David Livingston on Individual Initiative and the Role of Culture in Space Development

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“As my graduate students know, when I teach my business classes at Space Studies, I tell them, ah, to put more faith in people and their accomplishments, than, maybe in the good idea or the market research or the financial analysis. Because people who have accomplished great things over and over again – know how to do that, know how to run a business, know how to make things happen – and, while there happens to be a lot of things with SpaceX that I may not understand or may not appreciate – for example Grasshopper and their reusability – I don’t for one minute shortchange what Elon Musk and his team can put together and do. Because I look at people and people make the difference. So having met Elon early on, back when he was talking about Mars Oasis, long before SpaceX existed, I, ah, am a believer in SpaceX and I think my expectations have been met – although, I probably had some, ah, ‘go fever’, ah, with John on the telephone – especially one night with Falcon One launches – um, you know we thought, ah, things might happen a little bit quicker, ah, then then did, but, um, I think overall my expectations especially of late have certainly matched the capabilities and progress of SpaceX. I’ve been there several times. I know quite a few of the people. Ah. I’m very impressed with their commitment and their workforce. And ah, again, ah, you look at Elon, you look at Gwen – who, who now is the CEO – ah and um, I think you’d be a real fool to bet against ’em. And that’s what I tell people all the time. You know, it’s hard to go against a winner. And, Elon and that team to me are proven winners. So I, I’m – my expectations are probably now tracking their progress realistically. I think earlier on I, I may have been, a little over optimistic, but, um, Elon was really forthcoming at various conferences and saying “Everything I said before you should throw out because it’s a hell of a lot harder than I used – than I thought it was going to be”. And, and I think he’s learned an awful lot as well and ah I think he’s a great businessman.”

“Guys I’m going to read you an email that’s just come in…it has absolutely nothing to do with the tribute show but it has everything to do with it. Okay? So ah, I don’t know this person, and ah, they’re referencing a paper I wrote in the Space Review – I don’t know, five years ago – so, stuff does have a life, right? So ah, this is from a gentleman named Guillermo, so if I butcher his name I really apologize, Caranza? And ah, he says, “Hello Dr. Livingston my name is Guillermo. I have a son who is in the seventh grade and is doing a project about the pros and cons of space exploration. He read your article in the Space Review ‘Is Space Exploration Worth the Cost’ and was wondering if he could ask you some questions on ‘Why space exploration should stop’. Could you please take the time to help him out? Your time is appreciated. Thank you, Guillermo and his son Diego.” Now John will remember last year that a University of Texas in Austin professor’s son sent me a letter and said that he wrote a paper for – I think it was his middle school class or maybe it was high-school – ah, that space exploration should stop and is not worth the money and wanted my thoughts on it. I tried to get the kid to come on the space show but he wouldn’t do it. But, but I did respond to his letter – I read it without his name, on the Space Show – and we turned a couple programs into responding to the kid. So, the Space Show also reaches people like this, so, seventh grade, ah, and he’s wondering why space exploration should stop. You know when I was growing up guys, you know I was in the seventh grade – that was never ever a consideration. I mean I bet for each of you nobody ever considered stopping space exploration when we were school kids. John when your daughter – your daughter is my kids’ age – that wasn’t even in the consciousness twenty eight years ago. [John on phone: “That’s right.”] Why now? And, and just as a challenge, for the Space Show, and for all of us space cadets, this tells me that we have a lot of work to do. So, I will respond – to Guillermo and his son.
Doug: I agree, one of the things – sorry –
David: I said I will respond to Guillermo and his son, probably tomorrow.
Doug: Ok, that’s, that’s one of the age old things about distribution of resources. And it’s based on assumption that I think is false. And the assumption is that everything is a zero sum game and that if you take away from one area then that can be used to fund something else. And then people start arguing about the priorities, but, my philosophy would be that ideally you make the pie bigger. And then you don’t have those kinds of fights. And you see that a lot in the academic world as you know David where professors think that the only way that they can gain something is by ah, taking it from somebody else in the university system and competing for resources, instead of going out and, eh, expanding the resource base. It’s really what space exploration, should, be doing for, humanity.
David: Ah, absolutely, and ah – what’s a seventh grader – is that a fourteen year old Doug?
Doug: Ah maybe about thirteen, fourteen.
David: Around thirteen, fourteen?
Doug: Yeah.
David: Ah for them to even think of space exploration stopping…that’s troubling on its own. I mean, that’s at the age where you should be wanting to go to Mars. And, and go out there, and, have the adventure and build and create and travel to other solar systems and go faster than light and do all the, the things that we, we dreamed of – right??  But, but, why stop it?? Ah, so, that – I find that kinda troubling. And ah, ah, maybe he could do a Space Show with me and his father.

[this blog uses ‘factual fiction’ quotation to inspire realistic dialogue…”ums” and “ahs” are not meant to be insulting…]

“The Great Man theory is a 19th-century idea according to which history can be largely explained by the impact of “great men”, or heroes: highly influential individuals who, due to either their personal charisma, intelligence, wisdom, or political skill utilized their power in a way that had a decisive historical impact.”
Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Man_theory