There Should be More Than One!

Duncan MacLeod

Image via Wikipedia

This week’s summer of small voices guest post comes from someone you already know–me!  Instead of writing as a social media and marketing consultant I’m writing as the board member of Mach 30, a brand new nonprofit dedicated to applying the philosophy behind open source software to the development of human rated space vehicles. 

For Duncan MacLeod, eliminating the competition was the only option.  The same holds true for reality television stars.  The current crop of politicians in Washington DC  even seem to believe highlander-style negotiations are appropriate in government.

For the rest of us, competition is not so dangerous.  In fact, if your goal is to create something completely new, or solve a problem that has never been solved, competition, or perhaps more appropriately, coopitition,  isn’t even just a necessary evil– it’s a requirement for true innovation.

Benefits of a Vibrant  Open Source Spaceflight Ecosystem

The fledgling open source spaceflight movement provides a great example of how such coopitition could be the key factor in turning disjointed groups of individuals all struggling to get started, into a real force in the new space industry.

Diverse Approaches to Challenges

Transporting humans to space safely, reliably, and routinely is hard–really hard.  If the past 50 years have taught us anything, it’s that the problem is too big for one person, or even one country,*  to solve alone.  By applying an open source philosophy to spaceflight hardware, diverse groups with diverse perspectives and strengths can easily learn from the successes and failures of their fellow practitioners.  The result?  We all get to experience the weightlessness of space sooner.

Stronger Reach

The philosophy behind open source software is well understood in computing circles, even by those who do not subscribe to it.  This is not the case among the people currently building space hardware.

Before the ideas behind open source spaceflight can really be tested and adopted, they must be understood.  The more people and organizations that support, promote, and most importantly, model these philosophies, the more quickly this new way of working will spread into the existing aerospace culture.

Build AUTHORITY (or at least seem less crazy)

When we first conceived of Mach 30 in 2006, we found no evidence of other people with similar ideas.  When we told our friends and family what we hoped to accomplish, their reactions were polite, but not exactly hopeful.

Now that our dreams are shared with nearly a dozen organizations, all of whom came to believe open source spaceflight was key to the future of human space travel on their own, the idea are starting to gain some mainstream support.

A (Virtual) Gathering Place

Acknowledging the existence of other open source spaceflight proponents and wishing them well is a good first step–but it’s not enough to create robust programs.  As Eric S. Raymond argued in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Open Source Software is best developed in an open marketplace, where radical levels of transparency make it possible for anyone with the required time, interest and skill to participate.  Open Source Spaceflight Hardware requires similar opportunities for sharing.  To that end,  I started a subreddit dedicated to the Open Source Spaceflight Hardware (OSSHW) community to fulfill the market place role.**

My hope is it will serve as neutral territory for the existing and future proponents of open source spaceflight hardware to share their successes, ask questions and solicit advice, recruit volunteers, and  promote the viability of applying open source philosophies to the development of space flight hardware.

Come on over and brag about yourself a little!

Not just for Space Enthusiasts

People with no intention of launching themselves into space can also can also benefit from being part of a vibrant community of people and organizations doing similar work.  In fact, if you hold a minority opinion about any subject, and are working toward bringing more people around to your way of thinking, finding and supporting others who already agree with you is great first step.  That’s why third-tribe style internet marketing people spend so much time building strong relationships with “the competition” and why forward thinking performing arts organizations are starting to come around to the benefits of the #neverbedark philosophy.

*While international cooperation may eventually be required to make humanity a truly spacefaring civilization, Mach 30 is comprised of US citizens and will therefore comply with the restrictions for information sharing imposed by ITAR.

**This idea is strongly inspired by the Friends of C-START program–the first attempt I’ve seen at creating ways for open source spaceflight hardware groups to work together.  Mach 30 is grateful not only for C-START’s friendship, but also for their forward thinking on this subject.

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