion and some cost overrun. Think about that. NASA has spent (or allocated) $4 billion more than it has, only it's not sure where it spent it. The fuck? No company in the world would be allowed to do that. This is a big boondoggle even by government standards. Think how far $4 billion would go if spent on researching new technologies, rather than poured into supporting old ones.

      I don't view this $4 billion overrun as incompetence. I view it as theft. Theft from people who could have spent it on improving the future rather than maintaining the status quo.

      I could use the same argument against "defense" spending, which has a vastly larger budget and has zero *direct* return on investment. No one is saying there is any way to be *directly* profitable going into space. The space program is our ticket into the future, possibly on another planet in case something happens to this one - be it our fault, a huge meteor or heck even hostile aliens. Plus many useful spin-off technologies have come out of the space program.

      Here's my radical solution. Privatise NASA. Float it on the market. Let it keep all of its assets, gift it five years worth of funding, and wish it good luck. Cut it free of red tape, let it come up with its own projects and it's own standards.

      No one is stopping you from starting your own private space company. In fact a few already exist including Orbital [orbital.com].

      Why don't you take your brilliant "privitization" theory and apply it to the road system and the military? It won't work there either because they cost money too and reap no profits in return. Face it, R&D costs money and that's exactly what the space program is - a giant R&D program.

      We've been promised commercial space exploitation within the next ten years, for at least the past thirty years. It's well past time to put up or shut up.

      NASA has launching private satellites into orbit for years.

      I propose this not because I think that we shouldn't be in space, but because I want us to get out there and stay out there. If space travel can be sustainable rather than a series of staggeringly expensive proofs of concept, then let's demonstrate that.

      No one's stopping you from doing it. PUOSU. BTW, there is this thing called the international space station [nasa.gov] that is being built right now and people are already inhabiting it. In fact, there have been space stations in orbit since the 1970s. The new ones are getting better and better. That's how all technology works.

  • by dpilot (134227) on Monday October 08, 2001 @08:51AM (#2401528) Homepage Journal
    I forget which book it was, and I'm sure someone will be happy to chip in and correct me on the exact quote, too...

    "The 'C's and 'L's came out great. The 'O's and 'A's had a few problems."

    This was a line from the story which described a science package that shot sodium dust out of a small can off the surface of the moon. It was supposed to rise off of the nighttime surface facing the earth, into the sunlight. Someone had inserted a mask into the can, so when the sodium dust hit the sun, it was a logo rather than simply a circle.
    • Clarke's novel "The Other Side of the Sky" may be what you're looking for.

      Heinlein also covered similar stuff in "The Man Who Sold the Moon"

      and somewhere in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy I think there was a reference to a Coke logo being created out of exploding suns, or something...
  • If anyone has a link to this NASA draft document the article talks about, please post it below.

    It probably requires a paid subscription to view.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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